If you are looking for a job today, there's a good chance you've been told to update your LinkedIn profile. Here's why that's a smart idea...

Most recruiters looking for white collar workers use the platform to identify potential candidates. They know the employees they desire are usually working full-time for other companies. Thus, it's up to them to reach out to people they think match their skill requirements to let them know about their job opportunities. Therefore, if you want to have recruiters from good companies contacting you, you need to optimize your LinkedIn profile so that you show up in their search results.

1. Get Clear on Your Keywords

With over 500 million profiles on LinkedIn, recruiters must use keywords to narrow down their search results. Besides using location as a filter, they can choose lots of other things like education and years of experience. But, that still usually leaves them with hundreds, sometimes thousands of results. To get the list down to a manageable size, they must also choose some required skill sets. Things like "project management" or "account management" are examples of keywords they might use to help identify a better match. When you know the keywords recruiters are searching on, you can use these words in strategic places on your profile to improve the chances you get in the top of their search results. For example, getting these keywords in your headline is very important. LinkedIn users often make the rookie mistake of listing their current job title and employer in their headline. But, recruiters don't search on those terms. You are much better off listing the top five or six skill sets needed for your job.

2. Connect With Existing Employees to Enhance Your Visibility

Many recruiters on LinkedIn use a paid feature that lets them identify, contact and keep track of a pipeline of potential candidates for their jobs. Inside this platform, it tells them how many people you are connected to at the company. The more in-house connections you have, the better. Why? Referrals are considered one of the best sources of talent. Thus, if you are perceived as knowing a bunch of people at the company, the chances you get called will go up.

3. Customize Your Connection Requests

If you see a job posted at your dream company, your first step should be to see if anyone you know also knows someone who works there. Getting a personal introduction is the best way to get noticed. But, what if you don't have any direct connections?  You should search for someone in HR, recruiting, or even in the department the job would be in and ask them to connect on LinkedIn. Besides helping you stand out in the search results as explained in No. 2. If they accept, you can then start a dialog with them to learn more about what they think it takes to stand out in the hiring process and earn an interview. Lots of companies these days are offering referral bonuses to employees who recommend someone to a job. By connecting with people who work at the company, they may offer to pass you along in hopes of scoring the bonus. The key is to customize your outreach so you don't sound to intense or desperate. I'd say something like,

"I came across your profile while researching ____. I admire your background in ___. Can we connect?"

While many won't accept the connection, the more you try, the greater the odds some will accept. And the reality is, all it takes is one connection to help you get your foot in the door.

P.S. - Your LinkedIn Profile is Your Website for Your Business-of-One

Since every job is temporary today, we all need to realize we are businesses-of-one that will need to repeatedly sell our services to employers over our lifetime. All good businesses have a website AND keep that website up-to-date. Using LinkedIn as your website is a good way to make sure you are sending the right marketing message to future employers. Unlike other social media sites, LinkedIn should be taken seriously and used to your professional advantage. As we say at Work It Daily, "Brand or BE branded." Failing to educate yourself on the best practices for using LinkedIn could result in you sending a message to employers you are out of touch.