What is a robust LinkedIn profile?

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Q: Recently I was told to develop my LinkedIn profile.  I am not sure that that even means.  Do I need to pay someone to do this for me?  Where do I start?  Do I have to pay for a profile?  One career counselor told me that my profile was barely acceptable.  What does a good LinkedIn profile look like?

A: LinkedIn has is considered the “go-to” tool for many job seekers across many industries.

LinkedIn is a professional networking tool.  More talent acquisition professionals are scouring LinkedIn for candidates.  You do not have to pay a fee to LinkedIn to create a profile.  You do not have to pay someone to create a profile for you.  You can build one yourself.  What does a robust profile look like?

Here is a checklist —

  1. A professional headshot is a must on LinkedIn. Profiles with a photo get a longer look. You don’t necessarily have to hire a photographer; however, it shouldn’t be a picture of you at the beach either.
  2. Populate your profile with key words. Often recruiters are using key words to find candidates. Make sure that your profile is filled with key words that will land you at the top of search.
  3. Complete your profile. Avoid a “thin” profile. Add volunteer experience.  If you know Spanish fluently, say so.  If you have technical skills, add them!
  4. Keep it professional. I have three good-looking rescue dogs. They are not featured or mentioned on my LinkedIn profile.  It is not Facebook or Instagram.
  5. Look at profiles of others. What do you like about the other profiles? What do you dislike?  Learn from the other profiles, especially ones that are in your industry.
  6. If you are openly job hunting, you can include your resume. Many job seekers will include the increasingly popular hashtag #opentowork.
  7. Insert your contact information. There is nothing more frustrating than finding a great candidate, only to find dated or non-existent contact information.
  8. Add links to relevant sites, especially if you have a website or an online portfolio.
  9. Complete your education. Sometimes hiring professionals search for certain colleges. Make sure that your college is listed.
  10. Recommendations are helpful. Ask a former manager or supervisor for one. Try to have at least three or four.
  11. Join relevant groups on LinkedIn. They may be related to your alumni association, career interests or geography. Sometimes talent acquisition professionals search for candidates within a specific group.  You can move in and out of groups over time.
  12. Check your LinkedIn profile periodically. Update it and keep it fresh. Like your resume, your LinkedIn profile should be kept current.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.