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LinkedIn Connection Requests – Don’t be THAT Guy!

I am as big a fan of LinkedIn as the next guy. I have found it to be a valuable tool to build my network, enhance my professional brand and recruit for my company. I would say that for many people, myself included, LinkedIn has been become a virtual extension of their professional persona. In fact, in many ways and depending on who is looking at my profile on LinkedIn, it IS my professional brand – at least at that moment in time.

So, my advice to people who are either on LinkedIn (but not actively managing their account) or are thinking about joining LinkedIn is to make sure that what you (eventually) portray on LinkedIn is in line with the professional brand/image you want to be identified with. In fact, because LinkedIn forms such a vital part of anyone’s professional network and image, I have blogged many times about proper LinkedIn etiquette on a variety of topics that can be found here , here, here, here, here and here.

Linkedin Meme

However, today’s topic is focused on one particular area of etiquette violation that seems to be an increasing trend on LinkedIn and that is the “Connect and Sell” request. For those that have received these types of requests and emails you know exactly what I am talking about. You receive a connection request from someone that you don’t know, in the spirit and intent of LinkedIn you accept the request, only to have this person minutes (maybe hours) later send you a sales pitch to either buy their latest piece of software/technology, use their recruiting services or subscribe to their training services. Sorry to pick on these folks but in my world that is what I experience. Seriously!? Is this how we do business now? There is no way that anyone can tell me that this approach works! I know what I do when I receive those requests…nothing. Yup, nada. In fact, it makes we want to “disconnect” with that person right away.

So, if you are one of the spammy spammers doing this – please stop.   No one appreciates this approach and it reflects poorly on your professional brand and probably your company. You are the source of memes everywhere. Think about it – if you were selling a software package to someone that you NEVER had any contact with before, would you walk up to them on the street and say, “Hi, my name is Joe from ACME Software. We have never met but I would like to meet you. Thank you, would you like to buy my software product?” It truly is as INSANE as it is written there!

Going forward, do yourself a favour. Use LinkedIn to make connections and build relationships. It is NOT there for you to use as a cold calling (cold emailing?) tool. Take some pride in what you do and how you define your professional brand because this approach reflects poorly on you. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

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Do’s and Don’ts for your LinkedIn Profile Picture

It has been said that the eyes are the window to the soul. If this is true, then your profile picture is the window to your LinkedIn identity! I get asked a ton of questions about LinkedIn, ranging from “what is LinkedIn” to “how do I increase views of my profile.” I don’t consider myself to be an uber-guru of all things LinkedIn like the awesome Stacy Donovan Zapar; however, having been using LinkedIn since the early days of its inception and having used it to recruit staff for an equal number of years, I feel “qualified” to offer up a bit of advice on the subject matter. Plus, consider this advice is coming from someone who has been recruiting and hiring staff for 19+ years so I spend a lot of time looking at resumes and LinkedIn profiles.

LI Logo #2

If you do a Google search for “LinkedIn tips”, you will get over 301 MILLION hits! Suffice it to say, there is a lot of advice out there. While I have blogged about LinkedIn a lot with specific posts on tips and tricks, I want to hone in on one particular area that I think folks could use a bit of specific advice in and that is the LinkedIn profile picture. To that extent, here are my top tips when it comes to managing your profile picture:

