A Luddite's Guide to LinkedIn

By now, we've all heard that recruiters and hiring managers are increasingly using social networking sites to find job applicants. A study released in October by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 17 percent more HR professionals use sites like LinkedIn to recruit candidates than they did in 2006.

I've paid a lot of lip service in past columns to using LinkedIn to stay connected with professionals in your field and to help in your hunt for full-time or consulting work, should you find yourself unemployed. Call me a fuddy-duddy, but I'm not a fan of online "friends" bombarding me with pokes and personality quizzes and silly little beer stein icons.

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When it comes to making business contacts, I prefer LinkedIn's no-muss, no-fuss approach. And since every Fortune 500 company and 600,000 small business owners also use the site, I'd think anyone serious about maximizing their job hunt would too.

But besides "find employers" and "meet people" I haven't told you much about what you can actually do with LinkedIn. Probably because, like most LinkedIn users I know, I hadn't done much more than fill out my profile and build up my contact list.

So, in an attempt to crawl out from under my online networking rock and see what this site could really do, I contacted LinkedIn spokeswoman Krista Canfield last week for a quick lesson in the free features that I'd been missing out on. Herewith, my top eight LinkedIn tips (gleaned from Canfield) that even the most technophobic job hunter can put to use:

1. Boost Your Profile's SEO

Transferring the highlights of your resume to your LinkedIn profile and slapping on an office-appropriate photo is just the tip of the iceberg. Boost the odds that a potential employer using LinkedIn will find you by adding key words that describe what you do to your profile -- for example, "small business taxes," "visual merchandising" or "pharmaceutical sales." And increase your Googleability across the Web by replacing the random number assigned to the end of your Public Profile link with your full name (after the http://www.linkedin.com/).

2. Broadcast Your News

Fill in the "What are you working on?" field at the top of your profile to let contacts know you're attending a business conference (perhaps one of your online pals is too) or looking for a new position (maybe one of your contacts knows someone who knows someone with an opening). And show off your Web site, blog (if the content is strictly professional) or the latest high-profile article about your company using the Web sites fields (to customize the title, select "Other" from the drop-down menu).

3. Join a Group

Joining an alumni group (academic or former employer) or an industry-specific group is a great way to rub virtual elbows with folks you already have something in common with. The more specific the group, the better. I'm a member of a catchall group for Seattle-area professionals, and it's basically a classifieds section of 5,000 job seekers and consultants shouting, "Hire me! Hire me!" Not too helpful. The academic alumni group I joined is far more valuable. And since I haven't found a LinkedIn group for Seattle-area freelance writers, I'm thinking of starting one of my own.

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