Building and maintaining a standout LinkedIn profile isn’t optional. It’s not even highly recommended. It’s mandatory—if you want to stand out. Because 95 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to actively search for and contact potential employees.
“If you don’t have a presence on LinkedIn, you stand a strong chance of being overlooked,” says Rick Sass, a career coach and LinkedIn expert at Lee Hecht Harrison in Bellevue, Washington.
Whether you just graduated or are on the hunt for a new job, you can make your life as an applicant a whole lot easier by customizing your LinkedIn profile. Use these five strategies and employers will be more likely to find and hire you:
1. Write an eye-catching, descriptive headline.
LinkedIn automatically defaults the headline beneath your name to your current job title. Set yourself apart with a more creative description.
“Define yourself using nouns that describe what it is you do and what it is you want to do,” Sass says.
Try not to default to your job title even if you’ve landed a fabulous first job. “Marketing analyst” might be the name of your position, but “Quick-thinking marketing pro with an eye for catchy, viral content” will tell a recruiter that he or she should learn more about you.
2. Choose a professional, approachable headshot and background image.
“The first thing people are going to look at is the visual,” Sass says. Your background image is an opportunity to share your interests. Choose a landscape photo of your favorite place to ski or hike if you’re outdoorsy, or a baseball diamond if you like sports. Avoid potential copyright issues by taking the photo yourself or choosing from Flickr’s Creative Commons database—ideally only a photo with a “commercial use allowed” license, to be cautious.
Your profile photo is even more important. Recruiters are 70 percent more likely to scroll down and read through your professional experience if you have a headshot on LinkedIn, Sass says. It should feature your head and shoulders against a white background. Make sure to smile; recruiters subliminally think to themselves, “‘I want happy, smiley, approachable people on my team,’” Sass says.
3. Use keywords in your “Summary” section.
The summary is what makes LinkedIn better than a résumé. It’s a place where you can turn your unique educational and professional experience into a compelling narrative for employers.
“Unlike your résumé, your summary needs to basically tell me a little bit about your personality,” Sass says.
Tell recruiters what you love to do, what you do now and where you want to go next. If you’re looking for a graphic design job, say, “I am a collaborative, outside-the-box thinker who loves using design to make digital products come alive for users.” Format your summary into a few short paragraphs to make it more readable, Sass says.
Most importantly, add a section at the bottom of your summary called “Specialties,” he recommends. Employers search for potential job candidates on LinkedIn using keywords specific to the industry they’re recruiting for. Find keywords your employers might search for in job descriptions, on recruiters’ own profiles and on the profiles of candidates similar to you. If you work in marketing, for instance, the bottom of your summary could read: “Specialties: digital marketing, social media marketing and data analysis.”
4. Demonstrate transferable skills.
Your “Experience” section is the one closest to a traditional résumé. It’s where you’ll list all the jobs (both full- and part-time) and volunteer experiences you’ve had until now. After your summary and headline, Sass says, the titles in your experience section are the most important factors in LinkedIn’s results when employers search for candidates.
You can go into more detail about each job you’ve had than on your résumé, and it’s OK to use “I” and to maintain a slightly more conversational tone. Don’t be afraid to include jobs outside your field, Sass says. Speak confidently about the skills you developed in those positions and how they’ll apply to the job you want.
5. Show measurable accomplishments.
It’s great to tell employers what you’re good at, but specific, numerical accomplishments often say more than words can. Demonstrate to employers how your work had an impact. Maybe you exceeded a sales goal or you increased the number of social media followers.
LinkedIn also allows you to embed links to samples of your work in your experience section. Include in the position description what part you played in developing each project. Work samples are yet another way to make yourself stand out in the sea of job seekers on LinkedIn.
Take advantage of the space and flexibility LinkedIn provides to show what value you’ll bring to a potential job, Sass says.
“Traditionally you have to do push marketing with hiring managers,” he explains, meaning it’s up to you to get your résumé in front of them. “This is pull marketing. They’re going to find you, and you give them samples of your work and why you’re good at it.
This article originally appeared on NerdWallet. Brianna McGurran is a staff writer covering education and life after college for NerdWallet.