Conquering LinkedIn: Play the Damsel, Not the Suitor, to Reap Its Full Benefits

06/20/2014 12:34 pm ET | Updated Aug 20, 2014

5 Ways To Become The Belle Of The Job Recruiters Ball

Employment recruiters can smell desperation a mile away even through your computer's firewall. If you appear too willing, they'll run screaming in the opposite direction. If your current boss sees that you're looking for new job, he or she will not advance your career and will probably even expedite your exit from the company.

But, in the era of online social networking, LinkedIn now makes it socially acceptable to promote your professional self without jeopardizing your current job and looking too desperate.

After all, if anyone asks why you're there, you can simply say you're networking. That your profile is out there for recruiters to find and pay LinkedIn real money to contact you is your personal business.

It's all in how you play the LinkedIn courting game, however. It's not about playing the suitor but about being the damsel, advises Harvard Business School's Mikolaj Jan Piskorski in his new book entitled, A Social Strategy: How We Profit From Social Media.

In a sample of 10,000 LinkedIn users, he found, much to his surprise, that those who used the LinkedIn's job boards and/or their LinkedIn network to find their next job were no more likely to succeed than those who did nothing.

But users who tweaked their profiles on an ongoing basis got more job offers than peers who directly approached and contacted recruiters and prospective employers via the site.

It was particularly true for the vast majority of LinkedIn users who held managerial and director-level positions. It was not so true for independent contractors and C-level executives, who are more likely to find job opportunities through other avenues such as word of mouth or professional headhunting firms.

"LinkedIn is not a place where you look. It is where you get found. To do that you must show up on the first page of search results. And getting to the first page takes a whole different mindset," Piskorski concludes.

Here are his top 5 ways to get a job on LinkedIn without even trying:

1. Create an all-star profile

Imagine you're a website that wants to attract visitors. In LinkedIn's case, it's not the general public you're trying to appeal to but recruiters.

To pique their interest, be certain to document every job you've had, every function you've performed, and every achievement you've had. Don't forget to put your non-profit interests, any languages spoken and links to presentations and publications. Avoid over-embellishing as LinkedIn's very interconnectedness makes it more difficult to get away with it.

Then, check out the profile strength barometer. Once you've hit "All-Star", you are done.

2. Keywords, keywords, keywords

Take a close look at your Background section. This is where most people make their biggest mistake by merely describing what they do.

Remember, you're a website that wants to be found, so put down the exact words you would use to find yourself. Then use these words to compose your description. Avoid the same words, as they will not give you extra oomph.

Also, include them in some status updates as well because they'll probably turn up on recruiters' searches.

3. Experiment, experiment, experiment

You're unlikely to get your keywords right the first time around, so head to the "who viewed your profile" section. If your profile views aren't up by at least 50 percent, you've got more work to do.

First of all, take a look at where your viewers are located, what companies they work for and what their positions are to make sure you're targeting the right market.

Make changes to your profile, and then check to see if you're getting the new views you hoped for. Don't be alarmed if you see non-recruiters looking at you too as those views are important as well.

Head over to "how you rank for profile views" to find out who within your LinkedIn circle is attracting the most attention. Pick a few profiles that are similar but get more views and see if you can learn something from them to apply to your own profile.

4. Be a social butterfly

Many people are selective when they get a LinkedIn invite. But Piskorski's research shows that people with more connections get more offers, largely because their name is more likely to show up on the first page of search results. Don't be fussy as being overly selective could work against you.

If you're concerned about your privacy, remember that you aren't letting your connections see your Facebook pictures. So, the odds of a psychopath tracking you down via LinkedIn are slim to none. If they're really bugging you, you can easily report them.

5. Forget about endorsements, but get into groups

As amazing as they sound, Piskorski's research shows that people with many endorsements get as many jobs as people with just a few. So, consider them a way to bond with your former and present colleagues -- a virtual pat on the back of sorts -- but don't count on them to bring in job offers.

Instead, invest time to join and participate as much as possible in LinkedIn Groups, especially ones that represent your profession.

Research shows that your contributions help raise your profile among your peers and future business associates and show up on a recruiter's search, which helps you get a job. You also could learn a thing or two professionally from other members, which is a win-win for you and your employer.