by Brian DeChesare Comments (48)

How to Fix Your Broken LinkedIn Profile and Create One That Makes Recruiters Come to You

Have you noticed that most “goals” end in failure?

There are a few reasons for that:

  1. They tend to be vague (“I want to get in shape!”).
  2. They require too much work – no, you can’t work 70-80 hours per week and also spend 20 hours per week on a new hobby.
  3. They are based on willpower rather than automation and systems.

To fix that, I’m going to share with you in this series a set of “goals” that:

  1. You can implement easily: no 2,000-hour tasks or 5 AM wake-up calls.
  2. Also make a high impact on your job search / career prospects.

We’ll start today with one part of your career that is consistently overlooked…

…but which takes, maybe, 30 minutes per year to maintain: your LinkedIn profile.

I now have almost 2,000 connections on LinkedIn, which lets me see firsthand just how bad most profiles are.

Here’s how you can avoid disaster and create a LinkedIn profile that gets you results, whether you’re a student or you’ve been working full-time for years:

Why Do Your LinkedIn Profile and Social Media Presence Matter?

Put simply: real life and online life are converging.

If you post something on Twitter or Facebook, you might as well have said it in a courtroom trial.

Recruiters and interviewers are extremely likely to Google your name, and if controversial / inappropriate / unprofessional search results pop up, you might be cut from the process.

There are also countless stories of social media ruining careers, including a Wikipedia entry about the most famous incident of all.

But on the positive side, your LinkedIn profile is a perfect example of a “high-impact, low-effort” item: fix it once, spend a bit of time maintaining it, and benefit from that single change from years to come.

Unlike networking, it doesn’t require countless hours of emailing hundreds of contacts: do it right, once, and people will start coming to you.

And when you have a great profile, networking becomes more effective because new contacts will respond to your messages and accept your connection requests more frequently.

Step 1: Clean Up Your Existing Social Media Presence

Most LinkedIn guides start by explaining how to pick a profile photo and a headline, but they miss one critical point: you need to clean up your existing social media presence first.

First, go to “Privacy Settings” within your Facebook profile, hide your profile from all search engines, and make it so that only friends of friends can look you up by email address or phone number:

LinkedIn-Profile-01

You could also limit email/phone lookup to Friends only, and you should probably disallow “Followers” who are not Friends.

I guarantee 100% that you will get in trouble if you allow too many random people to see your Facebook profile.

Yes, I’ve seen people get rejected from interviews because of inappropriate comments or messages on Facebook – and that was a LONG time ago when social media was much smaller.

You should similarly be very cautious of all your other social media accounts: Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, etc. etc. etc.

Services that cater to photo sharing, like Instagram and Pinterest, are even more likely to get you in trouble.

You don’t have to shut down all these accounts, but if you keep them open you should be certain there’s no way to link your real name to anything.

If you write articles about finance or you link to non-controversial, safe-for-work, finance-related content and you use your full name, that’s fine, and it can actually help you at more forward-looking firms.

But in 9 out of 10 cases, I’ve seen social media accounts hurt candidates due to inappropriate photos and comments. Even US congressmen are vulnerable.

You should also do a Google search of your name and see what pops up; if it’s something that a recruiter should not be reading, contact the site to have it taken down or remove the result yourself if you can do so.

Step 2: Prepare Everything You Need for Your New LinkedIn Profile

You only need 2 documents to get started on your new LinkedIn profile:

  1. A high-quality headshot.
  2. The most recent version of your resume, which should be based on one of our templates.

Yes, you really do need a high-quality photo of yourself: plenty of recruiters and professionals will ignore you if you don’t have one.

If you have the money, yes, I recommend getting a professional headshot done in a studio.

If you’re a student and you don’t have the money for that, get a friend to help with the best camera you can find.

The photo needs to meet the following requirements:

  1. You should be wearing business professional attire (a suit and tie if you’re male).
  2. You should look directly at the camera – no side gazes or “interesting” photos.
  3. You should be up against a solid background that’s not distracting.
  4. It should show your head or the top part of your body, but not your entire body because then it’s too hard to see your face.

