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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

October 10, 2018
Question

How do employers perceive LinkedIn Profiles vs. Resumes? What are the differences and should they contain the same or different information?

answer
Julie Q. Brush

It used to be that the resume was the sole document that chronicled and encapsulated a professional’s career. But with the rise of technology and social media, legal professionals today are branding themselves in new ways, shapes and forms. One tool that has risen to prominence is LinkedIn, a social media networking website for professionals. The site’s LinkedIn profilefeature has become somewhat of a professional must for those who wish to be in the online fray of the Corporate Globe. Given its proliferation and easy public access, employers, networkers and looky-loos often turn to the LinkedIn profile for the professional scoop on an individual. Its use in this regard has become so common in the corporate world that some people in industry verticals such as Sales are substituting the tried and true resume for the quick click of a link.

But the legal profession is not wholeheartedly following suit (nor should it) and resumes are still the go-to resource for the official expression of a lawyer’s background and professional story. With this said, legal professionals should be mindful of the LinkedIn profile’s growing reflection of the professional You – and they should be equally mindful of what content should…and should not be included.

As a lawyer contemplating the two career tools and to maximize impact, it’s important to understand their similarities…and differences. So what are the differences between a resume and a LinkedIn profile? Below are a few of the biggies:

1. Accountability

A professional is held accountable for every word written…or omitted on a resume. And the consequences for not being truthful…or “fudging” can be the legal grounds for termination as well as other potential career killing infractions. The LinkedIn profile on the other hand, is not held to the same ethical or perhaps legal standards. Professionals can twist, turn or rejigger the puzzle pieces of a career with little to no professional consequence. So lawyers are provided more latitude to control the narrative of their career to onlookers. This can be encouraging news for those who need to maneuver things a little…or a lot for a better foot forward.

2. Expectations

When reviewing a resume, the reader comes into the process with expectations of the document. S/he expects the resume to be well formatted, provide detailed and relevant information about the candidate’s substantive experience in an organized and readable way, strike a serious tone, not contain much, if any personal information and be concise. In addition, complete information is expected as well as transparency. It’s the expectation of a more clinical experience.

Readers of a LinkedIn profile have a different set of expectations. To start, its format is standard and does not deviate from profile to profile. So you won’t be judged on elements that could undermine you in a resume like wonky fonts and poor organization. While a professional tone and presentation is expected, those who deviate with clever, creative and/or playful content are not as harshly judged. In addition, profiles with bare minimum content or employment gaps are accepted as part of the normal profile spectrum. The expectations here include a wide range from the minimal data points to a robust interactive experience.

3. Snapshot vs. One Stop Shop

Resumes are rather one dimensional with the information that is presented – which includes employers, work and educational experience and a recitation of professional activities and at times, personal interests. So the readers’ experience is fairly flat. The LinkedIn profile can be more comprehensive and serve as the one stop shop for information about the professional You.  It can contain a plethora of media options like video, photos, articles you’ve written and presentations. There are recommendations, links to whatever you want/need, endorsements, groups you like and of course…your beautiful photo. It’s a richer experience that can provide a greater glimpse into your background and serve as a more comprehensive brand-building avenue.

4. Page vs. Platform

While the resume is considered a marketing tool, it is “a page” that is limited in scope to which it can represent the full depth and breadth of a person professionally and personally. LinkedIn and the LinkedIn profile offers an entire platform for which an individual can not only provide information on their background and work experience, but also express themselves, build their “brand”, educated him/herself, advertise, market, network and connect with others.

5. Public vs. Private

Unless you have proactively elected to post your resume online or distribute it across the email frontier, your resume and its contents are private and confidential…for no one to see except you and those whom you choose. So access is limited by out of the reach of recruiters, employers and the general public. The LinkedIn profile on the other hand is there for all eyes to see, search and sift through. So its reach can be quite vast. Because of this, professionals need to be acutely aware of its content, the story it tells and the image it projects.

So now that you know a few of the key differences, should the content of your resume and LinkedIn profile page mirror one another or is it ok for each to be unique?

There is no requirement, norm or need for your LinkedIn profile to present the identical information as your resume. But a symbiotic relationship exists between the two so they are not, nor should they be entirely void of similarities. The key is to see them as a unit that compliments one another. Determining the content for each will depend on the story you want to tell – and what is best suited to be included where. And like everything, good judgment is key.

With the resume, it should be a “just the facts ma’am” approach whereas your LinkedIn profile will afford you greater creative and professional license. So to the extent you want to highlight one or more areas (i.e. a description of your employers, high powered people who think you’re awesome, your altruism, your cleverness, your status as a media queen, your photogenic nature…) you’ll have an acceptable platform to showcase it.

With both mediums, overkill is to be avoided. Excessive detail, tiny font crammed onto several pages, 40 blathering recommendations, numerous presentation videos etc. are the quickest way to glazed eyes. So a kitchen sink approach will hurt your cause as well as your marketability. On the flip side, while brevity can work on LinkedIn, an overly sparse resume is a no-no.

As you devote time and energy to crafting/revising these career tools, think about how you want to be perceived and the information that is important for others to know. Then create a few drafts until you are comfortable. Finally, have people you trust review your work and provide feedback – and revise accordingly.

As professionals, the tools we use to communicate who we are, what we do and how well we do it help define our identity in the work world. So it is critical that we are educated on the power of these tools and how to use them. The resume and the LinkedIn profile are two of the most important in our professional toolbox. So use them wisely to create a more genuine link between perception and reality.

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