Dave's Notebook

LinkedIn Tips For Programmers

As I was sharing my LinkedIn tips with a co-worker this past week that made me realize that I’ve accumulated an incredible amount of knowledge about using LinkedIn that I should probably share. Things that aren’t obvious to the typical user.

But first, I have to ask a question.

Why are you on LinkedIn?

From my discussions with many of my peers, I think many of you are on LinkedIn simply because you think you should be. Your behavior on LinkedIn makes me believe you would rather not be on LinkedIn at all. Maybe you should delete your account?

Why do I say this?

Because many of you have not spent the time to even get the basics of your account setup. And even if you have, you have everything set so that only your first degree connections can find you. This isn’t going to help you at all.

Why Be On LinkedIn?

So, let’s start at the beginning. Why should you be on LinkedIn in the first place?

There are two main reasons to be on LinkedIn. The first reason is because you want to be found when someone needs the thing it is that you do. The second is so that you can find someone when you or your organization need to hire a new employee. Everything you do on LinkedIn should be focused on those two goals. This goes double if you have a particularly rare skill.

What About Relationships?

Many people have the mistaken idea that the point of LinkedIn is to maintain professional relationships. Therefore, they argue, you should only connect to people you know.

The problem with this line of thinking is that you can maintain relationships with people you know using much more effective means than LinkedIn. Call them on the phone. Go out for a meal, or coffee with them. Communicate via email. This is much more effective than using LinkedIn.

No, LinkedIn is for ESTABLISHING relationships. And, just like in real life, these relationships are going to vary from people you barely know to people you have deep relationships with. This means that if you are only connecting to people you know, you are wasting your time and might as well not be on LinkedIn at all.

How LinkedIn Works

I don’t mean, how you set it up. There are other sites and books that talk about this. What I’m talking about is the internals. What you need to know that will influence how you setup your LinkedIn account.

You see, there is a whole other section of LinkedIn for recruiters. This section allows the recruiters to check out your profile based on the jobs they are looking for. In fact, LinkedIn has made this easy for them by looking at the jobs the recruiter is trying to fill and suggesting candidates to the recruiter based on those jobs. They also get to associate notes with your profile and see when you’ve made a change to your profile.

Don’t Forget About External Search Engines

One of the best kept secrets of LinkedIn is that you have to use LinkedIn to find people on LinkedIn. But if I were looking for someone on LinkedIn, I would use a regular search engine. It isn’t that hard to find people I’m looking for by using the following google search string:

site:linkedin.com inurl:/pub/ -inurl:/vsearch/
-inurl:/dir/ -inurl:/company/ [keywords here]

This would be all on one line. I’ve just wrapped it here to make it easy to read.

This search tells Google to search the site linkedin.com for the keywords I’ve listed in [keywords here] that have “/pub/” in the url and don’t have “/vsearch/”, “/dir/” or “/company/” in the url. This will bring up a list of people with the keywords listed on their publicly visible profile.

LinkedIn Tips

Get a real photograph for your profile picture

OK, technically, this won’t help you get found any better. But I need to start some place and this is the easiest change to make and it will make a difference as we proceed through the tip list. A real photograph tells me you “get” LinkedIn. It tells me you are serious about your LinkedIn presence. This photo should almost always be a picture of you that is as much of your face as you can make fit in the square they give you. This is otherwise known as a “head shot”.

At this point, I have almost 13000 connections. I’ve seen a lot of profile pictures. Here are some common mistakes I see.

  • The picture in the person is tiny relative to the space they’ve been given.
  • The person looks bored.
  • The person put up a group picture, like they would have done on Facebook. This should be a picture of you alone.
  • The person put up a drawing of themselves. (This may be OK if you are a designer. But if you are a programmer, not so much.)
  • The person put up some kind of Logo.

Make sure your profile is filled out completely.

Make sure you fill out the skills section. In fact, the skills you have should show up not only in the skills section, but also in the summary, your work titles, and your work descriptions. It is the skills that people are going to use to find you.

When you fill out the skills section, make sure you use skills that LinkedIn recognizes. These are the skills people will be more likely to find you by. While you might be awesome at “managing people” that’s probably not how people are going to search for you. Generally they want to know what tools you know how to use. Yeah, I know that’s a lot like searching for a painter who can use red paint instead of blue paint. But that’s how it seems to work.

This leads me to your summary. I’ve seen all kinds of advice about this. I had one “Social Media Expert” tell me my summary was too technical. And it might be. But once again, it is the technical details that most people are looking for. I put a link to a less technical version of what I do at the beginning of my summary, but in general, I think it is best to summarize the same information you would put in the skills area. Check out my profile to see what I mean.

As for the rest of your profile, fill out everything until LinkedIn says you are an “All-Star”. And then keep adding information. The more information you add, the easier it will be to find you and when you are found, the more valuable you will seem.