  1. Do have a picture – this is not optional. Do not have the shadow/silhouette figure up there. Nothing turns a recruiter off more than seeing this, so do yourself a favour, get someone to take a decent professional picture (plain background) and get it up on your profile page –ASAP.
  2. Do not use an image or logo as your picture – unless you are some well- known graphics designer and you have a recognizable image, you need to have a picture of you up there and not an image of something.
  3. Do not use a picture of you at a party, wedding or other social event. It makes you look like an amateur if your profile picture is cropped from some social event. Worse yet, you often see the creepy arm of another person on you or vice versa. Resist the urge to be lazy and make sure you get a decent picture done.
  4. Do not use a scan of another picture as your profile picture –believe it or not, I have seen people use a scan of their passport or driver’s license photo as their profile picture. Suffice it to say, this looks less then professional – especially with the security lines showing through it.
  5. Do not have an action picture as your profile picture – it is cool that you are a great surfer, skier, runner, etc.; however,  we do not need to see a LinkedIn picture of you doing that – save it for Facebook.
  6. Do not use pictures of you on vacation as your image – see point #3 above for reasons. We get it, you enjoyed your trip to Paris and the Eiffel Tower is awesome, but it isn’t something we want to see on LinkedIn…put it on Facebook instead.
  7. Do make sure the picture is representative of your professional image. Pictures of you in a track suit or sports jersey, regardless of the quality of the image and/or success of your particular team, this is a big no-no.
  8. Do make sure your picture is shoulders and above only. Once you start getting into full length photos and trying to include background images, your photo quality and overall image rapidly deteriorates.  In the same vein, a picture that is a close up shot of just your face, is well, too close…and really creepy.
  9. Do not have a profile picture that includes your family, children or pets. It simply isn’t professional and not the image you want to portray. Again, those pictures are for Facebook, not LinkedIn.
  10. Do not have a profile picture where you are wearing a hat (baseball, sun, cowboy, etc.) of any kind (or sunglasses). You wouldn’t show up at a job interview dressed like that, so don’t portray yourself on LinkedIn that way.

Bonus tip – Do make sure your picture uses up the majority of the allowable space/sizing. Nothing is worse than that teeny tiny 2cm x 2cm square picture that is dropped in the middle of the larger spacing that you have. Utilize the space provided and make sure your profile picture pops!

There you have it, my top 10 plus bonus do’s and don’ts for your profile pic. Do yourself a favour and take 5 minutes to see if you are committing any of these faux pas. If you are, take action and correct immediately. This typically starts by getting a decent digital photo of yourself taken by someone with a little bit of photography know how.

Is there anything I have missed? Hit me up in the comments and I will add it in. Want to know if your picture is up to par? Drop me a line and I will let you know – if you can handle the truth that is. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Is being Anonymous really “Social?”

Confession, I have a healthy dose of curiosity in my DNA. I like to know what is going on, how things are working, etc. To that extent, LinkedIn is like catnip for my curiosity. Each morning I like to check my news feed, see who has moved on to different positions and what people are sharing across their networks. One of my favourite things to check is to see who has been viewing my profile. From a personal branding and LinkedIn profile perspective, it is interesting to see what my “reach” is. Is my message getting out there? Are prospective employees seeing me? What type of person is “finding” me out there?

Bag on headI have to say though, one my peeves with the “whose viewed your profile” section is when I click on that section and I see that greyed out, silhouette head with this message:

LinkedIn member

This member chose to be shown as anonymous

Aaagghh – Really!? You are on a social media site…be SOCIAL! This is a professional networking site, why would you have your settings set so that other people can’t see who you are? Here is the thing, there must be a reason you checked out my profile? So, hit me up with an InMail. If you want to connect for whatever reason, just send me a request with a quick note as to why. But why, why, why would you be anonymous on social media networking site…I just don’t get it. I once read somewhere (apologies to the author) that being anonymous on a social media site like this is like going to a party with a bag over your head. It makes sense when you think about it. At the very least, it is like going to a networking event and lurking around, listening to conversations, but not introducing yourself (while wearing a bag over your head!)

I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you have this setting on and you don’t know it. There is an easy fix:

Go to the top right corner of your main page and hover your cursor over your profile picture. Then, scroll down to Privacy and Settings – Manage. Click on Manage. Then half way down the middle of the page, under Privacy Controls, click on “Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile.” Once there, make sure “Your name and headline” is selected. It is that easy. Now you are all set to be more “social” on social media! Who knows, maybe you will connect with even more interesting people this way. At the very least, you give me a reason to now check out your profile and connect!

So please, no more “anonymous user” views – let’s be more social. As always, I would love to hear from you.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do you REALLY want to connect with me on LinkedIn?

Last week I blogged about a pet peeve of mine which is the canned LinkedIn connection request of, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Based on the number of views and comments I have received about this post I must have hit a nerve. I have had comments in full on support of my post and those that provided a differing point of view. I truly appreciated all the viewpoints and took the time to engage with everyone as I am always interested to learn more about user experiences with LinkedIn.