Once you have this photo, you should then update your resume and follow our templates and suggestions.

Step 3: Update Your Profile

Many LinkedIn guides give profile suggestions such as: “Use a creative headline! Express your true self! Post videos of yourself giving speeches! Don’t just paste in your resume!”

Be very careful because this advice is intended for “creative professionals” in industries like advertising, copywriting, PR, and social media… in other words, places where your creativity and individuality are actually valued.

Finance is NOT one of those industries.

Your profile should be more than just your resume, but not that much more.

Here’s the step-by-step walk-through:

Step 3.1: Hide Yourself When You’re Updating Your Profile

You do NOT want people to be notified that you’re updating and tweaking your profile or they’ll instantly know you’re looking for a new job.

Even if you’re a student, you still don’t want to display this publicly because other students could copy your new profile or start spreading rumors about you.

So go to the right-hand side of your profile page and set “Notify your network?” to “No”:

LinkedIn-Profile-02

You could also then go to “Privacy & Settings” and turn off updates and your activity feed, and even make yourself anonymous when you visit someone else’s profile.

But the step above is the most important one.

Step 3.2: Insert a Photo and Enter Your Name(s) and Headline

You should already have your photo based on the instructions in Step 2.

Check one last time to make sure you’re not wearing a pig mask and that there are no beer bottles in the background, and then upload it.

Entering your name should be straightforward, but if you come from a non-English-speaking country you probably have your real name and your English name.

Enter both of them, and use parentheses for the one you use less frequently.

Also, if you have a name that has different spellings (e.g., Bill or Will instead of William) or that is commonly misspelled, you should note that in the Summary section of your profile.

Your headline should be easy if you’re currently working:

“Investment Associate at [Firm X]” or “Investment Banking Analyst at [Bank X]”

If you’re not currently working because you’re in school or because you’re unemployed, you should still include a headline that indicates the types of jobs you’re looking for:

“Student Seeking Investment Banking Analyst Opportunities”

Many recruiters will only look at your headline and current job title, so you should not just say that you’re “in school.”

Step 3.3: Customize Your Profile URL

Not everyone does this. For example, here’s Mark Cuban’s profile URL:

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/mark-cuban/5b/75/6a

But… he’s also a billionaire and isn’t “looking for work.”

If you’re not a billionaire, change your profile to something more readable, such as:

http://www.linkedin.com/in/johnsmith

You can do this by clicking on the default profile URL under your photo, and then changing the “Your public profile URL” on the right-hand side of the page:

LinkedIn-Profile-03

Step 3.4: Write Your Summary

You can easily do the wrong thing here if you listen to all the “creative” people online.

No, don’t post a video of yourself and don’t inject your personality into it; you should let your personality come across in interviews because “creativity” is easily misinterpreted online.

If you already have internship or full-time work experience, your Summary might include your current role, the types of deals or investments you’ve worked on, and your most impressive accomplishments:

LinkedIn-Profile-04

If you do not yet have full-time work experience, you might write something like:

“Student at [XX University] with leadership roles in the investment club and the track team, with coursework in accounting and finance and participation in several M&A case competitions; currently seeking investment banking internships.”

And then you could include bullet points for the best parts of your work experience: leadership experience, money saved, money earned, quick promotions, and so on.

Step 3.5: Enter Your Work & Leadership Experience

This section is straightforward because you’re mostly copying in entries from your resume.

A few tips:

  • If you’re using a “Project-Centric” structure for a work experience entry, you can create separate “Project” entries below the summary sentences. Here’s an example:

LinkedIn-Profile-05

  • Try not to use excessive lists of bullets. If one work experience entry has 7-8 bullets, reduce it to 3-5 bullets.
  • Don’t use too many lines within a single bullet. You can get away with this on your resume, but in your LinkedIn profile a paragraph of text is much harder to scan. So aim for 1-2 lines per bullet, and 3 lines at most.

Highlight the same things that you did on your resume: results in the form of money earned, money saved, or time saved.

If you’re currently in school or unemployed, you should still create a “dummy” work experience entry because many recruiters conduct searches based on your current job title (see the language recommended above).

