To be effective, a resume must be focused on the specific requirements of that one job in that particular company. When applying for different jobs, you send (or should send!) differently focused resumes for each position applied for. A LinkedIn profile on the other hand has a potentially much wider audience – and you cannot have (or shouldn’t have!) different profiles for different audiences.
A question arises then, particularly during job hunting, as to whether you should have a general LinkedIn profile, or to focus your profile on your specific target job (i.e. the position you want to secure).
When you are clearly focused in your job search and have a specific job target in mind, a LinkedIn profile focused on that job is the way to go. Your LinkedIn profile will be more consistent with your focused resume, and searches from hiring managers or recruiters related to your job target are more likely to lead to you. So, for people who are searching for a new job, a focused LinkedIn profile is recommended.
However, keeping your profile general will have it look different to your resume and may be more appealing – you can ‘play’ with it more and make it more personal – more ‘you’. Being general, it will attract or match to a wider set of jobs in searches, leaving you open to a wider set of opportunities.
But if it is too general, your profile might not sufficiently match the keywords hiring managers or recruiters might be using in searches – the keywords they use are related to the key requirements for the job they wish to fill. You might end up with a prettier or more attractive profile, but it won’t be particularly useful to your job search if it doesn’t lead to ‘hits’ in job searches or tells recruiters and hiring managers that you have the skills that match their job vacancy.
The other issue in whether your LinkedIn profile should be general or focused is about what your current employer sees! If your profile is very specific or focused on a particular job, and that job is different to the one you are in now, your employer will know that you are looking for a new job. Remember that LinkedIn informs all of your contacts that you have updated your profile, and if you are ‘connected’ to your manager or others in your company, they will see your new profile and status.
If this is not an issue and won’t cause you problems, then go with a focused profile as it will achieve better results when job hunting.
If it is an issue and you don’t want your boss to know you are ‘available’ to the job market, keep your LinkedIn profile more general, but a little focused too – you want searches to lead to you for the jobs you want. The way to do this is to ensure that your profile’s Headline and Summary contain the keywords that match the type of jobs you want. Of course, there will need to be some emphasis on your current role so that your profile seems informative of your current situation and therefore less like you are looking for a new job. This dual approach is ambiguous and will serve both your purposes of looking for a new job while not alerting your boss about what you are doing!