Of note, on the differing point of view side of things, some people raised a couple of valid points as to why the eleven-word canned connection request statement is used so much:

  1. If you are trying to connect with someone that isn’t a 2nd or 3rd degree connection already, it is almost impossible to have a connection request get sent any other way
  2. If you are using LinkedIn on a mobile device that is often the only way to send off a request (i.e. the issue is with LinkedIn and their app making it too ‘easy’ to do this, not the user).

LinkedIn ChocolatesWhile I can accept both those counter arguments, my personal experience with this is a bit jaded. You see, what I (used to) do is when I received invites from people I don’t know, and that contained the “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn,” I would not accept them at first, but would reply back. Yes – you can do that! So, I would hit the reply button and send back a quick note that would state something like, “Thanks for your connection request, I can’t remember if we have met before, if we have, could you please remind me? If we haven’t, in the spirit of connecting, I would like to know how/why you would like to connect with me?”

How often do you think I received a response back to that question? Answer – less than 1% of the time! Of those that did respond back to me, I actually received a great email back from the requestor and happily accepted the connection invitation at that point. I mean, all I was really looking for was to make sure it was a real person looking to connect with me and that they gave it 2 seconds of thought. In other words, I didn’t want to be a baseball card added to someone’s collection because at the end of the day, I value my network I have built up and I don’t feel like giving just anyone access to it…especially a spammer!

So, I guess in all this I remain a bit jaded but I am still open to hear your feedback on this. I am going to need some convincing though. My feeling is that if you send me a connection request and I email you back and you don’t respond, my question to you is, do you REALLY want to connect with me on LinkedIn…or are you just trying to collect names and/or get access to my network? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of Nan Palmero/Flickr.com

“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”

Those have to be the eleven words I hate to see the most when I receive a LinkedIn request. There is absolutely no context or effort involved with these types of requests. It is simply a case of someone clicking on your profile and sending you an invitation while using the standard LinkedIn text. It also gives the impression that you are simply looking to add names to your LinkedIn database collection. Bottom line, you should always take the time to personalize a LinkedIn request.

LinkedIn company name pictureThis is true whether you are a job seeker or looking to make a sales connection. At the very least, a personalized request note is a “softer” request and lead in. Look at it this way, if you were attending an in person networking event, you wouldn’t walk up to someone you never met before and say to them, “I’d like to add you to my professional network can I have your business card?” So why do we do this on LinkedIn?

Here is the thing, you may be committing this faux pas and not even realizing it – so I am here to help! If you are in the “People You May Know” section of LinkedIn (within your account) and you click on “Connect” under the picture of any of the people there, they will automatically get that horrible 11 word request email to connect. Bam – that is it…no opportunity for you to edit the message at all and you probably aren’t even aware of what you have done.

Here is what you should do when you are looking to connect:

Click on the person’s picture/name profile so you can link to their actual profile landing page. Then you can click on the blue connect button where you have an opportunity to personalize a message. The same standard 11 word intro comes up, but NOW you have an opportunity to edit and personalize your request. My advice – take advantage of this opportunity!

So, let’s assume you have followed this advice so far and you are providing yourself an opportunity to customize your connection request. Now it is all up to you This part isn’t hard, but it does take a bit of effort. All you need to do in the request is write a few sentences on why you want to connect with the person. Do this and your LinkedIn life will change forever. For example, in your connection request you could refer to one of the following types of situations:

  • You met them at an event (this is the easiest isn’t one of all)
  • You know of them through someone else and want to connect for business reasons
  • You read an article, blog post, etc. that they wrote, it resonated with you and now you want to connect with them
  • You heard them speak at a conference or event, you enjoyed the content and would like to connect with them
  • You follow them on Twitter (or read something they shared in a LinkedIn group), they share great content, so now you want to connect with them and hopefully you can help them as well.

