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What you can learn from LinkedIn

3rd May 2017
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People do business with people they like and a major key to likeability is identifying interests in common.

You meet with potential new clients. You deliver presentations to win a company’s business. You interview for a new job. If knowing the person sitting across the desk is an advantage, how much can you learn doing some LinkedIn research beforehand?

Is LinkedIn important?

LinkedIn was designed as a business-based social media platform with 467m members worldwide and 21m members in the UK. The UK population is 65m with 49m over the age of 20. It’s highly likely your prospect, either a business owner or professional, is a member.

The member’s profile page can be a gold mine because users voluntarily provide an enormous amount of personal information. In the US TV series Person of Interest, Harold Finch observes: “People’s social graph, their associations. The government has been trying to figure it out for years. Turns out most people were happy to volunteer it.”

What can you learn that can help you win business?

You are competent and priced competitively. You object is to identify common experiences or connections as an aid to developing a deeper relationship:

  • Who knows who – their LinkedIn profile will identify mutual connections, linking to a list of specific names. You could say: “I believe we have some friends in common.”  Assuming it’s ethical, you could also ask friends how well they know this person.

  • University – their profile will also show Education. In addition, the interests section includes a schools tab. Is their school connection strong enough to join and follow a group? We both are graduates of the same university, although our years didn’t overlap.

  • Job history – your potential client is a salaried individual. The experience sections tells about their professional life. Have they climbed the corporate ladder at one firm? Have they advanced their career moving between firms? Have they worked overseas? Changed industries? These factors also relate to retirement planning and the complexity of their tax situation. Are you self-employed or in a consulting role?

  • Postings – posting article links or writing articles shows a deeper level of engagement.  The articles and activity section shows recent additions along with likes and comments they have received. You are also a member of university alumni group. I saw you post on…”

  • Accomplishments – do they hold or were they contributors to patents? Have they won awards? As I understand, you started your company yourself after discovering and patenting your product. Very impressive.

  • Interests – these are generally identified by groups they have joined. If they are wine fans or ornithologists, it gives a clue regarding hobbies. There’s also a section for volunteer experience, indicating causes they support.

How can you increase your chances of getting hired?

You are interviewing for a new job. You have passed the telephone or Skype interview stage and are meeting face-to-face with the in house recruiter or department head. You know their name. In addition to the above information, it’s also useful to know:

  • Shared work history – did you both work for the same firm previously? People with this shared background often know the same people, which isn’t always listed on the LinkedIn profile

  • Company hire graduates – some firms often hire people from the same universities. Your alumni directory should include a ‘graduates by company’ section. A LinkedIn search including the company and university name should provide a list of people sharing the connection

  • Recommendations – endorsements are a ‘checkoff feature’. Recommendations are written entries people took the time to compose. Even better if that recommendation came from a shared connection

  • Company profile – the firm you are meeting with (or their overseas subsidiary) should have a profile page on LinkedIn. This often includes postings or news updates

  • They see you – when you view a person’s profile, LinkedIn tells them. The exception is using the private mode. However, alerting the other person that you studied up isn’t a bad thing. The person you are meeting has likely done similar research on you. 93% of hiring managers search LinkedIn for recruits.

What you can’t learn

LinkedIn won’t tell certain information that might bias hiring decisions. It doesn’t list a person’s age, although it shows the date and month of their birthday. It doesn’t indicate sex, although members usually post photos. Having a professional photos makes it more likely your profile will be viewed. It doesn’t show their race, religion or political affiliation. These factors should not make a difference.

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