Cheeky Logo
Ready To Get Hired?
Apply To Book A Free Call With Our Transition Specialist Team

4 Ways To Give Your Social Selling Index A Big Boost

Growing up, my parents had an adage for everything.

And there was one I heard more than any other by far:

Nothing worth having ever came easy.

These words of wisdom were a lousy rebuttal for the injustices of childhood, but they became the mantra that got me through graduate school. 

Maybe that’s why I regarded anything “easy” as weak, lazy, and average – all dirty words in my book.

And, without knowing what LinkedIn was really about, I wrote it off as just that: an easy way for lazy people to try and find a job.

It was, I concluded, nothing I would ever need. 

Fast-forward to the second year of my PhD.

I was struggling with my research, at odds with my supervisor, and being forced to work on a dead-end project. 

I kept trying to get my supervisor to reconsider the direction of the research, but they would not hear it. 

All the data kept pointing to an impasse, and I could see it was going to fail from a mile away.

That’s when, practically out of spite, I decided to build a LinkedIn profile.

I wanted to see what else was out there.

But I was determined not to do things “the easy way.” 

So, I did what I do best: research. 

I studied every part of every section of the top professionals in my target field. 

What were they doing? How were they doing it? Which words did they use to describe it?

Do you know what I discovered? 

I learned that creating a great LinkedIn profile isn’t all that easy. 

It turns out there’s an art to creating a profile that says something specific about yourself.

I also learned that there’s a right – and also a wrong – way to network with industry professionals.

And I learned that there’s actually an equation you can use to create the perfect LinkedIn profile.

No Visibility, No Leverage 

That formula, the one that determines your visibility on LinkedIn, is important. Here’s why:

Most employers who are looking for great candidates don’t know who they’re looking for. They’re not going to search for you, specifically, by name. 

Instead, recruiters will be searching for a person with experience in a Specific Position within 25 miles of a Specific City who has Specific Skills.

They don’t know your name, and unfortunately your degree doesn’t add any weight to your ranking. 

But, if you understand the formula – also called the algorithm – that LinkedIn uses, you dramatically increase your chances of being seen. 

If you aren’t visible to employers, LinkedIn offers no leverage in your job search. 

Maybe when you signed up for LinkedIn you created a simple profile that you planned to fill out later. 

That is a mistake. 

Research shows that having a LinkedIn profile with nothing but the bare minimum filled out is actually worse than having no profile at all.

It demonstrates that you are not ready to take your job search or your career seriously. It implies a lack of industry knowledge as well, and looks generally lazy.

So if you aren’t ready to take your LinkedIn profile seriously now, save yourself some trouble and delete it.

But if you are serious about elevating your LinkedIn profile, you need to invest a little time into understanding your Social Selling Index.

What Is A Social Selling Index?

The Social Selling Index (SSI) sounds like a tool for salespeople, but it’s not. 

Think of it more like a reputation score. 

In industry, reputation scores help businesses determine how they are being perceived by others. 

Analyzing their reputation score allows them to address customer concerns, communicate better, and set meaningful goals for growth.

This LinkedIn tool is available to everyone, and it works much the same way. 

Your SSI is the best indication of how LinkedIn ranks you among its 950 million users.

That score is based on how well you represent yourself in four categories:

  • Find The Right People
  • Build Relationships
  • Establish Your Brand
  • Engage With Insights

Each category can have a maximum of 25 points. Add each of the four categories together to give you your score. 

The higher your Social Selling Index score, the higher your LinkedIn visibility.

You should aim for an overall score of 60 to 80. Some experts suggest that a score of 75 qualifies you as a true thought leader in your field.

With a score this high, you will most likely appear on the first page of LinkedIn’s search engine results.

This means recruiters will be able to find you instead of the other way around.

Focus On These Four Things To Increase Your Social Selling Index

I know I said that you don’t need to be a salesperson in order to utilize your SSI, but that’s not 100% true.

As an industry job seeker, you are selling something: yourself. You’re selling your skills and your experience. 

Employers are selling themselves, too. To them, LinkedIn is a brand-building tool. It’s also a resource to find talent and sell their services.

And recruiters are an extension of the employers they represent. They’re promoting their company and its culture to attract the best candidates possible. 

