This article has been updated on November 19, 2010, with secure alternatives to initiate an email or Skype call from your LinkedIn profile.
I am an enthusiastic LinkedIn user. Throughout my MBA I have used it almost daily as a tool for networking, and more recently in my job search as I prepare my post-MBA career. LinkedIn is a great career management tool; there are plenty of articles across the internet, and on LinkedIn itself, providing strategies for job-seekers to leverage social platforms, so I will not delve into that subject. Instead, I’d like to focus on a very simple resource that LinkedIn makes available to all users, and that most users do not take full advantage of: the website links on profile pages.
LinkedIn provides users with 3 placeholders where to include their choice of links to external websites (when editing your profile, they will be right under your connections count). Why focus on this detail? Because these placeholders, once populated with links, occupy prime real estate in your profile page, right inside the shaded area near your picture, where most visitors will focus their attention. And so, you can take advantage of these 3 lifelines to communicate more effectively with potential recruiters and get a step ahead of the pack. Read on to learn how.
Most people either ignore these placeholders and have no links in their profile, or use the categories predefined by LinkedIn and simply fill-in the details: “personal website”, “company website”, “blog”, “portfolio”, etc. Although having a link to your professional blog or to your online portfolio is a great idea if you are a job-seeker looking to showcase your past work and current activities, the remaining possibilities are not as useful. However, if you select “Other:”, LinkedIn allows you to name the link title as well as define the link. This is where things get interesting.
Make your CV available for download
LinkedIn allows visitors within your network to save your profile as a PDF. However, the conversion is less than optimal as your LinkedIn profile was designed for the screen and not for paper. Typically, PDF files exported from LinkedIn are quite lengthy (my profile is 7 pages long as a PDF), and their layout is plain ugly. Why not use one of the links to let your visitors download your nicely formatted Word or PDF CV instead? All you need to do is upload your CV to one of the multiple cloud-storage services freely available on the internet (I use Dropbox, it’s amazingly simple and fast), create a public link to the file, and define a “Download my CV” link in your LinkedIn profile, adding the public URL to your shared file. Not only you spread your reach, as your links are visible to LinkedIn users in and outside your network, but you also improve your chances of making an impact by using a more effective communication tool.
Allow visitors to add your contact details to their email client or phone
Only people in your network are allowed to see your contact details and download them as a standard-format vCard. However, you may want potential recruiters visiting your profile to be able to quickly add you to their contacts list. You can create your own vCard easily by creating an entry with your own contact details in GMail, Yahoo or another webmail platform (also works in Outlook or Windows Address Book), then exporting it as a vCard. This will generate a .vcf file that you can share via Dropbox or a similar service, and link to your LinkedIn profile in the same way explained above. Your contact details will be available to your visitors at the click of a button. If you are tech-savvy and have access to an SMS gateway (such as ipipi.com, for example), you can even create an external webpage for your users to enter their phone number and send your business card directly to their phone – now that will sure make an impact!
An alternative for sharing files, also valid for making your CV and business card available through your LinkedIn page, is the Box.net application that can be added to your profile. This has, in my opinion, a disadvantage when compared with the methods described above, especially if you are aiming at quickly getting the attention of very busy people (such as recruiters): the Box.net application sits in the middle of your profile page, requiring viewers to scroll down to get to it, and is bound to be quickly skimmed through by someone just looking for the essential. The advantage of your 3 website links is that they sit right at the top of your profile, in a highlighted area where they are unlikely to be missed.
Let people email or call you directly from your LinkedIn profile
There are other alternatives to allow viewers of your profile to quickly contact you: some people include their email address in their LinkedIn display name; others prefer not to do so, to avoid being bombarded with spam. There are several secure and free ways to include a link in your profile that people can click to send you an email: the easiest option is to use one of the free contact forms available on the internet (for example EmailMeForm) to create a simple form for people to contact you. Then create a new link in LinkedIn, enter “Send me an email” as the title of your link and the URL address of your email form as destination. In case you are wondering, a “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” link directly from LinkedIn is not an option, as only HTTP links are allowed at this point in time. A way to circumvent this (that requires basic webmaster skills) is to build your own web page redirecting to a “mailto://email@example.com” link, but make sure that you are keeping your email address safe from spambots by not exposing it in the HTML code and instead using a secure alternative.
Yet another option is to allow visitors of your profile to immediately call you via Skype. Using the same redirection method as described above for email, you need to create an external webpage redirecting to “callto://SkypeID” (replacing SkypeID with your own Skype ID). Then you can create a “Call me on Skype” link in LinkedIn and provide the link to your external webpage as URL. This link, when clicked, automatically launches Skype and initiates a call to you. This obviously works best if you are logged in to Skype most of the time, if you have a Skype voicemail, or if you have Skype calls forwarded to your phone when you are not logged in, in order to make sure you do not miss important calls.
I hope you find this article useful. Feel free to visit my LinkedIn profile to see how I use my links to implement these suggestions. Please drop a comment below if you have other creative ideas on how to use the links in your LinkedIn profile!