Beginner's Guide to LinkedIn: Best Practices for 2021

Matt Glodz
Beginner's Guide to LinkedIn: Best Practices for 2021

Our Comprehensive Guide to Getting Started on LinkedIn

If you’re just getting started on LinkedIn or want a refresher on how to get the most out of the platform, look no further!

This guide outlines everything you need to know to create a professional profile that is well-written and optimized.

As you build your LinkedIn profile, we encourage you to think about your audience and what they are looking for.

While it may be tempting to include every single responsibility and accomplishment from your current and previous roles, we recommend sticking to the key points.

The reasons for this strategy are twofold.

Most users are browsing LinkedIn on mobile.

In a 2016 earnings call, LinkedIn reported that 57% of users were browsing the website on mobile and that the segment was growing 3x faster than overall member activity – and that was four years ago!

We can only assume that the percentage of users on mobile is much higher now. When users are browsing on mobile, any large chunks of text you include will be difficult to read.

As you’ll probably know from your own experience, user attention spans are also much shorter when using mobile devices.

It’s important that anyone visiting your profile leaves with a strong impression of your skills and professionalism in 30-60 seconds.

The purpose of your profile is to pique interest.

Your profile should be able to grab the interest of a recruiter and leave them wanting to know more.

Your goal here is to get a recruiter to connect with you and reach out to learn more.

In this guide, we discuss the key points you need to know to get started when it comes to:

    1. Creating Your Profile
    2. Choosing a LinkedIn Photo
    3. Writing Your Headline
    4. Writing Your About Section
    5. Adding Your Work Experience
    6. Adding and Optimizing Your Skills
    7. Asking for Recommendations
    8. Adjusting Your Privacy Settings
    9. Engaging with Your Network
    10. Letting Recruiters Know You’re Open to New Opportunities
    11. Applying for Jobs

    Tackle just two sections a day, and your profile to go will be ready in a week!

      1. Creating Your Profile

      If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, visit and click “Join now” to get started.

      Simply follow the prompts to create your profile.

      Don’t worry about signing up for LinkedIn Premium or adding connections at this stage when prompted to do so.

      You’re better off holding off on doing so until your profile is complete!

      Be sure to also customize your LinkedIn URL to make it appear cleaner when you add it to your resume or email signature.

      2. Choosing a Photo

      We all know that first impressions matter.

      Research shows that the same concept holds true even with online interactions.

      Even after we meet someone in person after first connecting with them online, our original first impression tends to stick (even though it was digital!).

      You should upload a photo that:

      • Clearly shows your face (top of shoulders and above)
      • Is sharp, crisp, and not blurry
      • Makes you look approachable (with a slight smile)
      • Has a white or other non-distracting background (you can remove backgrounds for free using this background remover)
      • Is not a selfie
      • Is professional (are you dressed like you would be for the interview?)
      • Is bright (make sure there is sufficient lighting when you are taking your photo, and adjust brightness and contrast using a free trial of Lightroom or Photoshop, if needed)

      By following these tips, you’ll be able to avoid the most common LinkedIn photo mistakes that can cause viewers to question your professionalism and credibility.

      3. Writing Your Headline

      Your headline and photo are the first things people see when they come across your profile on LinkedIn.

      We recommend keeping your headline simple and to the point.

      You want to let readers know what you do, where you work, and what your level of seniority is.

      Avoid the temptation to craft a creative or catchy headline: this strategy can often backfire.

      4. Writing Your About Section

      Think of your about section as your elevator pitch.

      Because LinkedIn is a social networking site, we recommend writing this section in the first person.

      By doing so, you’ll be able to establish rapport with your visitors, opening up the door for further engagement.

      As we explain in more detail in this article on what makes an effective LinkedIn summary, consider using your about section to:

      • Provide an overview of your background
      • Outline your key areas of expertise
      • Tell visitors what you are interested in
      • Invite visitors to contact you
      • Build your personal brand

      You should tailor the tone and content of this section depending on whether you are looking to drive sales or find a new job, for example.

      5. Adding Your Work Experience

      When adding your work experience to your profile, be sure your position names and the dates you held them align with the information you include on your resume.

      Any inconsistencies in this area can raise red flags for recruiters!

      Do not simply copy and paste your resume’s bullet points into your profile.

      Instead, use your profile as a preview for what recruiters can expect to find on your resume.

      Although LinkedIn allows you to upload documents to your profile, you should definitely NOT upload a copy of your resume, either.

      6. Adding and Optimizing Your Skills

      LinkedIn allows you to add a maximum of 50 skills to your profile in the Skills & Endorsements section.

      Take advantage of this opportunity!

      By adding skills that are relevant to your past experience and target roles, you’ll optimize your profile to appear in more searches.

      Be sure to select the top three skills that you would like to feature on your profile as well to give visitors a quick glimpse of your key expertise.

      You’ll then be able to start gathering skills endorsements from your network.

      The more endorsements you have for a skill, the more likely you are to come up in recruiter searches for that skill.

      7. Asking for Recommendations

      You can ask for recommendations from previous bosses, co-workers, or classmates.

      While recommendations aren’t a requirement for bringing your profile up to LinkedIn’s all-star status, they can be a great way to build credibility – especially if you receive recommendations from connections who are respected in your industry.