Be Visible

I mentioned this above, but this is a major tip that most people don’t understand. Hopefully you are beginning to see that the main trick to making LinkedIn work for you is that you need to make your profile visible to as many people as possible. Several of my other tips are going to circle back on this theme as well. The main thing you should do to become visible is to make your entire profile publicly visible. This will make your profile easier to find from regular search engines as well as making it easier to search from 2nd and 3rd degree connections.

Be Easy to Contact

Yes, yes. Spam is a problem. But, most of the time the spam filters do a pretty good job of keeping the spam out. At least they do for me. Put your phone number and/or your email on your profile some place that is easy to see. I’ve placed my contact information at the top of my summary because that is as far at the top of the page as I can get it.

Make Connections

As I’ve already mentioned above, as much as LinkedIn would like to think of itself as a way of building relationships and networking, it isn’t. If you want to manage networking relationships, get a CRM program. If you want to make sure you can get found easily, connect to other people in your industry on LinkedIn.

Connecting is why we’ve placed our email address in our profile. This makes it easy for people to connect to us when LinkedIn ask them for an email address.

Now, you might ask, why do I need more connections than the people I actually know?

Because, when someone searches on LinkedIn, the results they see are not ALL the results that are possible. LinkedIn only searches your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree connections as well as any people in any of the groups you are a member of. The more people you are connected to, the more likely you are to be found when someone is searching for your skill set.

There are two ways you can connect. The aggressive way and the passive way. You can use both and put this on steroids.

The aggressive way is to look through your “people you may know” list, which you can get to by going to the “My Network” tab and viewing the “People” tab under “Discover”. Skip everyone who just has the default “shadow” image. Look for people who look like they may have skills related to yours. When you find one, right click the image and open in another tab or window to view the profile without losing the list. If the profile still looks like someone who is related to your skills, go back to the “people you may know” page and click connect. Most people don’t know that you do not need an email address if they show up in the “people you may know” list.

You can also use LinkedIn search to find people. I would only use search to get things going if you need to. But if you use search for this, you will run out of searches pretty quickly so don’t rely on search.

What I’ve found is that most people will connect with me if I ask. I’ve had a few people who have asked me why I’ve asked for a connection. When they ask, I tell them, “You and I have related skills and I was hoping to connect to mutually enhance our ability to be found on LinkedIn.”

The passive alternative is to view profiles. You’ll have to view A LOT of profiles but eventually, one of those people will ask you for a connection.

Finally, accept connections from anyone who ask regardless of what industry they are in or what skills they have. The last I heard, LinkedIn allows you to have up to 30,000 connections. Once you get that many connections, you may want to go through your connections and prune them, but until you get there, more connections mean you can get found easier. If you find out that your connection is a jerk, you can always disconnect.

Finally, you should spend the extra time to at least thank the person who connected with you, either in response to your connection or because they connected to you first. It just shows you aren’t a machine and adds a few more “Nice Guy” points to the transaction.

Join Groups

As I mentioned above, LinkedIn searches the people in the groups you are a part of when someone does a search. It also uses this list for the “People You May Know” list that it presents to you. So the more relevant groups you are a part of, the better.

The one set of relevant groups that may not be so obvious are the groups for recruiters. Since you probably want recruiters to find you, you should join at least one of the recruiter groups.

Get Noticed

This is something I’ve only started to recognize as I’ve work on my own profile. But the more popular you look to LinkedIn, the higher you show up in the search results, and it would seem the external search engines as well. I think profile views really matter to LinkedIn. They can track this and they do have some idea of how often your profile is being viewed. It only makes sense that they would use this as a way to rank the search results.

Aside from getting profile views because you asked for a connection or profile views because you’ve viewed other people’s profiles, the other thing you can do is that you can post relevant content as a LinkedIn status. If your LinkedIn home page looks anything like mine, you probably have a lot of articles and links posted that look very business related and very few that look like anything you would read.

What do we post here?

Since my major focus is Test Driven Development, C#, ASP.NET, JavaScript, TypeScript, Angular, Agile and Scrum, I tend to post links relevant to those areas. Occasionally one of those links will get re-shared.

Don’t forget to view the profile of people you are already a first degree connection with. If nothing else, it will remind them that you exist. It may also generate a profile view.

My final tip here may be slightly controversial, but here it goes.

For the most part, the whole voting up skills on LinkedIn is a joke. We all know that we can vote up someone we know nothing about. It is basically meaningless. Yeah, I know all that. And frankly, I don’t care.  Because I have a theory that while we don’t care and recruiters don’t care both LinkedIn and the external search engines do. So what you want to do is you want to go vote up people with skills that match the skills on your profile.


Because this is going to generate a link back to your profile from their profile and the anchor text is going to be a keyword you want to rank for.

I may be totally wrong about how this works, but at the very least, this may generate a profile view which LinkedIn has already indicated it does pay attention to.

Well, there you go. My complete brain dump of LinkedIn Tips. Oh, and don’t forget to connect with me on LinkedIn.