Understanding that everyone on LinkedIn is selling something can be helpful for some PhDs – especially those who think the platform is some kind of nepotism machine.

But as industry has spread and businesses have grown, a platform like LinkedIn is actually the great equalizer. 

With the right branding and a strong LinkedIn profile, you stand more than a fighting chance against your industry competition.

So let’s discuss those four specific areas of your Linked profile that make up your SSI score along with things you can do right now to increase each of these elements of your profile.

1. Find The Right People

At the bare minimum, you should have 500 LinkedIn connections. 

That’s the limit that LinkedIn will display: 500+. LinkedIn does this to emphasize that, when it comes to connections, it’s about quality and not quantity. 

But the flip side to this is that any number below this threshold is a dead giveaway that you are a novice networker.

Having 500 connections boosts your search score. If you share a common connection, you will be displayed in an employer’s search engine results over a non-connected competitor. Period – end of story. Sharing connections opens doors.

Reach is a factor as well. With 500 or more first connections, your posts and activity are visible not only to your network but also to their networks, especially if they’re reposting something you shared. 

Finally, even if these connections are outside your target industry, they provide evidence that you’re probably relevant and a good person to know.

However, as I said, LinkedIn’s algorithm is designed to favor quality over quantity. 

This means that the number of connections you have who are employed in your target industry matter.

So if you want to boost your reputation score, the first thing you need to do is determine your target position if you haven’t already. 

Then, start sending personalized connection requests to people working in that career path.

If you want to be a data scientist, you should connect with people working in the data science field. The more focused the sector and the more contacts you have within that sector, the higher your score for this component.

Keep in mind, too, that LinkedIn’s algorithm factors in your networking performance. If you send 100 connection requests, for instance, but only get 5 new connections, the algorithm will rank your profile lower. This lets the algorithm know that you are not focused on creating quality connections. 

That’s why it’s important to send personalized connection requests every time you want to expand your network.

2. Build Relationships

This where I see PhDs make the biggest blunders when it comes to networking. You cannot rush your connections – you can’t force a professional relationship any more than you can force a friendship. 

But there are things that you can do to increase your chances of making a great impression, and you increase your score by taking these relationships to the next level.

First off, understand that LinkedIn’s algorithm considers how many messages you’ve sent and how many messages you’ve received. And the ratio between the two – you guessed it – impacts your SSI score.

So, make sure to reach out to your connections thoughtfully. Send a personalized note when you request to connect. 

Do NOT ask for a referral, informational interview, or even a good cookie recipe in your first message. Always add value to your connections, no matter how you’re choosing to interact.

Adding value can mean many things. It can come in the form of a compliment or a recommendation or in simply acknowledging an interest in this person’s line of work.  

Mention a post they shared or something you saw of interest to you on their profile. Find commonalities and bring those to their attention. 

But don’t ask for anything. Not for several messages. Instead, increase your level of professional intimacy to keep the conversation going and build meaningful relationships. 

Understand that the more messages you send back and forth, the more your score will increase. Because LinkedIn’s algorithm takes this into consideration too. 

Use LinkedIn’s search tools to find others to connect with, too. The algorithm is a learning one, and it rewards engagement by adding points to your SSI score.

3. Establish Your Brand

You probably think that brand building is going to be the hardest part of networking. Most PhDs I work with do. 

I understand why. The word “branding” conjures up ideas about big corporations and sales pitches. To me it sounded very insincere. 

But defining your brand is less about selling yourself and more about defining yourself. Only by understanding how you want to be seen can you start to cultivate that reputation.

You already have a brand – it’s how others see you and would describe you. All you need to do is define it and start demonstrating your values.

Your professional brand should convey your strengths and professional goals. In order to convey this in a way that boosts your SSI score, you need to explain your brand using LinkedIn’s profile tools.

It comes down to filling out as many LinkedIn profile sections as possible. As you do so, you’ll want to use as many keywords as possible for the specific sectors of industry you are trying to get into.

To determine the keywords you should add to your profile, go through several job postings of interest. Using your preferred keyword identifier, choose the top skills that come up time and time again. Then, add those to your profile.

And I’m not talking about sprinkling 5 or 10 keywords on your profile and deciding that you’ve done a good job. I’m talking about getting 50 to 60 of these keywords into different sections of your profile, using both central and distal keywords.  