That’s all there is to it. Personalize the message by providing some context. Most people will accept your invite if there is a bit of a covering note/reason to the request. Hopefully these tips will help you out moving forward, especially if you are a job seeker. I would really like to see that you are doing everything in your power to improve your chances of expanding your network and finding gainful employment. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of Shekhar_Sahu/Flickr.com

I, Robot (Recruiting Edition)

Let’s face it, many of us as Talent Acquisition Pros, (Recruiters) fall in love with shiny new things. Whether it is the latest and greatest ATS, (Applicant Tracking System) the newest “free” feature on LinkedIn, or the latest social media tool, we LOVE shiny new things. So much so, that I find it can cause us, as a profession, to focus too much on our processes, systems and technology (i.e. ways to do things FASTER), to the point that we completely fall in love with them and ignore the basics. We want to automate everything and have our ATS do all the upfront work for us. We continue to feed the technology monster, believing that it is helping us do our jobs better, when in fact it may be having the opposite effect.

Movie_poster_i_robotYou see, as recruiters, we can’t let our environment take over. That is, the technology that we have at our disposal should complement what we do, not BE what we do. We need to make sure that the technology works us and that we don’t work for the technology. Case in point, how many people reading this post absolutely love their ATS? I mean really LOVE it. Hands up. That’s what I thought. How many of you would rather have no ATS than the one you have? Right, so we need to make sure our ATS works for us. None of them are perfect but most are workable – read this great post by Tim Sackett for more on ATS love.

For example, I recently blogged about the hidden nuggets of recruiting that we fail to capitalize on, such as referrals. But here is the thing, how many of us have taken the time to make sure that our ATS actually screens in the right candidates vs. screens them out?   How many of our ATS’s create roadblock or hard stop screen out questions that push candidates out of our system vs. drawing them in?

Here is an example to drive home my point and to show why we need to do a better job of making our tools work for us. Let’s say you have an opening for a Sales Director. Your HR team, in partnership with the hiring manager, has developed a comprehensive job description/performance profile for the role. It is determined that while a university degree would be nice to have, it is not a requirement for this role. The successful candidate needs to be able to demonstrate their proposal writing and presentation abilities by drawing upon their current experience.

This job description/profile is then given to the recruiting team to use in order to make an effective hire. The information is entered into the ATS and the recruiter who has this requisition then begins to communicate the opening internally, looking for referrals, as well as advertising and recruiting externally. Because this recruiter does a good job networking internally, she actually receives several referrals for the role. The candidates are immediately directed to “apply on online” by completing an online application. Of course, no one bothered to check the standard pre-screening questions that the ATS will ask.

Here is the problem, because this company has traditionally required people to have a university degree for all its roles (began as a start up), ALL positions ask the applicant if they have a degree or not. So, what happens? The excited referrals then are either automatically screened out and/or there is no opportunity for them to describe or demonstrate their equivalent or related experience. (Thanks to one of my readers, Christine N. for this great example which I am sure is purely fictitious!).

So, what should we as recruiters be doing? We need to analyze our processes, procedures and technology and make sure they are working for us. Applying some Lean thinking principles here would go a long way to potentially reducing costs and wasted time. Secondly, and probably most importantly, we need to stop working like robots and simply “processing” everything. I have advocated time and time again that the recruiting business is a people business (seems obvious but it isn’t based on the hundreds of horror stories I hear every year.)

As recruiters, we need to find ways to humanize the candidate experience and how we interact with our candidates. In the example above, instead of automatically directing referrals to “apply online,” why isn’t the recruiter making it a point to have a personal discussion with each referral first and THEN have them apply online (as a formality at that point). Candidate referrals should not be handled the same as all other applicants; however, this is another case where we fall into the trap of acting like robots due to the technology at our disposal.

We need to make sure our technology and tools at our disposal are doing for us what they are supposed to be doing. Listen to your candidates and employees. What are they telling you? This two (free) resources are a great place to start when it comes to process improvement. Better yet, have you tried applying for a job at your company recently? How did that work out for you? Did you find you were able to portray an accurate picture of yourself in the online application process?

Finally, and above all else, as recruiters, let’s get back to using the phone more. It helps humanize the entire candidate experience. Not a lot of talent acquisition departments do this anymore, so here is a chance to stand out. If you need any help, just read any of the great articles that Maureen Sharib has written – you won’t be disappointed. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Movie poster i robot” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

Your Professional Network – Make those Deposits!

