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7 LinkedIn Hacks That Get PhDs Hired

Written by: Catherine Sorbara, Ph.D.

I thought my goal after graduate school would be to get a postdoc and then a professorship.

This is how it was supposed to work, right?

But during my PhD, I realized how broken academia is.

I saw lifetime academics stressed out and struggling to find funding, and talented postdocs being exploited.

I had been stuck in this dysfunctional environment long enough.

If I didn’t want my future to look like what I saw around me, I knew it was up to me to make a change.

It was up to me to look outside academia.

So, I went to a career fair.

I wrote up a comprehensive CV and printed a few copies to bring with me.

(At the time, I didn’t realize that in industry you need a resume, not a CV, and that a resume and CV are very different.)

At the career fair, I wandered around aimlessly.

I stopped at a few booths and basically forced my CV upon the people standing behind the tables.

They were reluctant to take my CV, and many gave me their card, insisting that we connect on LinkedIn.

I was confused.

I had created a LinkedIn profile during my undergraduate studies, but it seemed useless.

All the academics at my university had told me LinkedIn was not important, and that there was no reason to have an account.

I was stubborn and figured that these industry people at the career fair were wrong.

For a while, I continued to send my CV to job openings that I found online, but months went by and I didn’t hear anything back.

I thought people would jump at the chance to hire me. After all, I am a PhD!

What was going on?

It was time to face the facts. Clearly, I was doing something wrong.

The data didn’t lie.

So, I reached out to the career services at my university for help and the very first thing they asked me was, “Do you have a LinkedIn profile?”.

What was this obsession with LinkedIn?

Could this resource really be as important as people kept telling me?

I took the plunge and started to update my profile.

But, I quickly realized I had no idea what to put on my profile, or how to make it desireable to recruiters and hiring managers.

I found an alternative career mentor and learned the LinkedIn basics.

Having a high quality and compelling LinkedIn profile gave me the confidence to reach out and ask for informational interviews.

I went from floundering around to having a solid job search strategy.

LinkedIn is an essential professional resource, especially when you are trying to transition from academia to industry.

How LinkedIn Will Get You Interviews

Business Insider recently reported that LinkedIn has reached more than half a billion unique users.

This is a massive platform that continues to grow.

If you are not a part of the LinkedIn community, you need to join today.

Especially since Undercover Recruiter reported that 93% of companies use LinkedIn for recruiting.

The vast majority of companies use LinkedIn, so it is essential that you have a profile, and that it is professional and attractive.

In addition to being used as a recruiter resource, LinkedIn, in addition to other social media outlets, is used as a screening tool.

If your LinkedIn is unprofessional or lacking information, you will likely be screened out before the interview process.

A poor or non-existent LinkedIn profile makes you appear ill-prepared for industry.

According to Time, 66% of recruiters will hold a minor spelling or grammatical error on your LinkedIn profile against you.

Clearly, there is no room for error and as a PhD, it is essential to use the right strategies to create a great LinkedIn profile.

But even with a quality profile, how do you get hiring managers and recruiters to notice your profile amongst the 500 million other profiles?

7 LinkedIn Hacks Most PhDs Don’t Know

As a PhD, you have many industry-desired skills.

But, PhDs often struggle to communicate their value and to make themselves desireable to recruiters and hiring managers.

LinkedIn is a medium underutilized by PhDs because academia leads you to believe that it doesn’t matter.

Academia is wrong. Your LinkedIn profile is very important.

Once you have a good-looking profile, you need the right industry people to view it.

You need a good strategy, or hack, to increase your visibility on LinkedIn and attract more employers.

Here are 7 hacks to increase the visibility of your LinkedIn profile and get hired…

1. Increase the ‘dwell time’ for your profile.

Dwell time is a phrase that’s used in the online search industry quite a bit.

Google cares a lot about dwell time.

LinkedIn cares a lot about dwell time.

Dwell time is how long somebody, such as an employer, stays on your LinkedIn profile.

Because of the way LinkedIn’s algorithms work, increasing your dwell time will increase the number of people who are shown your profile.

