LinkedIn serves as a window into your professional capacity. The platform is used by employers to post vacancies and by recruiters to identify and approach suitable candidates. So it's worth investing time in your profile to create the right impression.
Duncan Brodie, FCMA, CGMA, a coach, trainer, and speaker at U.K.-based training provider Goals and Achievements, explains how to present your skills and experience to attract opportunities.
Use the headline section to promote skills
Many LinkedIn users dedicate valuable space in the headline area of their profile to describing their employer. Instead, they should focus on promoting their professional skills.
Brodie often coaches people for whom English is a second language. "I encourage them to mention that they are a multilingual accountant," he said. "Those language skills grab the attention of a recruiter and could potentially open up opportunities."
Another aspect to highlight in the headline area is the sectors in which you have experience. "Your headline might read 'Senior management accountant with 20 years' experience in FMCG/telecoms/public sector,' " Brodie said. "If you've worked internationally, include that, too.
"For members in practice, it's a good idea to mention how you benefit clients. For example, 'supporting SMEs to improve bottom-line profits', or to 'minimize tax liabilities.' Or, if you specialize in cost reduction or finance team transformation, talk about that."
Offer clarity in the summary
In the summary area, give a clear picture of your experience, skills, and management and leadership qualities.
"If you are not in a formal leadership position in your day-to-day work, mention something you do outside work which demonstrates these skills," Brodie said. "This could be something you're involved in in a voluntary capacity."
The summary section is also the place to talk about your areas of expertise—are you good with budgeting and forecasting? Do you have expertise in foreign currency?
Information technology skills are increasinglyimportant for accountants, so make sure you highlight these. Involvement in major business projects or accounting system implementations can help demonstrate your breadth of experience and perhaps differentiate you from everyone else, Brodie said.
"Recruiters will also be looking for the core management accounting skills," he said. Most management accounting jobs require experience with month-end reporting, budgeting, forecasting, balance sheet management, cash management, and working capital management. "You want to make sure that those terms are listed amongst your technical skills," Brodie said.
Nontechnical skills sought in management accounting job descriptions typically include good communication and presentation skills, the ability to build relationships with different parts of the business, negotiation, influencing, problem-solving, sound decision-making, and managing multiple deadlines.
"If you can get some of those terms into your summary, the chances of you being found by a recruiter will greatly increase," Brodie said.
The headline and summary sections of your LinkedIn profile are optimized for search engines, so using the right keywords in those areas will help recruiters and hiring managers with relevant vacancies find you. However, it's important not to overload your profile with keywords, as there's a danger it won't read naturally. Brodie encourages job seekers to adopt a conversational style.
"You might say something like: Qualified management accountant with 10 years' experience of monthly management accounts, budgets, and forecasts in X, Y, and Z sectors. Team player with proven track record of working successfully with nonfinance managers to improve financial control and risk management."
In the experience section, professionals should include every relevant role they have had. "Describe the role in one or two lines and then focus attention on your main achievements in the role," Brodie advised.
A high-quality photograph that shows you as a warm, friendly individual is essential to making the right impression, he said.
Line up strong recommendations
Another part of your profile recruiters will focus on is the recommendations others have written about you. A handful of strong recommendations from a line manager and peers who have worked with you is better than a long list of them from acquaintances.
The quality-over-quantity approach also goes for your number of connections. If you receive a connection request from someone you don't know, look at the person's profile.
You may share an interest or a contact, or he or she may be a member of a group you're in. "If it's not clear why they want to connect, you can send a message that says, 'Thanks for reaching out. ... What motivated you to make the connection request?' " Brodie said. "If they are genuine, they'll get back to you."
Maintain your profile
Brodie suggests users update their profile three or four times per year.
"If you have made a significant achievement in the past few months and had really positive feedback on it, you might add that to your key achievements in your summary. If you've recently switched sectors, you might add that sector to your headline after three months or so in the new role," he said.
Once your profile is polished, you can start to explore other aspects of the platform. "There are a lot of people sharing ideas and good content on there that you can actually learn from, for your personal development," Brodie said.
Join groups that are relevant to your profession, sector, or location. These are good ways to make new connections and raise your profile, particularly if you contribute to the discussion or respond to requests for advice.
And although posts help to keep your profile fresh, you don't necessarily have to create your own. Sharing other people's posts or endorsing them for a particular skill is another way to contribute to the network.
The original version of this article, "4 Ways to Write a LinkedIn Profile That Attracts Recruiters' Attention," by Senior Editor Samantha White, is available at cgma.org.
CGMA Magazine is published in conjunction with the Chartered Global Management Accountant designation, which was created through a partnership between the AICPA and CIMA. The magazine offers news and feature articles focused on elevating and emphasizing management accounting issues.