What is meant by “key words” in LinkedIn?
They’re the words that a recruiter or hiring manager is most likely to use when searching for someone with your skills. Or the words you’d use when looking for a new position. Note: these are not the full list of 40+ skills you also have listed lower down in your profile. Make sure to include your unique and specific skills. A search for “Engineer” in the San Francisco/Bay Area showed over 350,000 people. A search for “Java” in the same area produced 125,602 and one for “Ruby on Rails” produced just 16,705.
If you’re a consultant or small business owner, your key words are the words that your potential clients would be using to find your expertise. Think of the words people might use to find you. Perhaps you call yourself a “party engineer” – kind of cute but your clients would be more likely to look for an “event planner.”
Sometimes there are very specialized words in your industry. Include them but be cautious. One of my clients got offered a VP position within a couple of weeks of listing a very unique expertise. But she also had many of the more regular skills in her industry to offer. Another client with mostly very specialized exotic skills had to be coaxed to add some more accessible words unless he was willing to move to an equally exotic location!
Qualities are different than key words
You know you’re reliable, conscientious, punctual, accurate, etc. Those are qualities, not key words. In general I don’t recommend using these types of words at all in your LI profile. Potential employers or clients expect them – they’re not likely to search using such key words. Some qualities may be included in your headline or summary as part of your unique differentiators but we’re concentrating on key words here.
What happens if you’re feeling a bit stuck about what your key words are?
Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what your key words are/your brand is. I will often have people do a fun exercise using Wordle to help figure out their key words. Be sure to put in wordle.net (not .com or .org) Wordle has been described as a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source.
I think Wordle is a wonderful free tool that you can use in a number of ways. If my clients tell me they don’t know what their key words are, I sometimes copy and paste their resume (or their current LI profile) into Wordle. I then ask if the biggest words showing up in their word cloud sound like they are the correct words to describe what they do. Sometimes they say yes – absolutely, that’s correct. Then we just make sure those same words are in the key places in their LI profile (headline, summary, job titles/descriptions, and skills.)
Sometimes people react in horror to the picture word cloud created by their resume or current LI profile – “No! I used to do that but it’s really not what I do anymore or what I want to do in the future.” Or it’s just very unclear what their key words are. Even a negative reaction is helpful. If you know what you’re not, we can help identify what you are. And then we can address how to fix it so that you’re correctly represented on LinkedIn.
Just for fun – Copy and paste your LinkedIn profile into Wordle. Do the biggest words in your personal word cloud feel right to you? This is your “personal brand.” Make sure you feel really comfortable with the words. This is who you are professionally.