LinkedIn serves as a window into your professional capacity, so it’s worth investing time in your profile to create the right impression.
But the platform is also being used by employers to post vacancies and recruiters to identify and approach suitable candidates.
Duncan Brodie, FCMA, CGMA, a coach, trainer, and speaker at UK-based training provider Goals and Achievements, explains how to present your skills and experience to attract opportunities.
Use the headline section to promote skills. Many LinkedIn users dedicate valuable space in the headline area of their profile to describing the organisation they work for. Instead, they should focus on promoting their professional skills here.
Brodie often coaches people who have English as a second language. “I encourage them to mention that they are a multilingual management accountant,” he said. “Those language skills grab the attention of a recruiter and could potentially open up opportunities.”
Another aspect to highlight in the headline area is the sectors in which you have experience. “For instance, your headline might read ‘senior management accountant with 20 years’ experience in FMCG/telecoms/public sector,’ ” Brodie said. “If you’ve worked internationally, include that too.
“For members in practice, it’s a good idea to mention how you benefit clients. For example, ‘supporting SMEs to improve bottom-line profits’, or to ‘minimise tax liabilities’. Or, if you specialise in cost reduction or finance team transformation, talk about that.”
Offer clarity in the summary. In the summary area, give a very clear picture of your experience, skills, and management and leadership qualities.
“If you are not in a formal leadership position in your day-to-day work, mention something you do outside work which demonstrates these skills,” Brodie said. “This could be something you’re involved in in a voluntary capacity.”
The summary section is also the place to talk about your key areas of expertise – are you particularly good with budgeting and forecasting, or do you have some expertise in foreign currency, for instance?
Information technology skills are increasingly important for management accountants, so make sure you highlight these. Involvement in major business projects or accounting system implementations can help demonstrate the breadth of experience you have and perhaps differentiate you from everyone else, Brodie said.
“Recruiters will also be looking for the core management accounting skills,” he said. Most management accounting jobs require experience with month-end reporting, budgeting, forecasting, balance sheet management, cash management, and working capital management. “You want to make sure that those terms are listed amongst your technical skills,” Brodie said.
Non-technical skills sought in management accounting job descriptions typically include being a good communicator and presenter, being able to build relationships with different parts of the business, negotiation, influencing, problem-solving, sound decision-making, and managing multiple deadlines.
“If you can get some of those terms into your summary, the chances of you being found by a recruiter will greatly increase,” Brodie said.
The headline and summary sections of your LinkedIn profile are optimised for SEO, so using the right keywords in those areas will help recruiters and hiring managers with relevant vacancies find you. However, it’s important not to overload your profile with keywords, as there’s a danger it won’t read naturally. Brodie encourages people to adopt a conversational style.
“You might say something like: CIMA qualified management accountant with 10 years’ experience of monthly management accounts, budgets, and forecasts in X, Y, and Z sectors. Team player with proven track record of working successfully with non-finance managers to improve financial control and risk management.”
In the experience section, Brodie suggests that professionals include every relevant role they have had. “Describe the role in one or two lines and then focus attention on your main achievements in the role,” he advised.
A good quality photograph that shows you as a warm, friendly individual is essential to making the right impression, he stressed.
Line up strong recommendations. Another part of your profile recruiters will focus on is the recommendations others have written about you. A handful of strong recommendations from a line manager and peers who have first-hand experience of working with you is better than a long list of them from acquaintances.
The quality-over-quantity approach also goes for the number of connections you have. If you receive a connection request from someone you don’t know, have a look at the person’s profile.
You may share an interest or a contact, or they may be a member of a group you’re in. “If it’s not clear why they want to connect, you can send a message that says ‘Thanks for reaching out. I just wanted to establish what motivated you to make the connection request?’ ” Brodie said. “If they are genuine, they’ll get back to you.”
Maintain your profile. Brodie suggests users update their profiles three or four times a year.
“If you have made a significant achievement in the past few months, and had really positive feedback on it, you might add that to your key achievements in your summary. If you’ve recently switched sectors, you might add that sector to your headline after three months or so in the new role,” he said.
Once your profile is polished, you can start to explore other aspects of the platform. “There are a lot of people sharing ideas and good content on there that you can actually learn from, for your personal development,” said Brodie.
Join groups that are relevant to your profession, sector, or location. These are good ways to make new connections and raise your profile, particularly if you contribute to the discussion or respond to requests for advice.
And although posts help to keep your profile fresh, you don’t necessarily have to create your own. Sharing other people’s posts or endorsing them for a particular skill is another way to contribute to the network.
—Samantha White (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.