Step 3.6: Add Your Organizations, Certifications, Languages, Skills & Expertise, and Education

Most of this can be copied in straight from your resume, but there is one important difference:

You have the space to list A LOT more “Skills” on LinkedIn, and you should definitely do so.

You should also include the specific keywords that recruiters and finance professionals will be looking for:

  • Valuation, Financial Modeling, M&A Advisory, Leveraged Buyouts, Credit Analysis, Financial Projections, Project Finance…

You could even look at job listings on other sites, see what language they use, and then use the same keywords in your own profile.

This is especially important if you’re a career changer moving in from a field like law or Big 4 accounting, because question #1 will always be: “What relevant skills do you have?”

So if you gained exposure to deals or investments in one of those fields, you can address that objection in advance by including the relevant Skills in your LinkedIn profile.

Here’s a direct account of how a previous interviewee who broke into private equity in China got a 30% response rate to his LinkedIn messages:

“I had a very good profile and made sure to use key buzzwords like “M&A,” “cross-border transactions,” and so on, and made it concise and targeted at IB and PE.”

Step 3.7: Get Recommendations and Endorsements and Join Groups

Recommendations on LinkedIn are less useful than real life references, but you should still request them if you’ve had internship or full-time work experience.

It’s better to get short recommendations from senior people if you can – a VP is better than an Analyst, and an MD or C-level executive is better than a VP.

Ask the person in real life (if possible), and then send a quick follow-up email pointing them to your profile and asking if they wouldn’t mind taking a few minutes to write a recommendation.

It’s helpful to get recommendations over time (e.g., 1 recommendation per year over many years) because your profile then looks more credible.

I am more skeptical of endorsements because they’re too easy to get: what does it really mean if someone anonymously says you are proficient in Excel?

But some social proof is better than none, so you might as well display endorsements if you have them.

If you somehow get endorsed for a skill you don’t have, hide it.

Step 3.8: Make Yourself Visible Again

Once you’ve finished everything above, let your profile “sit” for at least a day.

Then, go back and make your final round of edits and fix typos, grammatical mistakes, and other inconsistencies.

When you’re done, re-enable those options to display your activity feed and profile changes to your connections, and make 100% certain that your profile is visible to search engines:

LinkedIn-Profile-06

Remember, you want your LinkedIn profile to be the #1 search result for your name.

Step 4: Add More Connections and Join More Groups

You should not use a profile with fewer than 10 connections for networking purposes.

At the bare minimum, find and add your friends so you can get up to 10 connections, and then expand by adding acquaintances, co-workers, and former co-workers so you can get up to 100.

Past that, add people as you encounter them on the job, at conferences, at school, and so on. More connections always equals more social proof, so ideally you’ll be at the “500+” level one day.

Joining finance-related groups is helpful because you can find industry professionals to network with, you can get ideas for news items to mention in interviews, and you might even be contacted by recruiters who are searching these groups.

Your LinkedIn Profile… Version 2.0

If you follow everything above, it may take you a few hours to set up your new LinkedIn profile…

But that’s a lot less time than your other “goals” might require: just think about how long it would take to be able to bench 495 lbs like Aleksey Vayner.

And your new profile will only take ~30 minutes per year to maintain.

For that minimal amount of time invested, you get a tool that makes it easier to network, easier to get noticed by recruiters, and easier to present yourself in interviews.

And that’s a goal anyone could achieve.

Next Up

Next up in this series will be:

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. Amazing article, got approached by a recruiter after following the steps here.
    Though, I can’t help but feel that if I signaled that I was actively looking for a new opportunity, I’d get more approaches.

    So regarding the headline.

    If you’re working but ARE looking for new roles, how would you recommend signalling that and whereabouts?

    Would “seeking new opportunities” before/after/under the my current job title suffice?

    Or am I looking at this wrong?

    Thanks.

    1. You probably should not list anything like that if you’re currently working, as you don’t want your current employer to know that you’re looking for other roles…

      1. Oh I see.

        Is there anything I could do which may subtly indicate it?