When you hear the word “network” what comes to mind? Do you think of your close personal friends on Facebook? Is it your LinkedIn connections? Is it all the former co-workers you know? The answer is that it is all those things and more. More importantly, and here is the thing that professionals need to come to grips with very quickly, your professional network is one of the most valuable work related and job search tools that you have at your disposal. Additionally, your network of connections can also be very powerful when you need advice on something, when you are looking for a 2nd opinion on a work matter or even when you are looking for some quick hit resources, your network is a great place to reach out.

Piggy Bank DepositHere is the thing – in order for your network to be effective, you have to treat it like a bank account. You need to make regular deposits/investments into the account. You need to gradually build it up over time through these deposits, while earning interest (goodwill) month over month and year over year.  When the time comes, you will have built up enough of a “savings” account to make a withdrawal from your network when you need to.

Obviously the above reference to a “savings account” and “deposits” is/are a metaphor; however, that is the mindset that you need to have when building your network. Think about it, if you opened a bank account several years ago, and hadn’t deposited anything into it since you opened it, why would you expect there to be any money in there when you go to make a withdrawal? You wouldn’t, because you didn’t put anything into it! The same goes for your network – if you haven’t put anything in to your network, you can’t expect to get anything out of it.

As a professional, you need to be making regular “deposits” into your network. This can take the form of things like:

  • Sharing articles, advice and helpful pieces of information on LinkedIn with your network
  • Participating in group discussions on LinkedIn
  • Offering to help members of your network with anything from their own job search to assistance with something that is impacting their job success
  • Meeting for coffee with former colleagues to catch up and find out what THEY are doing
  • When asked for help from your network, respond in kind without expecting or asking for anything in return
  • Picking up the phone to (re) connect and touch base with individuals in your network
  • Providing work references for them (where practicable and appropriate)
  • Commenting on their blog posts/network updates

Those are but a small sample of how to make deposits, but they should give you an idea of what it means to invest in your network. If you make these small investments over time, you will build up a bank of goodwill with your network. What I can’t stress enough though is that you have to do all these things without expecting anything in return at that time. I have had a great deal of success with my own network with this approach. I am more than happy to assist whenever/wherever I can without reciprocity. The beauty of this is that when I need something from my network they are always willing and able to help. It is a nice symbiotic relationship that benefits all parties without the direct intent of having some sort of quid pro quo relationship.

Speaking (writing) from experience, where this all breaks down for me personally is that, unfortunately, there are people in my network that don’t buy into this approach and here is where I am sharing the lessons learned and advice for you, my readers. Essentially there are a handle of folks that I simply don’t hear from in any capacity month over month, year over year. (These are also the same people that when you reach out to them, you never hear back, they can’t help, etc.) Then, all of a sudden, I hear from them out of the blue. Guess what – they want/need something – advice, a job, etc. I really struggle with this as I have an internal war going on as to how quickly and/or willing I am to go out of my way to help? I usually do what I can, but it isn’t at the same level of commitment say for those in my network with whom we have all made “deposits” with each other and have been communicating/investing with over the same time period. So, you get my point about “investing” in your network.

The beauty of it all is that I have folks that I do hear from on a fairly regular basis – either dropping me a line to say hi or to share something with me that they found on a blog or at a conference, etc. and in turn I have done/and do the same with them. When these folks reach out for something, I am lightening quick to lend a hand because they have made many “deposits” and did so without expecting anything in return at that time. In discussions with peers/colleagues it would appear as though many of us have this same issue of only hearing from some people when they want something.

So, the moral of the story is this, you have to invest in your network. Make regular deposits and when the time comes, you will have built up a bank of goodwill to withdraw from. Your network is not something to be “used” whenever convenient for you. It is very off putting to not hear from people in your network for years and then all of a sudden they reach out to when they need a job or a favour. The message that sends to your network is that they are important enough to you when you are employed (because you don’t need anything). Then, when you are job searching, the people in your network are suddenly important to you!? Don’t think for a minute your network doesn’t know what is going on here! Spend the time up front, invest and then reap the benefits of a properly cultivated network. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of hin255/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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