Social-networking site LinkedIn can be a very handy business tool. We've put together a list of five top tips to ensure your profile doesn't offer employers a reason not to employ you.

LinkedIn, the social-networking site for professionals, has become hugely popular and building a strong profile on the site is very important. Even more so during an economic downturn, if you're unlucky enough to be made redundant, your LinkedIn profile could be a lifeline to secure a new employer and fast.

Although LinkedIn doesn't pose the same reputation perils presented by Facebook - such as being tagged in photo albums or being victimised by random comments left on your profile - the pitfalls of a poorly constructed LinkedIn profile, or employing bad LinkedIn etiquette, can alienate your contacts (known as 'connections'). It can also turn away potential employers.

We spoke to Kirsten Dixson, a reputation-management and online identity expert, to get her tips on proper LinkedIn etiquette.

1. Profile Picture

Saying your LinkedIn profile picture should appear 'professional' states the obvious. But more specifically, Dixson says paying a professional photographer to give you a few headshots to choose from is worth the modest investment because your picture is one the first things people will notice on your LinkedIn page.

Do some research online to find a photographer near you. You should be able to hire one for around £200-£250 who can get the job done well. Remember: this is a modest investment when you consider how many professional contacts - some of whom you know, some of whom you don't - will view your LinkedIn profile.

If you don't get a professional photographer, you want to keep a fairly neutral background with very good lighting. Dixson says people do use Photoshop to eliminate wrinkles or unflattering features, but be careful: future employers will want to meet you in person for an interview and that picture will set their expectations for what you look like. While this is not supposed to matter, we all know it does.

Lastly, on the issue of timeliness, it can be tempting to leave pictures up of your younger and perhaps better-looking self. Dixson says while you don't need to update your picture every year, it should still match up pretty well with your current appearance.

"If people are going to meet you and be surprised by the difference, it's time to get a new one," she says.

See also: Five crucial Facebook dos and don'ts

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2. Summary

When you read a newspaper or check out articles on a website, many good stories don't get read without a good headline. As such, Dixson recommends that you be very concise, engaging and specific in the summary field of your LinkedIn page. If the summary doesn't draw people in, all the great jobs you've had over the years (listed in the 'experience' section below it) might not receive any attention.

"You really want to express your personal brand in the LinkedIn summary," Dixson says. "You want to show who you are, what you do, and why it's unique."

NEXT PAGE: Filling out your bio

  1. Make sure your profile doesn't wreck your professional life
  2. Filling out your bio
  3. The importance of connections
  4. Recommend and getting recommended

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Social-networking site LinkedIn can be a very handy business tool. We've put together a list of five top tips to ensure your profile doesn't offer employers a reason not to employ you.

3. Filling out your bio

One of the finer things about LinkedIn, at least from a recruiting standpoint, is that it not only encourages honesty in your resume, in essence it requires it, since your profile is viewed by your bosses, colleagues and customers.

Dixson says the normal resume rules apply - accentuate your strengths and highlights, while providing context around your job responsibilities.

But the one main difference between a regular CV and a LinkedIn profile is that you'll have a wider range of people viewing the latter. As such, you will have to be slightly more pragmatic in hitting points that you think might satisfy a few different sectors of your industry that interest you.

A couple other quick tips for your profile and bio:

Get the LinkedIn URL you want. Most LinkedIn profiles URLs will be a slash and then your name (/your name) at the end of them. Names can be common, so try to get yours first.

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is public (go to account settings to check). If you want to tap all the capabilities of LinkedIn, and be able to have people search for you and examine your career experience, you need a public profile.

Remember that you don't matter on the web if Google doesn't see you. Try to include keywords in your profile that you think people might search for regarding your field.

