Social Media and the CFO: Making LinkedIn Work for You

I work in executive search. My personal specialty is CFO and Financial Executive Search. Working with my colleagues at Stanton Chase International across the US, Canada and around the globe, I use LinkedIn as a networking tool. It helps me develop and maintain relationships with people that I want to keep in touch with.

In my recent book, Guide to CFO Success: Leadership Strategies for Corporate Financial Professionals, published by Wiley & Sons, I surveyed my 87 CFO advisors about their social media use. LinkedIn is, by far, the most popular and regularly used social media tool that they use.

I am constantly surprised at the number of LinkedIn profiles that lack a photograph. The truth is, a photo is an extremely valuable way to build your personal brand

LinkedIn is certainly not the only tool that I work with to advise, attract, assess and aid my corporate clients in the acquisition of exceptional CFOs. However, I do spend a good amount of time looking at people’s LinkedIn profiles.

This puts me in a good position to comment on reasons why your profile is being passed over by recruiters.

Where’s the photo?

Historically, North American résumé etiquette says that photos are considered inappropriate.  However, with the growth of LinkedIn over the years, people now expect to see your picture in your online profile.

You may have good reasons for not uploading a photo of yourself. But with today’s proliferation of digital photography, there are actually fewer reasons not to include one.

Out of the hundreds of photos that have been taken of you in the last few years, surely there is one that is appropriate enough to build your brand.

I am constantly surprised at the number of well-developed LinkedIn profiles that lack a photograph. The truth is, a photo is an extremely valuable way to build your personal brand. A well-chosen picture can reinforce the image you want to project, such as that of an experienced finance professional who is open to new ideas.

But not any photo will do. The only thing worse than no photo is the photo you don’t want to be remembered by. The one that stands out in my memory is a picture of the CFO taking what is obviously a selfie in a public bathroom.

Really? There is no way that I would present someone like this to a client for a mandate, no matter how talented they really were. This shows a complete lack of judgment.

One more thing. It is great that you love a certain photo and feel that it makes you look your best. But photos taken at a cocktail party with a drink in your hand and showing too much skin may not show you in the best professional light.

Active shots like mountain climbing or biking could be an appropriate part of your brand. Love your bowtie? Wear it with pride. Standing out is okay, and could even be helpful for your brand.

Your photo may be the only thing someone remembers from your profile. You only have one shot.

Recommendation: If you don’t have a great photo, hire a professional to take one of you. It may be the best money you have ever spent.

Multiple profiles

I look at a lot of profiles. When a person has more than one profile that comes up in search, it does not make them look good.

Sure, some people may share the same name and based in the same location. That happens. But there is no reason for you to have two, three or even four profiles of your own. It just confuses the people who are looking for you, and makes you look unorganized and unprofessional.

There is a method to delete old profiles. It just requires some homework on your part.

Recommendation: Search your name in LinkedIn. If you find old profiles from previous companies that are no longer current, get rid of them.

No (or few) connections

Like it or not, LinkedIn is the current gold standard for professional networking. If you are meeting people, you can almost be sure they will be checking you out either before meeting with you or afterwards.

When a recruiter sees someone that purports to be great at everything, we move on to the next profile

Having few or no connections on LinkedIn could be taken to mean that you don’t really care to stay connected with others. You can also be perceived as someone who is a technological Luddite (from the 19th century textile workers in England who protested the use of labor-saving machinery).

In today’s age of technology, with new ways of accessing and communicating content surrounding us at all times, that’s not really a place you want to be.

Recommendation: You know a good number of people. You have a network. Use LinkedIn as a tool to support your networking. Remember, networking is a verb. Be active.

Static profile

So you have a profile with a decent number of connections and a professional photo. But the current position listed is actually not your current role. Or even your previous role.

It looks like you’ve been in the position listed for six, seven or eight years. But that company no longer exists, or has been merged three times.

This is a big problem for recruiters. They don’t know where you are, what you do and your current value. How can a recruiter possibly consider you for a great, career-making opportunity if you are not bothering to keep your profile up to date?

I have heard from a number of people that they don’t want to change their profile because it may signal to their employer that they are looking for a change.

But if you keep your profile updated on a regular basis, no one will notice that you are in job search mode. People will just think you’re a great networker (but recruiters like me will know better).

Recommendation: Your LinkedIn profile is a public document that represents you. Make sure that it always reflects your current situation. This will allow opportunities to find you.

Jack of all trades

Some profiles are so busy that anyone looking at them cannot really tell what the owner is best at.

We are (or should be) the best we can be at something. We cannot be great at everything. The world exists and functions well with division of labor. So standing out in a niche is helpful.

When a recruiter sees someone that purports to be great at everything, we move on to the next profile. My client is looking for something very specific to make a difference to their organization. If you’re not the person, that’s fine.

But you want to be that person, make sure your profile makes clear you are not a jack of all trades.

Recommendation: Choose your niche and represent yourself well. You are your only product, and your marketing material needs to properly reflect why people should pay attention to you.

The internet is set up today so that people can find you when they are looking for something specific. Make sure that they find you because of what you’re really best at. Otherwise, you run the risk of being passed over as inappropriate for anyone’s requirements.

About the Author

Samuel Dergel is Director and Search Consultant at global executive search firm Stanton Chase International and author of Guide to CFO Success: Leadership Strategies for Corporate Financial Professionals. This article first appeared on LinkedIn and was re-edited for clarity and conciseness.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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