        1. Samuel Klein

          Probably this is coming a little bit too late for you, but there is a function which lets recruiters know that you are looking for a job, while keeping it hidden from your employer.

          You can follow the instructions here: https://blog.linkedin.com/2016/10/06/now-you-can-privately-signal-to-recruiters-youre-open-to-new-job

  2. Brian,
    Do you think it is a good idea to include my ACT score from high school if it is a 35? I’m currently a Junior undergrad.

    1. 35 is a good score, so you can list it if you want (and especially if it’s better than your SAT score if you took those).

  3. Hey Brian, thanks for the post. But how do you create separate “Project” entries for Experience section? I tried to do “Add projects”, but it seems to be a separate section.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes it is a separate section.

  4. What about personal websites? Is it worth investing in a personal website and, if so, what sorts of content should be on it? I ask as a junior planning to go into IB.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      This may help. You can talk about the markets on the website – just show that you have a passion for IB. This may make you stand out

  5. Hello,

    What do you think about creating a dummy work entry for a future position? I’ve accepted my return offer from the bank I interned at this summer and was wondering whether I should create a new entry indicating that.

    I will also be returning to the bank in a different group from the one I interned in, so would it be a good idea to put “Incoming [Group] Analyst at [Bank]” for the dummy entry and my headline? The group I am moving to is much more prominent, so I want to show that. Currently I have “Incoming Investment Banking Analyst at [Bank]” and I note the group name in the description, but I was wondering whether the above way would be a better way to show it.

    Thanks,
    John

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes that would be useful. Yes, it is fine to put “Incoming [Group] Analyst at [Bank]”

  6. Thank you! :)

    1. M&I - Nicole

      You’re welcome!

  7. Hello Brian,

    Great and helpful article! 2 questions. I am a US citizen currently in China working in a Finance role (non-IB or PE) and my project ends in September 2015. My goal is to break into IB in New York after I return to the US in September.

    2 questions:

    1) Should I change my current address on LinkedIn from xxx, China to my former location in the USA?

    2) Any tips for starting the networking process using LinkedIn, etc. from China?

    * My goal is to get into IB in New York when I come back. My only concern is since I am physically in China at the moment, will that hinder any online networking efforts?

    Thanks!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      1) Yes.
      2) I may connect with people in NY, set up a few informational meetings, and fly down to NY for a few days. Yes by being physically in NY for a week or longer, this can most definitely help you especially since people like to put a face to names

      1. Thanks Nicole. :)

        Two follow-up questions:

        1) Since I am physically in China, would it still be relevant for me to apply to positions I see online while I am still outside the US? Or would you advise against doing so? (My thinking is if I get an interview before I get back to US in September, I can always fly there to do the in-person interview.)

        2) Is there a peak season that IBs (BB, MM or boutiques) do recruiting for experienced professionals no longer in Undergrad/MBA school? Summer months? Fall? Or year-round?

        Thanks.

        1. M&I - Nicole

          You’re welcome.

          1) Yes you can do so but this may not be the most effective way and efficient use of your time. I think its best you connect with people via LinkedIn and arrange meetings. You can also ask for referrals or go through your friends/connections. If that doesn’t work, you can apply online.

          2) It’s mostly year-round, but after bonus season say after the summer maybe the best option.

          1. This is a question regarding the LinkedIn “Summary” section. I read through the article again, but did not find it specifically addressed (as LinkedIn may have changed formats since the article was published).

            If you recently left your company and are currently in the market for a job, can you include “Looking for IBD [insert name of job or position] opportunities” in your Summary section? I got mixed responses on this.

            My feeling is its ok to put. Any suggestions from a Mergers & Inquisitions perspective? Thanks!

          2. M&I - Nicole

            Yes you can, but it is not ideal. I’d just list your previous experience (a better headline would be something like “Engineer, Investor, XX with experience in Finance” and on the summary of LinkedIn add that you’re looking for roles in IBD

  8. I the type that is extra extra paranoid and my linked in needs extra work thanks. Also quick question. I interview at Goldman Sachs last year for a summer intern but did not get it. However I got an offer from both GE fiance department and a boutique investment bank, which would you advice me to consideration I am preparing for full time recruiting this fall.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d say the boutique investment bank maybe a better bet to be honest.