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NEXT PAGE: The importance of connections

  1. Make sure your profile doesn't wreck your professional life
  2. Filling out your bio
  3. The importance of connections
  4. Recommend and getting recommended

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest internet news, reviews, tips & tricks - and to take advantage of PC Advisor's unique, independent Broadband Speed Tester

Social-networking site LinkedIn can be a very handy business tool. We've put together a list of five top tips to ensure your profile doesn't offer employers a reason not to employ you.

4. Your LinkedIn Connection List

There are two main factions who argue the merits of how one chooses connections on LinkedIn. One is LinkedIn itself. It firmly believes you should know your contacts before deciding to add them as a connection.

They say they have designed the service with that philosophy in mind. Connections, they argue, are a reflection of you professionally. If you don't know who they are, it can reflect poorly on you when people peruse your connection list.

On the other end of the spectrum are the LinkedIn Open Networkers, known as LIONs. A LION generally will add most people as a connection (whether they know them or not).

Many LIONs build huge connection lists (thousands), and see value from doing this. According to the LION entry on wikipedia, they also adamantly discourage the use of the 'I don't know' button.

'I don't know' was designed by LinkedIn to discourage random, unknown connections. If it's hit five times, a person can be blocked from LinkedIn or face consequences that prohibit their use of the service.

Dixson recommends taking somewhat of a middle ground between the two camps and work up a strategy you think makes sense for you and your profession. The key, she says, is having a consistent set of guidelines for adding connections.

But it will always be a murky issue, Dixson says. Perhaps, for instance, your criteria for adding a connection is that you know someone or have at least conducted business with them in the past.

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What if, after you give a talk at a trade show or conference for example, a member of the audience writes and asks to connect with you on LinkedIn?

Dixson says it is fine to decline a connection, but that if such a case arises, it's good form to explain why. For example, you might respond this way: 'Thank you for reaching out. I'm glad you enjoyed my talk at the trade show. While I'm happy you contacted me, I don't add connections until I've done business with a person directly. As such, feel free to email me in the future and we can see what opportunities might come up'.

If you are the one sending a connection, be sure to not use the canned invitation of 'I'd like to add you as a connection' when sending the invite, especially if you feel you don't know the person incredibly well or that their memory might need some prodding. At the very least, even if they decline it, they'll be less likely to hit the dreaded 'I don't know' button.

Finally, make your connection list public, Dixson says. If you don't, you are in essence defeating the purpose of LinkedIn. It's a social network, and there isn't anything more inherently unsocial than not allowing your contacts to connect with one another. The only exception would be is if you feel showing your connections would undermine your company's competitive advantage.

NEXT PAGE: Recommend and getting recommended

  1. Make sure your profile doesn't wreck your professional life
  2. Filling out your bio
  3. The importance of connections
  4. Recommend and getting recommended

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest internet news, reviews, tips & tricks - and to take advantage of PC Advisor's unique, independent Broadband Speed Tester

Social-networking site LinkedIn can be a very handy business tool. We've put together a list of five top tips to ensure your profile doesn't offer employers a reason not to employ you.

5. Recommend and getting recommended

The recommendations feature on LinkedIn can be a powerful way to show that your work has been endorsed by influential people. With this in mind, Dixson recommends a '360 degree strategy' that shows the various ways in which you do your job and the people you serve.

"You want managers, peers and clients to recommend you," Dixson says. "These should be people who know you well and who can really speak to your competencies as they're relevant to what you're positioning yourself for."

Though it's nice to be recommended, Dixson says it's vital to build up your own social capital by recommending others. The key to good LinkedIn etiquette (and social networks in general) is 'what goes around, comes around'. If you go and write a good recommendation for a colleague, odds are someone will do the same for you in the future.

  1. Make sure your profile doesn't wreck your professional life
  2. Filling out your bio
  3. The importance of connections
  4. Recommend and getting recommended

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest internet news, reviews, tips & tricks - and to take advantage of PC Advisor's unique, independent Broadband Speed Tester

Visit Business Advisor for the latest business IT news, reviews, tips and tricks - plus sign up for our unique and FREE business IT newsletter