Practical LinkedIn for us Africans – Keywords, Part1

As an active recruiter (I am the owner of HIREghana –, my associates and I come daily across through several hundred of LinkedIn profiles via our candidate sourcing searches and via our very own professional networking too. And we see a lot of things that seem to be common to African profiles, so I decided to write a series of articles aiming to offer my very own humble opinion in the form of advice. This is the four article in a series of postings to come over the next weeks/ year.

One of the most misused and misunderstood powers of a LinkedIn profile is the proper use of Keywords. There is a lot of reason why keywords are important but allow me to simplify all this with this example:

Suppose that you have a twin sibling, and you both went to the same schools, acquired the same skills and work experience and all that; and you both have identical – really identical- LinkedIn profiles. And assume that you have 20 endorsements for Marketing and your sibling has 21. If I as a recruiter go to search for candidates with Marketing as a skill, who do you think will show on top of the list?

Yes, you guess it right: your sibling will appear above you simply because s/he has that 1 extra Marketing endorsement than you do!

OK. This is an oversimplified example but I trust that you got the picture. Keywords are in the skill- endorsements, but they start from your LinkedIn Headline and they are in your summary section and also in every job title and in the text describing your experience(s) relating to every job. So, make sure that you have a high density of keywords that relate to relevant skills for your career evolution.

By the way, to the best of my knowledge, there is no clear evidence either way as to whether keyword- search extends also to text on the LinkedIn recommendation that people have written for you.

Actually, there is no clear indication about how the LinkedIn Algorithm works and what is it exactly in any random search that makes a profile appear 1st and other below it.

Choosing/ Defining Your Skills (for endorsements)

1. Use relevant professional skills.
For example, I just saw an IT professional\’s which has as a skill – and please do not misunderstand me because there is no question that this is a serious skill- Piano Playing. And lady in Supply Chain has Singing as one of her skills for endorsement. Why?

2. Create a Skill.
After you type the first character or two of a skill, LinkedIn starts displaying a list of skills relevant to these characters; the more you type, the more specific are the skills displayed by LinkedIn for you to choose from. But, sometimes there might be a \’classic\’ skill that for some reason is missing from the list of proposed skills by LinkedIn. When I wanted to add Organizational Design to me skills, which is something almost \’trivial\’ as a skill for HR people, it wasn\’t there- I had to \’create\’ it by myself. You can create for example \’Ghanaian Languages Speaker\’ is that is applicable to you and adds value to your profile.

3. Order them wisely
Your first 10 endorsed skills occupy the \’prime real estate\’ are of your skills section and indicated the last 12 people who endorsed you for each of these skills. Visually, this is also where the eyes of any visitor to your profile go first – it is designed that way. So choose wisely your top 10 major skills that you would like to either endorsed or display. Best advice is: order your skills in a prioritized way according to what you want to communicate to any visitor to your profile.

4. Use 25 skills
We all have at least 25 skills: if we think and analyze our current and past work experiences, duties and responsibilities, we can always come up with minimum 25 skills. That also helps the LinkedIn SEO (Search Engine Optimization) of your profile and it also helps to better communicate to your visitor who you are or as to who you see yourself.

1. No long skill- descriptions
When creating a skill, avoid for example \’Ghanaian Languages Speaker\’ because it gets visually truncated and it is not easily read by any visitor to your profile.

2. Awkward / strange language in skill- creation

E.g. don\’t enter as a skill \’I fix PCs\’ – use \’Computer Repair\’ instead

3. Avoid any sort of hate speech, political statements etc. on your skill- keywords

That should be obvious.
4. Don\’t use \’fake\’ or glorified skills

Just because you took a course on Project Management and they gave you of course a certification of completion, it does not mean that you are really PMP Certified (by the PMI). You followed a 1-week course on an ISO topic and you think that you are now an Authorized ISO Auditor or even a qualified one? Google to find the truth. We are all smart people and we also google things like that.

5. Don\’t use \’unjustifiable\’ skills

If you use let\’s say Social Media Marketing, then that skill should also be present -and thus justified- in some of your (ideally) professional or volunteering experience.

See the next chapter bellow for more please. Remember: don\’t waste Keywords please!

6. Don\’t get tempted!
Sometimes LinkedIn suggests Skills to your connections for them to endorse you based on some other secret and magical LinkedIn Algorithm. So your connections for example get a suggestion to endorse you for Strategic Planning and that might be something far away for your current capabilities. Yes, it is tempting to have 100 or whatever number on connections for Strategic Planning; but do you really know what it is and are you really mastering that skill? Just because someone endorsed you, it doesn\’t mean that you should accept it. On the other hand, will you take serious an 18 year old who has multiple endorsements for PMP, Strategy, Leadership and all the heavy stuff?

7. Please no Broad Terms.
Broad terms such as “Information Technology\” or \”Windows\” or \”Marketing” or “Accounting”, they do not really tell a hiring manager or a recruiter what you do or did. You could have had any role within those departments or with using those functions/ functionalities. It too generic and has little value as a communication of your skills.

Should you have 50 skills?
LinkedIn allows you to add a maximum of 50 skills and of course that could have a great input on the functioning of the LinkedIn Algorithm that brings your profile up. That is just a appoint of you. On the other hand, if you are a junior, do you really have so many skills? If you are a Senior Professional / a Subject Matter Expert, are you really an Expert in 50 skills? Really?

My personal suggestion is to go for 25; also after 25 skills, one needs to click for example to “See 25+>”.

Common Irrelevant or unjustifiable skills

You are a Ghanaian or Nigerian (or another English- speaking Africa)- so why are you seeking endorsement for a language that you fully- command by definition?

Microsoft Office, Word, Excel and all that

We see this constantly: people having endorsements for Microsoft Office, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, etc. Ladies and Gentlemen please just use Microsoft Office. Don\’t waste keywords.

Outlook, Email, Internet, IT, Computers.

Who does not have these skills today? Why are they occupying space on your profile.

Data, Research, Analysis.
To most people none of these make sense as skill-set without a relevant context. You have research skills on …what? You are performing what kind of Analysis? Data? What are you doing with them?

Africa, Gold, Banks, etc.
We see these skills a lot and we are not yet sure what to make out of them.

Strategic Planning, Strategy, Leadership, Public Speaking

No offense meant but, we see these a lot in Ghanaian profiles (well, we are a Ghanaian Recruitment organization) and rarely do we see justification for these skills. One cannot help but to wonder whether all these people understand what Strategic Planning really is and its difference from Business Planning. Btw, is Ghana having an incurable obsession with Public Speaking?

Such profiles can \’rub\’ a hiring manager or any other visitor the wrong way. Be careful please.

Keywords, Keywords, Keywords.
I trust that you are now convinced that your proper LinkedIn Keywords- usage is indeed a golden opportunity to elevate yourself above all the thousands and thousands of LinkedIn users. Even in Ghana there are close to 700.000 users and that crowd keeps growing and growing constantly

Even if you are not an active job seeker at present, please have a high impact effective keyword usage, even for the rest of us who will appreciate and enjoy to quickly read and understand who you are.

Good Luck.

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