  9. Bob Jenson

    (Non-Target undergrad trying to network his way into IB)

    Is there a way to message people on linkedin who you aren’t already ‘connected’ with?

    Sending an alumnus who I’ve never met in person a brief message would probably work but…..

    Would it be rude to try and ‘connect’ with an alumnus who I’ve never met?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Please refer to my previous response to your comment. No I don’t think it’d be rude.

  10. Bob Jenson

    How can one use LinkedIn to reach out to people they don’t already know?

    Is there a way to send messages to people you aren’t already ‘connected’ with?

    (I am a non-target student trying to network his way into investment banking).

    I could try to ‘connect’ with alumni in the industry…but they might reject me if they don’t know who I am in real life.

    I feel as though sending them a message before trying to ‘connect’ would increase my chances of success.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes you can just send them a connect request and attach your message. Yes they may reject you, but this is the “risk” you take and you have nothing to lose. If they ignore your request you can then move onto the next one.

  11. What do you mean by a “dummy” work experience entry?

    1. I just meant an entry that does not represent your real work experience, but instead is used to indicate what you’re currently looking for. But you can act as if it’s a real “position” with a title and so on.

  12. I have a quick question. I have heard that it is not a good idea to have a summary and bullet points for each entry, since that is the purpose of a resume. I’ve heard that including these two aspects clutter LinkedIn profiles. What do you think about this view?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes we don’t recommend including a summary on resume though this works on LinkedIn profile given the difference in format. Yes we include bullet points (short/sweet ones) on both. I can see the perspective but not everyone can have access to the resume…

  13. Is it unprofessional to have numbers in your LinkedIn URL? I have a fairly common name so things like JohnSmith, SmithJohn, and so on are all taken. Right now I have LastnameFirstnameMiddleinitial as my URL but that could be a bit confusing. Would something like JohnSmith1 or JohnSmith[Graduation Year] be okay?

    Thanks,

    Joe

    1. You can do it if your name is common and it’s hard to get the right URL. But I would definitely try for some combination involving your first name, middle name / initial, and last name as opposed to something with numbers. If you do use numbers, sure, “1” or [Graduation Year] would be fine.

    2. M&I - Nicole

      Yes it is fine.

  14. Is not having a linkedin profile a hindrance when doing a job search?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Not necessarily, though having a stellar one will increase your chances significantly especially since you can use it to network and gain exposure.

  15. What’s the value of adding skills/endorsements? Work experience/positions should speak for itself. I’ve noticed people adding skills they don’t have and being endorsed by people without qualification. That just reduces the legitimacy of their profile in my view.

    1. You add Skills mostly because they can help your profile show up in searches more effectively, since LinkedIn search results are partially based on what you list there. But you’re correct that, by themselves, they don’t prove anything – so it’s mostly for visibility. The rest of your profile tells them who you are.

      Endorsements, as I said, are not super-useful because people exaggerate or say that others have skills they don’t really have. But if you genuinely have a skill and then others endorse you for it, you might as well keep it since it doesn’t hurt you as long as it’s true.

  16. Hi Brian, thanks for tips, as always very helpful. Do you think it is beneficial also to actively participate in various groups (e.g. wall street oasis group, equity research group etc) maybe to show interest and get some credibility (I am a university student)? Do HR pay attention to it? I have been treating my LinkedIn more as my profile page getting connections and not really being active in terms of starting discussions and commenting.
    Thanks!

    1. Thanks! I think group participation is a bit overrated, actually. In other industries like PR or marketing they might pay more attention to group participation, but I don’t know that recruiters in finance (or networking contacts) care that much.

      If you have a few spare minutes, sure, it helps to post reasonable and helpful responses, but it should be lower priority than contacting people via LinkedIn, email, your alumni network, and so on.

  17. BBQ Shape

    The social media cautions are unfortunately very true. The examples given are ones that would be universally considered inappropriate, but the scary thing is what happens when you take a certain position on a current event or political topic? A recruiter can see that and decide to pass on you because their views don’t match yours. It has been written about many times that one of the worst things you can do in business is hire people who think exactly like you do. However, this doesn’t always filter down to the people who “patrol” social media or google names of applicants.