By simply completing all the sections of your LinkedIn profile (including endorsements, recommendations, and volunteer section), you can increase your professional brand score by up to 20 points.

4. Engage With Insights

There’s a reason why the first thing you see when you sign on to LinkedIn is your newsfeed. That’s because the algorithm wants you to be active and to engage with others.

You can be as active as you want on LinkedIn, interacting with plenty of posts and sharing content and messaging connections. But that’s just a piece of the puzzle.

In order to “engage with insights”, you need to post on LinkedIn and interact with other people’s posts in a way that demonstrates you’re digesting what’s in your feed. 

Visit your Social Selling Index page often – LinkedIn knows when you’ve checked this feature out, and it certainly logs your behavior after doing so.

So show LinkedIn that you’re listening to its feedback. Take action on LinkedIn to boost the score you currently have.

Start discussions in other people’s posts.

Use hashtags. 

Turn comments into posts for your page. 

Make small daily, weekly, and monthly updates to your profile – show LinkedIn’s finicky algorithm that you’re a habitual user.

Publish your own LinkedIn articles.

Share relevant news with your network. 

People will appreciate your engagement with their posts. Engagement is important because it not only feels rewarding, it increases that user’s visibility. And connections appreciate connections who are generous networkers.

Users also like to see a variety of updates in their feed. That makes sense – after all, the same two or three voices chiming in over and over makes LinkedIn hard to get excited about… hence the site’s heavy investment in its ever-growing, always-learning algorithm.

Demonstrate your authenticity and interest in the industry with insightful posts and authentic engagement.

There’s an upside to all this engagement and connecting and brand-building that I haven’t touched on:

All of these activities are deepening your connection to industry. It’s building relationships that will inevitably lead to the results you want, and it’s increasing your insights into a field you’re interested in. 

And that’s its own reward. 

Concluding Remarks

Learning to use LinkedIn as the tool that it is takes patience and consistent effort. Failing to invest the time in building your profile is absolutely a mistake. Obscurity in your job search is a major hurdle for too many PhDs, but LinkedIn neutralizes this problem. Understanding how LinkenIn’s Social Selling Index works is an important first step to helping you overcome it. Your SSI plays a significant role in the visibility of your LinkedIn profile, and you should start working on building it up sooner rather than later. Completing your profile, connecting with others in your target industry, engaging with your feed, and sharing content that reinforces your professional brand are all important parts of building a robust SSI score. Don’t try to do everything in one day. Instead, spend 20 to 30 minutes every day making small updates to your profile, connecting with new people, commenting and liking in the newsfeed, and following up with anybody who sent you a message. Once you reach a LinkedIn SSI of 60 or higher, employers will come looking for you. 

Book a Transition Call
Get Free Job Search Content Weekly



Dr. Isaiah Hankel is the Founder and CEO of Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by millions of PhDs and other professionals in hundreds of different countries. He has helped PhDs transition into top companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Intel, Dow Chemical, BASF, Merck, Genentech, Home Depot, Nestle, Hilton, SpaceX, Tesla, Syngenta, the CDC, UN and Ford Foundation.

Dr. Hankel has published 3X bestselling books and his latest book, The Power of a PhD, debuted on the Barnes & Noble bestseller list. His methods for getting PhDs hired have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Nature, Forbes, The Guardian, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine and Success Magazine.

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Similar Articles

Why Hiring Managers Often See PhDs As Desperate (& How To Avoid It)

Why Hiring Managers Often See PhDs As Desperate (& How To Avoid It)

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Recently, I spoke with an absolutely brilliant physicist. She had a decade of groundbreaking research under her belt, was well-respected and well-known in academia, and she was ready to make the move to an industry career.  And she was stumped.  She couldn’t understand why her job applications had been hitting a brick wall for the last few months. Despite her impressive credentials and numerous publications, she hadn’t received a single interview invitation in months.  The worst part? She’d already stepped away from the research and teaching that had been sustaining her financially.  When she doubled back, thinking maybe it just…