      8. Adjusting Your Privacy Settings

      You should pay special attention to your privacy settings to make sure that your connections and people whose profiles you are looking at only see the information you want them to see.

      LinkedIn's privacy settings allow you to control how your profile appears to people who aren’t logged into LinkedIn and whether it will appear on search engines.

      You should consider disabling notifications when you are updating your profile.

      Ensuring you don't share profile changes with your network can be especially important if you have connections at your current workplace.

      You wouldn’t want your boss at your current position to get the hint that you are actively searching for new jobs, for example.

      You should also decide whether you want people to see that you viewed their profile.

      LinkedIn sends people notifications to let them know who viewed their profiles.

      We know it can be tempting to browse the profiles of your coworkers’, competitors, former classmates, exes, and bosses.

      But you don’t want to become known around the office as the LinkedIn snooper.

      Sometimes it’s best to just keep your snooping private.

      If you want to get someone’s attention, shoot them a message!

      9. Engaging with Your Network

      When push comes to shove, LinkedIn is a social platform just like any other.

      Once your profile is set up, engaging with your network is the simple most important thing you can do to maximize the value you get from the platform.

      If you didn’t post any Facebook or Instagram updates in a year, you wouldn’t expect people to actively engage with you and follow you. The same applies to LinkedIn.

      If you post links to interesting articles, share job opportunities at your company, or even message contacts to wish them a happy birthday, you will remain on people’s radars and come off as an individual who is actively engaged in your work.

      To increase your engagement and number of profile views, consider the following strategies:

      Tag others in your posts

      If a colleague has published an interesting article or you worked on a project together, you can tag them using the @ symbol to find them. The same applies to companies!

      Treat people like real humans

      Speaking of wishing people a happy birthday… LinkedIn makes it easy and encourages you to congratulate your connections on new roles, wish them a happy birthday, or send them a message when you are asking to connect.

      Always, always, always take the extra 60 seconds to add a custom note!

      Most people don’t, so you would be surprised how much of a difference it can make - especially if you are asking to connect with someone you have not met in person.

      Endorse others

      If you take the time to endorse connections you know well for their top skills, it is likely that they will return the favor.

      Write and publish custom posts

      You can publish longer, detailed posts (think of these as blog articles) to showcase your industry expertise to your network.

      Your connections will be able to share these posts on their profiles as well, which can help you further expand your network.

      To start writing a post, click here.

      Even if you’re short on time, logging into your profile for just 5-10 minutes per day will enable you to accomplish more than most people do on the platform!

      10. Letting Recruiters Know You’re Open to New Opportunities

      If you’re open to work, be sure to adjust this setting on your home page to let recruiter know you’re open to new opportunities.

      Fill out this section with as much detail as possible so that recruiters know what types of roles you are willing to consider and where.

      Then, when recruiters are searching for suitable candidates, you'll be more likely to come up.

      11. Applying for Jobs

      In addition to being a professional networking site, LinkedIn doubles as a job board.

      As such, you can use LinkedIn to search for and apply for jobs.

      We recommend setting up relevant job alerts so that you get notifications whenever a new position that may be of interest to you opens up.

      You can get quite detailed with the criteria you set for each search, specifying elements such as experience level, job type, location, and industry.

      Your job alerts will remember all of the criteria you set, making it more likely that your alerts will actually be relevant.

      In Summary

      We hope this guide gave you a strong overview of the main components that make up your LinkedIn profile and how to use it.

      By putting in the effort to build a strong profile, you’ll be able to reap the benefits throughout your career moving forward.

      About Resume Pilots

      Resume Pilots is an award-winning executive resume writing firm and a proud member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches. Our previous clients include CEOs and senior executives at the world's leading companies.

      As a professional services firm, we take your reputation seriously. We are committed to delivering writing excellence and superior service while operating with integrity and discretion. Recruitment firms we partner with also trust us to consistently deliver quality documents for their clients.

      Our writers have studied in the Ivy League and other top-tier universities and have strong writing backgrounds coupled with industry experience.

      Here's how we can help you:

      Resume, Cover Letter, and LinkedIn Writing Services: If you are looking for end-to-end support, hire one of our professional resume writers to rewrite your documents from the ground up.

      Executive Resume Template Downloads: If you plan to prepare your own resume, consider using one of our classic, ATS-friendly resume templates for Microsoft Word.

      To learn more about our services, book an introductory call with our founder here or email

      About the AuthorMatt Glodz

      Matt Glodz is the Founder and Managing Partner of Resume Pilots and a Certified Professional Resume Writer.

      After studying business communication at Cornell University, Matt worked within Fortune 500 companies, where he noted that qualified candidates were frequently denied interview opportunities due to poorly written documents.

      At Resume Pilots, Matt combines his business and writing background - which includes prior work for a Chicago Tribune publication - to craft resumes that give his clients the best chance of landing interviews. He works with clients ranging from CEOs to recent graduates and has been writing resumes for over 10 years.

      He has been quoted on numerous business and career-related topics in outlets including Business Insider, CNBC, Fortune, Glassdoor, The Ladders, and Thrive Global.

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