In the grand scheme of things, LinkedIn is relatively new as a job search tool. Not only has hiring companies’ use of it increased, but the functionality and network capabilities for job seekers have improved. However, like with any communication vehicle (text, e-mail, face-to-face), there is “good form” and “bad form.”
It’s one thing to hear about bad form, but there is nothing like real examples. In my position as a professional job search coach, I continue to be truly amazed by bad form.
Candidates should be asking themselves, “Would I say this if I was introducing myself at a live networking event?” or “Would I introduce myself this way to a recruiter or hiring manager?” If you wouldn’t, then why would you do it on LinkedIn?
Here are some recent examples I’ve seen of bad form:
- “Great news! I’m still available and in search of the right career opportunity. Are you ready for me?”
- “To set up a conversation, DM me.”
- “The next opportunity needs to leverage my skills and experiences.”
- “Key characteristics of my next role are great leadership, an energetic company culture and relocation assistance.”
- (In the headline or summary): “Actively seeking employment” (versus passively?), “Gainfully unemployed,” “Unemployed,” “Eagerly seeking professional employment.”
- “The role can be in sales, operations or finance.”
What’s Wrong with This Picture?
This reminds me of one of those children’s games where you must circle what is wrong with the picture. Play along with me:
- It’s not about you. Do not announce to your network and potential hiring managers that you are doing them a favor by being a candidate. Be clear and concise without being pompous.
- Make it easy to be contacted. Do not command people to DM you. If someone wants to reach you, you should have your phone number and personal email address in your LinkedIn contact section. Better yet, repeat your contact information in your LinkedIn summary section. You could say, “Please email me at [your email address] so I can set up a 30-minute web-based introductory meeting.”
- Spend more time articulating the type of job you are looking for.Saying that the next opportunity needs to leverage your skills and experiences comes across as if the candidate is screening companies based on less-than-concrete criteria. Here is a better framework: “I am seeking a [role/function] position in the [industry] in the following cities: [list two].” The role or function should be very specific. Avoid levels like “director” or “manager,” and describe the specific role.
- Desperation is not becoming and doesn’t leave a great first impression. Refrain from announcing that you are looking for your next gig. There are so many more important and positive things to say in your LinkedIn headline and summary and in your networking conversations. Use this space to share your skills and strengths that are relevant for the position you are looking for.
- Understand and communicate the specific role you are seeking. The weakest statement above is “The role could be in sales, operations or finance” because it screams lack of focus, that you’re trying to be all things to all people and limited passion for one arena. All three mentioned are different planets requiring very different skills, experiences and results.
Tip: Count the Number of Times You Use ‘I,’ ‘Me,’ Or ‘My’
First, write every LinkedIn post, e-mail, cover letter or job-search-related message in Microsoft Word. Catch any errors and make it professional by using formal grammar. Then, use the “find” feature or print it out and take out a highlighter. Count the number of times you are me-centric (i.e. using “I,” “me,” or “my”). The key is to shift to the use of “you,” “your,” etc.
LinkedIn Is Powerful for Job Seekers and Career Changers at All Levels
Like any other technology, I recommend everyone become a student of the LinkedIn functionality first. LinkedIn has a tremendous help section, and there are many articles on how to use LinkedIn for a job search. Use this to your advantage.
Equally important is to know what not to do on LinkedIn. For example, I highly recommend making connections on LinkedIn and then writing professional emails to follow up with key individuals. Why? Your email recipients can forward your formal message to co-workers, assign tasks and follow-up reminders, and easily save attachments without opening them.
Be the Best Square Peg for A Company’s Square Hole
There are many career communications tools that you need to shine: your résumé, cover letter, networking emails, LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn posts, interviews, thank you notes, etc. With each tool, you want to position yourself to fill the gap that a company or the market needs right now. That’s what I mean about being the square peg for their square hole. You pick the shape. Be humble and well-educated on the specifications of the role you are aiming for and highlight your relevant skills.
In summary, the tone of your job search communication (networking or actively applying for positions) is as important as the content. Both need to be written or spoken with great care. If you have any doubt, run it by someone! Preparation and practice are the keys to competing to “win” your ideal position.
This article originally appeared here on Forbes.com.