    In banking I have worked with people who have strong beliefs in different religions and in pseudoscience. Sometimes these beliefs need to be challenged and brought out into the open (outside of work of course), especially by young people who will be the ones shaping our policy in the future. Perhaps a young person has an opinion on the keystone pipeline, or they feel that the anti-vaccine movement is dangerous. They use social media to get those conversations going, which is a good thing. But then what happens when the VP or HR person who is a climate change denier or anti-vaxxer sees it, disagrees, and passes on that person who may be a very good employee and highly skilled.

    We need to really remove the social media aspect from the talent acquisition process. It does nothing but make young people scared to voice their opinions on important topics unfortunately to the detriment of society. I love to see social media comments on ballot initiatives. I wish more people would say “I support Proposition 1 in California because…. etc. etc.” But if that person is in constant fear of some HR person at a bank scoffing at that and tossing the resume of an applicant or firing an employee and giving “no reason”, then we’re not making progress with technology, we’re regressing.

    Brian, what you’re saying is absolutely correct. And that’s what scares me the most. I’m glad California passed a law banning employers from asking for social media usernames and passwords from applicants, but hopefully companies themselves will take the high ground and discourage the practice of looking at an applicant’s twitter history and seeing if the personal views line up with the recruiter.

    1. I agree with you, but I don’t think it’s realistically going to happen given that people are sharing more and more online these days, and that background checks have been around for decades.

      Most would say that you shouldn’t be able to rule out a candidate based on a political belief, but that if the person really makes completely inappropriate comments or posts NSFW photos, for example, then it’s justifiable to reject the person… but where do you draw the line? Sometimes it’s very blurry, especially when someone’s idea of “appropriate” is very different from someone else’s.

      The other issue is that sometimes social media devolves into a ‘he said’ / ‘she said’-type deal where it’m impossible to say who was in the right or who attacked whom… yet another good argument for excluding it from the recruiting criteria altogether.

      1. BBQ Shape

        Very true. Not only that, but it’s so easy to pose as someone else on Twitter by using their name and photo and it’s extremely difficult to get that account taken down. So if you have a unique name, someone can google you, see the fake Twitter, and then attribute everything said to you. I have seen numerous times where people have an axe to grind or an ex-wife or ex-girlfriend just wants a little vengeance.

        There is another IBD forum online where I saw about 6 or 7 years ago some guy made a post, identified himself via first and last name, and proceeded to make an ass of himself. Every response was people saying they would put that name on a black list and call every MD they knew and would tell them do not hire this guy. Now who knows if that was done, but it seemed no one at all had the idea that maybe that guy was intentionally smearing the one that was named?

        It can be a scary world when people don’t apply critical thinking to online commentary. I think as the younger generation moves up the ladder, this common sense will apply more and more though since they grew up with the technology whereas their older counterparts merely were exposed to it after a long period of already being in the work force. So I do have hope even though I make some parts sound bleak.

        1. Yeah, agreed. I think I actually remember that incident vaguely. I’ve seen some incredibly naive / gullible people take everything said online seriously, which is a recipe for disaster… maybe I am old-fashioned, but I tend to discount most things said online, especially in anonymous settings like Reddit where no one is backing anything they say with an identity or reputation.

  18. Hi Brian,
    You are have simply not given the right advice to any individual. Perhaps your interest may be to sell M&I which may not be the right way to achieve your end.
    Regards,
    M.O.Mathew

    1. Sorry, what? What does “selling” the site have to do with anything written here (and where have I ever given any indication of doing that)? Happy to clarify, but I’m quite confused by your comment.

  19. How much time in your new job would you leave to change your linkedin title?

    1. Sorry, not sure I understand your question. Do you mean how much time you can use a “dummy job” entry for? I would say not more than a year, otherwise it may look a little odd (so come up with a new one past that). Or are you asking when you should change your title on LinkedIn after changing jobs? You can change it as soon as you start working in the new role.

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