So, how can you increase your dwell time?

First, you want to add URLs and images.

If you’ve previously worked for a company, you want to add in the URL for the company page that you’ve worked at.

Also, add in the URL for where you went to university, where you got your PhD, and the academic institution that you are currently affiliated with.

When you link these web pages to your profile, it will pull in images from the web pages.

When employers come to your LinkedIn profile, they will stop and pause on those images.

Images are great for increasing dwell time.

Also, you want to add a lot of white space on your LinkedIn profile.

Don’t just have a giant wall of text in any section of your profile, including the professional summary and work experience sections.

Instead, have a sentence and a space.

Then another sentence or two and a space, and so on.

Lots of white space will keep people skimming all the way to the bottom of your LinkedIn profile, which will result in them spending more time on it.

An increased dwell time will result in LinkedIn’s algorithm showing your profile to even more employers.

More employers looking at your profile will increase your chance of being approached by a recruiter and securing an interview.

Finally, to increase dwell time, PhDs should add any publications they have to their LinkedIn profile.

The publications section will pull in pictures of the other authors of those publications.

And, pictures are good.

When an employer is reading through your LinkedIn profile, they’ll stop and look at those pictures of other people on the publications.

Adding pictures, URL links, and white space to your LinkedIn profile will increase the dwell time for your profile and in turn increase your profile’s visibility.

2. Add location keywords to your profile.

It might not seem that important for an online profile, but adding location information is essential to gaining visibility for your LinkedIn profile.

You should include the locations of the cities, states, and countries where you want to work on your profile.

This should start with your headline.

A lot of PhDs make the mistake of writing, “I’m a postdoc at so-and-so university” or, “I’m a grad student at so-and-so university” in their headline.

Don’t do this.

You need to put certain keywords in your headline, including your desired work location.

Let’s say you want a job in Seattle.

What is one of the first words that employers in Seattle are going to search for on LinkedIn?

You guessed it, Seattle.

So, if you don’t have the word Seattle written into your LinkedIn profile, you’re not going to come up in their search.

Make sure you’re putting the names of the locations, cities, states, countries, or provinces where you want to work throughout your profile.

If you have several locations you would like to work, you can put multiple location keywords in your LinkedIn profile.

You should include your target location in your professional summary and when relevant, put your desired location into your work and education history.

3. Repeat your transferable skills throughout your profile.

In industry, transferable skills are essential.

You have to develop and communicate your transferable skills in order to successfully transition into industry.

The communication of these skills begins with your LinkedIn profile.

You should repeat the top 5 transferrable skills that you have throughout your LinkedIn profile.

(If you don’t know what transferrable skills are, you can learn about them in this free transferrable skills e-book.)

Transferrable skills include things like communication and leadership skills, as well as business acumen, and product and market knowledge.

Transferable skills go beyond your technical skills. They are what set you apart from the rest of the job candidates.

To determine what your top 5 transferable skills should be, you need to dig into job postings for the positions you’re interested in and identify the transferable skills they want you to have.

Once you have looked at several job postings, compile all the transferable skills they ask for and determine the top 5.

Then, put those top 5 transferable skills throughout your LinkedIn profile.

For example, if you are a PhD interested in a medical science liaison position, one of the requirements for this position is to have relationships with key opinion leaders, or KOLs.

Hiring managers and recruiters looking for someone to fill an MSL position are going to be looking for the words, key opinion leader (or KOL) on the LinkedIn profile of a PhD.

For whatever industry positions you are interested in, you should determine the key transferable skills and then repeat them throughout your profile.

4. Post to pulse.

You probably noticed that when you open LinkedIn, you go to a news feed.

This is called pulse.

As a PhD looking to transition into industry, you should (must) contribute to pulse.

Why? Because LinkedIn will reward you.

When you publish on pulse, LinkedIn will show your profile and the article you published to more employers.

It’s very important to start writing and adding value to LinkedIn, specifically by publishing to pulse.

If you are not sure what to write about, remember that as a PhD, you are an expert in your field and have lots of experience writing.

Draw on this expertise and write a short summary, like you would for the background section of a review.

