The skills section on your LinkedIn profile matters a lot more for your job search than most people realize. This is because of how recruiters use the system and how their systems work with LinkedIn to evaluate you as a candidate. Here is what you need to know about making the most of the skills section on your LinkedIn profile.

What are Skills on LinkedIn?

There is a separate section on your LinkedIn profile for skills. This area is where you can self-identify what you know. You can opt for soft, substantive, or specialty skills in this area. LinkedIn caps your skills at 50. That means you can have less, but no one gets more than 50 skills.

LinkedIn data reports that people who have at least 5 skills will receive up to 17x more profile views. And, that same data reports that the more skills you have, the more profile views you will receive.

Why does this happen? A couple of reasons. First, the skills section is searchable by recruiters. They will be using the fields to find people with particular skills that are required for the position they are trying to fill. So, if you don't have the skill on your profile, you won't show up in those searches by recruiters (both internal and external recruiters). Second, people also use those same fields to search for connections or potential vendors. They will use the same search fields to filter through results or to establish your credibility for a particular opportunity. This may be a job, but it could also be a contract or a service they need. So, the skills on your LinkedIn profile can make you more visible throughout your career.

How to Set Your Skills

To make the most of your skills section, you need to fill it up with all of the skills that can matter to your career and professional goals. This means that you should have 50 skills on your profile. Selecting less than 50 skills will only reduce your visibility to others and that will hurt the impact of your LinkedIn profile overall. So, don't think you are doing yourself a favor in picking less or by being selective.

Here is how to add the skills to your LinkedIn profile:

  1. Go to your LinkedIn profile page.
  2. Click "Add section"
  3. Select Skills from the dropdown and click "Skills" again.
  4. In the "Add skills" pop-up window, choose from the suggested skills or click "Add another skill" to start typing the skills you want.
  5. ALWAYS pick skills from the drop-down and NEVER create your own here by free-typing something that isn't on the list. This will maximize your visibility in the system.

And, remember that you can and should review your skills list periodically to keep them current. Updating your skills can also mean removing older, less relevant skills from your profile. That's ok - even if you have a lot of endorsements for those older skills. People and their careers evolve over time. Staying current with your skills online is just another way to stay relevant to the right types of people.

Here is how you remove the dated skills from your LinkedIn profile:

  1. Go to your profile.
  2. Scroll to the "Skills & endorsements" section and click the pencil icon to edit the skills. Note this is right next to the text "Add a new skill."
  3. In the pop-up window with your existing skills, click the trash can next to the skill that you want to delete.
  4. Click save.

Where Your Information Goes

The value of the skills on your LinkedIn profile is largely in how the information is used on the platform and where it goes outside of the system. Meaning that recruiters will integrate their applicant tracking systems directly with LinkedIn. So, when you apply to jobs through LinkedIn, the skills and details from your LinkedIn profile can be pushed through to the employer's database. Frequently, this means that the skills on your profile are frequently mapped directly to the skills section in the employer's database. Thus, if you don't have the skill on your LinkedIn profile, it won't end up in the employer's candidate database.

A lot of job boards will also allow you to create profiles or to apply to jobs using your LinkedIn profile as a base. This means that it will pull the information through from your LinkedIn profile and you can modify it before hitting submit. This is a great feature to save you time in creating a candidate profile. But, you need to have the right details on your LinkedIn profile for this to really save you time. So, making sure that you have fully leveraged the skills section on your LinkedIn profile will be a huge time saver over your job search.

It is also important to remember that there are systems that exist to evaluate you as a candidate, employee, and vendor based on your social media. These systems will pull all of the data from your profiles to evaluate you for the company or to identify any red flags. This means that you want to have skills on your profile that are relevant to your current professional goals. This will enable you to establish credibility with those systems and with the people that review the data prepared by them. Thus, keeping this section current on your profile will go a long way to advancing any job search and professional goals.

The Best Strategies for Updating Your Skills

The best strategies to build your LinkedIn skills section is to think about all of the skills that are relevant to your current professional goals. First, make sure that you have 50. And, pick these skills using the drop-downs so that you are showing up in searches by people on the platform.

Second, make sure that you pick a cross-section of skills. You want to have a cross-section of skills on your profile. This includes substantive, industry-specific, specialty skills, and soft skills. This can be challenging if you are pursuing a variety of job titles or a few different career paths. So, make sure that you are picking the right assortment of skills that will resonate with the types of jobs that you are pursuing without losing credibility in your current field/company.

Third, remember that you can't constantly update the skills section when applying to jobs. For many, using LinkedIn premium to see more details about the required skills and other applicants for particular jobs or companies can be really helpful. But, you can't put that information to work every time you apply or start a conversation with someone new on LinkedIn. Instead, you should start with a strong base of skills for your profile and then identify trends. If you see a skill that is consistently required and missing from your profile, then you should replace an existing one on your profile with the more important skill. This will enable you to be more effective in your efforts and to spend less time on skills and more time using LinkedIn to advance your career goals.


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