Research by PACS Faculty Helps Students Improve LinkedIn Profiles


Research by PACS Faculty Helps Students Improve LinkedIn Profiles

Your resume and cover letter are pristine, your interview went better than expected, but despite all the hours of careful preparation, you aren’t getting the results you expected in your job search.

What’s going wrong?

You might want to start by checking your social media accounts, say two OU College of Professional and Continuing Studies faculty members.

Ruby Daniels and Leslie Miller, who teach classes in the PACS Organizational Leadership program, recently published a peer-reviewed article about blunders college students often make in their LinkedIn profiles. The article, based on research conducted in 2019, found many students are missing the mark when marketing themselves to potential employers.

With 95% of recruiters using LinkedIn when searching for potential employees, making sure your profile stands out in a crowd of more than 700 million LinkedIn users is imperative.

“Because they are familiar with applicants’ specific job experience, recruiters often use performance at other organizations as an indicator of how an applicant will perform in a new position. Without sufficient details in the experience section, recruiters may conclude the applicant does not have the knowledge, skills and abilities to succeed."

“LinkedIn Blunders: A Mixed Method Study of College Students’ Profiles,” published in the Community College Journal of Research and Practice, analyzed 340 randomly selected profiles of students from 89 community colleges across the United States. A content analysis with three independent coders found that key sections of profiles were often left blank, and 75% contained an experience section with poor to below average descriptions.

Their research found one in four profiles didn’t contain a photograph or current job position, and some current and former students who were unemployed unintentionally drew attention to their joblessness by failing to change the default headline settings in their accounts. Because the photo and headline are at the top of the profile, the absence of this information can create a negative first impression.

LinkedIn also provides the opportunity to expand on past experience. While resumes are short summaries of the applicant’s work history, LinkedIn doesn’t have the space constraints of a one-page document.

Daniels said current and former college students should be providing more than just a job title and short description in their profiles. Instead, users should include engaging, detailed descriptions of the value they brought to each of their employers while highlighting unique skills that other applicants may not have.

“Potential employers want to be confident applicants are likely to succeed with the organization. Because they are familiar with applicants’ specific job experience, recruiters often use performance at other organizations as an indicator of how an applicant will perform in a new position. Without sufficient details in the experience section, recruiters may conclude the applicant does not have the knowledge, skills and abilities to succeed,” Daniels said. “When an applicant’s profile stands out, he or she is more likely to be invited for an interview.”

Daniels said research shows 92% of college students seek a degree hoping to increase their income, with 89% attending to gain training for a future career. While the primary responsibility of college instructors is to help students develop knowledge, skills and abilities, they also should help them transition smoothly from the classroom into the workforce. Daniels dives more into that topic in another study she coauthored, “Leveraging LinkedIn: How Can Educators Help College Students Market Themselves?”

“Since many of our students do not have formal training in marketing, it is important for college educators to share resources to help them succeed in their life after graduation,” she said. “Students need to realize they are ‘selling’ themselves in their LinkedIn profile, not merely summarizing their work history. As a result, a profile functions as an affordable way to showcase a graduate’s skills to potential employers.”

Daniels said while she and her colleagues don’t directly teach LinkedIn best practices, they teach students about the importance of effective communication throughout the organizational leadership program. Ultimately those skills can be used to create LinkedIn profiles that will stand out and get them noticed in a sea of competitors.

“Students learn how to frame situations and persuade followers to work collaboratively,” she said. “As they prepare for graduation, our students can use these communication skills ­­­– storytelling, persuading, influencing and reframing – when working on their LinkedIn profiles.”

Daniels said the following tips will help your social media profiles look their best:

  • Use a professional photo. Don’t use selfies, kids, pets or clipart.
  • Provide a concise headline. Don’t use the term “unemployed” or include personal information.
  • Describe what’s unique about you. Communicate what you want people to remember.
  • Persuade readers. Convince people that your work is valuable.
  • Proofread. Spelling and grammar mistakes communicate that your work is sloppy.

The OU College of Professional and Continuing Studies offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Organizational Leadership.Visit the PACS website for more information on other degrees and programs offered by the college.

For additional resources that can contribute to your success, visit the Resources section of our college blog.

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Tami Althoff

Tami Althoff holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is a reporter with more than 20 years’ experience working for newspapers, including The Oklahoman. She has covered everything from breaking news to local music and art. She loves sports, especially OU football and basketball games, where she often embarrasses her children by yelling too loudly.