This publication is not a peer-reviewed journal article, but rather a short summary, about 500 words, on something you’re interested in.

It could be about the scientific field or engineering field that is in your background, or about the field that you want to move into.

Publish this summary to pulse and you will increase your visibility on LinkedIn.

Ideally, you should continue to post to pulse one to three times per week.

You want to consistently add value.

Plus, the more you post, the more LinkedIn will show your publications and profile to potential employers.

5. Delete irrelevant skills and endorsements.

This may seem counter-intuitive.

However, you only want endorsements on your profile that are relevant to the positions you are interested in.

You’ve probably noticed that people have been endorsing you for things that don’t really matter.

This is because LinkedIn will prompt your connections to endorse you for any of the skills that appear on your profile.

You want to be more strict in terms of your endorsements.

Ideally, all the endorsements you get should be applied to skills that are relevant to the positions you are targeting.

This means deleting irrelevant skills and endorsements.

It’s the skills that you need to get into the position you want, that you want to be endorsed for.

For example, if you want to get away from the bench, then you need to have non-bench skills on your LinkedIn profile under the endorsement section.

Exchange that western blotting skill you have listed for one that says project management to better target positions away from the bench.

Make sure that you’re choosing wisely and only listing skills on your profile that are relevant to the industry jobs you want.

6. Link your resume to your LinkedIn profile.

This seems like a no-brainer, but a lot of PhDs forget to link their resume to their LinkedIn profile.

(Before you link your resume, make sure you avoid these 10 common resume mistakes.)

There are 2 simple ways to link your resume to your profile.

First, you can simply upload the file for your resume to your profile.

A good place to upload this file is at the end of your professional summary.

Second, you can put your resume on a free website and then add a link to this website in your profile.

You can create a free website by going to WordPress.com and clicking on the free website option.

Then, you can upload your resume to that free website and then add the URL for that site to your LinkedIn profile.

Creating a website is also a great way to build your personal brand and ensure that potential employers view you as a confident and successful industry professional.

Linking your resume, as a document or URL, will increase the visibility of your profile.

7. Figure out the keywords for your desired position and use them in your profile.

When hiring managers and recruiters start to look for someone to fill an open position, they will use a search engine to try and find candidates.

Search engines use keywords to rank the search results.

Your LinkedIn profile must contain the right keywords in order for your profile to appear in the right search results.

To figure out what keywords you should be using, first you need to find several different job postings for each of the jobs you are targeting.

Copy and paste all the text in those job postings into one large file.

Then you can go to WordCloud.com or any similar application and upload that file.

Word Cloud will show you which words are used the most on average in all of those job postings.

The most commonly used words in the job postings are the keywords that you want to put in your LinkedIn profile.

Because those are the words that employers are going to be searching for on LinkedIn.

Spread the keywords throughout your entire LinkedIn profile.

Do not underestimate the importance of LinkedIn in your job search. Many PhDs make the mistake of ignoring this resource, and their job search suffers as a result. LinkedIn is used extensively by recruiters and other industry professionals, so it is essential that you have a top notch profile. To make your LinkedIn profile as good as possible, you should strive to increase dwell time, include keywords and transferable skills throughout your profile, add value by posting regularly to pulse, and delete irrelevant skills and endorsements. The 7 hacks outlined here will help you make your LinkedIn profile stand out and become a tool to help you transition into industry.

To learn more about the 7 LinkedIn Hacks That Get PhDs Hired, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the wait list for the Cheeky Scientist Association.

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Cathy Sorbara, Ph.D.

Cathy Sorbara, Ph.D.

Cathy has a PhD in Medical Life Science and Technology and is COO of the Cheeky Scientist Association. Cathy is passionate about science communication including translating science to lay audiences and helping PhDs transition into industry positions. She is Chair of Cambridge AWiSE, a regional network for women in science, engineering and technology. She has also been selected to take part in Homeward Bound 2018, an all-female voyage to Antarctica aimed to heighten the influence of women in leadership positions and bring awareness to climate change.
Cathy Sorbara, Ph.D.