What To Do When You Feel Invisible On LinkedIn

What To Do When You Feel Invisible On LinkedIn

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

LinkedIn is unlike any other social networking platform.  The similarities are hard to ignore: you post updates – sometimes pictures –  share your opinions and comment on posts others make. But at its core, LinkedIn is very different than Facebook or any other friend-finding, video-sharing, community-connecting network.  LinkedIn is designed specifically to introduce professionals to other professionals. The site’s primary mission is to remove the barriers that make it difficult to connect with peers, your target companies, and the right opportunities.  What kind of opportunities, you might ask? What’s so great about having connections? As a PhD transitioning into industry,…

Here's The Formula To Hack LinkedIn Recruiter's Algorithm

Here's The Formula To Hack LinkedIn Recruiter's Algorithm

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

LinkedIn is not for academics. This is what I heard over and over again in the latter stages of my PhD program.  If anything, you should have a personal website to share your published papers and research.  And it made sense to me. If I was going to go into academia, shouldn’t I be creating content for other academics? So that’s what I did. And then I dusted off my hands and kept working toward my PhD. I was so committed to the idea of succeeding in academia and becoming a professor. In my mind, there wasn’t really any other…

Make A Future-Facing LinkedIn Profile That Employers Find Easily

Make A Future-Facing LinkedIn Profile That Employers Find Easily

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

When I began my job search, I was optimistic. I’d even go so far as to say I felt pretty confident.  Right off the bat, I found a job posting that seemed almost like it was written specifically for me. I met all the requirements for the role, and the work sounded genuinely interesting.  I’d heard that you should update your LinkedIn profile before applying to jobs, but I didn’t think that applied to me. Not without any job experience to add. I had worked on that right after graduation and felt like it was professional looking – pretty complete,…

7 Things PhDs Should Always Do When Networking Online

7 Things PhDs Should Always Do When Networking Online

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

If you want to get a PhD-level industry position, you need to set up a networking strategy and invest in your professional relationships. You can build rapport with someone else by networking in person, either at networking events, or over a cup of coffee. However, online networking is another powerful tool you can use to reach out to industry professionals and start a conversation. Do you know how to turn a LinkedIn connection into a job referral? If you don’t, you’re in trouble and are probably missing out on some great opportunities. Take for example the following story a member…

How To Supercharge The Search Ranking Of Your LinkedIn Profile & Resume

How To Supercharge The Search Ranking Of Your LinkedIn Profile & Resume

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

You probably know that you should always target your resume when you apply for an open position and that you should add keywords related to your desired position throughout the sections of your LinkedIn profile. But do you actually know what targeting a resume or LinkedIn profile involves? Most PhDs think that they just need to look at the skills mentioned in a job posting and sprinkle a couple of them throughout their professional profile. This is the bare minimum.  If you want to ensure your LinkedIn profile always comes at the top of searches and your resume always makes…

Top 10 LinkedIn Sections Every PhD Must Complete To Get Hired

Top 10 LinkedIn Sections Every PhD Must Complete To Get Hired

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

You probably know that a LinkedIn profile is important if you want to transition out of academia and find your dream industry position. But did you know that your LinkedIn profile is actually more important than your resume? Everyday, I see PhDs lose great opportunities because they don’t understand the importance of their LinkedIn profile. You can use LinkedIn to find jobs, connect with people, and get job referrals.  If you find a job opportunity through means different from LinkedIn, chances are that the hiring manager will take a look at your profile. Never underestimate the importance of taking the…

If You Don't Know These 5 Things About LinkedIn, Your Job Search Is In Trouble

If You Don't Know These 5 Things About LinkedIn, Your Job Search Is In Trouble

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

There is no way to deny that LinkedIn is a must-have tool for every PhD who wants to transition into industry. Positioning yourself on LinkedIn is one of the most powerful ways to get noticed by and start growing your network of industry professionals. LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to reach out to people working in your target companies or locations, connect with recruiters and hiring managers, and participate from groups of like-minded professionals. I have seen many PhDs get hired by leveraging the power of LinkedIn. Take for example the following story of a member I was recently talking…

The 3 Components Of A Professional Job Search Profile

The 3 Components Of A Professional Job Search Profile

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

The components of your professional job search profile are important. If you want to transition into industry, you need to talk the language of industry and show that to potential referrals and employers. You probably already heard me say this, but do you know what it actually means? It means you need to know how you are portraying yourself from the very first moment you start planning your transition. Even before you start applying for jobs. If you are looking to transition into industry, but are applying to positions using an academic CV instead of an industry resume, you are…

Here's What Others Are Saying

"Aside from all the technical pieces, the comradery, I really had an excellent time at the symposium that I was in Florida, that was super helpful...having a community that takes a part in your wins and also helps you pick yourself up and dusts yourself off when you don't get those wins and that you're not alone."

Christine Lo Bue-Estes

Christine Lo Bue-Estes

Medical Communications

at NBA

"I'm excited to share that I'm starting a new position as Senior Filed Application Scientist at NanoString Technologies, Inc.!"

Alex Woychek

Alex Woychek

Senior Field Application Scientist

at NanoString Technologies, Inc.

"I'm happy to share that I’m starting a new position as an associate computational scientist at md anderson cancer center!"

James Jennings

James Jennings

Associate Computation Scientist

at MD Anderson Cancer Center

"Hi Isaiah, I hope you are good....I did receive and accept a job offer!"

Debadrita Pal

Debadrita Pal


at Sanofi

"Good news...I've secured a job! Thank you for your support during the job search process and for giving me the courage to transition from academia to industry."

Marlyn Brookins

Marlyn Brookins

Regulatory Submissions Coordinator

"The made an offer and I accepted it. I am excited and nervous to start a new job and leave academia!"

Valentina Dallacasagrande

Valentina Dallacasagrande

Sr. Scientific Advisor

at reVision Therapeutics, Inc.

"I just accepted an offer for a position at one of the top pharma companies...I can't tell you how relieved I feel, I'm very excited for what's to come!"

Nahed Jalloul

Nahed Jalloul

Computational Biologist

"I finally signed my contract and will be starting soon! I am very happy with the compensation package they have offered me and it meets my expectations."

Indrani Mukrajee

Indrani Mukrajee

Product Manager

at Miltenyi

"I'm happy to share that I'm starting a new position as Clinical Scientist at Arvinas!"

Ana Luiza C. Zaninotto

Ana Luiza C. Zaninotto

Clinical Scientist

at Arvinas

"Hi Isaiah - I have news to share! I applied for a position on Monday night. I had an interview Tuesday and was just offered the position! (Wednesday). I can't believe it! All the hard work. The LinkedIn Messages. The resume building All your keys. I countered 5k more than they offered and they accepted it! I am so over the moon right now and so excited!"

Brittni Levasuar

Brittni Levasuar

"I'm excited to announce that I have accepted a position as an Innovations Analyst at Cleveland Clinic. Looking forward to using my background to help commercialize healthcare innovations!"

Joe Thomas

Joe Thomas

Innovations Analyst

at Cleveland Clinic

"I am delighted to announce that I have accepted the role of Research Scientist with a base salary of 90k. The cheeky scientist resources have helped me immensely and I am really grateful."

Amninder Singh Sekhon

Amninder Singh Sekhon

Research Scientist

"Thank you so much for all the help. I got so much help and inspiration by joining Cheeky!"

Hasala Lokupitiya

Hasala Lokupitiya

Senior Polymer Scientist

at Lyten

"I landed a dream job as a revenue management analyst at british airways."

James Washak

James Washak

Revenue Management Analyst

at British Airways

"I'm happy to share that I'm starting a new position!"

Norhaziland Mohamed Zaid

Norhaziland Mohamed Zaid

Senior Development Scientist

at Haleon

Top Industry Career eBooks

63 Best Industry Positions For PhDs

63 Best Industry Positions For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD & Arunodoy Sur, PhD

Learn about the best 63 industry careers for PhDs (regardless of your academic background). In this eBook, you will gain insight into the most popular, highest-paying jobs for PhDs – all of which will allow you to do meaningful work AND get paid well for it.

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Learn how to craft the perfect industry resume to attract employers. In this eBook for PhDs, you will get access to proven resume templates, learn how to structure your bullet points, and discover which keywords industry employers want to see most on PhD resumes.

AI & ATS Resume Filters

AI & ATS Resume Filters

Isaiah Hankel

In today's competitive job market, understanding the impact of AI is crucial for career success. This involves ensuring your resume stands out in the digital realm, mastering your online presence, and being aware of how AI assigns reputation scores. Discovering how to leverage AI to your advantage is essential, as it plays a pivotal role in shaping professional opportunities.

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel

The LinkedIn tips & strategies within have helped PhDs from every background get hired into top industry careers.