When AdCom views your LinkedIn profile – and chances are good they will – make sure it will tip the balance in your favor, not undermine your MBA application.
It’s no surprise that your social media posts are fair game within your business school candidacy. More than one-third of admissions officers visit applicants’ social media profiles to aid their decision-making (35% in 2017, up from 22% in 2011) and 33% admit they do it “often,” according to Kaplan Test Prep survey data.
Because LinkedIn is the most professional of the myriad social media channels you may be using, it’s of special interest to MBA admissions. The good news is you can – and should – use this knowledge to your advantage.
As former Associate Director of Admissions at Berkeley Haas, my colleagues and I scanned for consistency across an applicant’s professional and personal identities. Do you seem like the person you purported to be on paper? If you are invited to join our MBA community, will you represent our school well? How does your LinkedIn profile represent your personal brand? In my coaching role at Fortuna Admissions, my colleagues and I conduct a thorough social media audit (sometimes intervention) during the early stages of the application strategy. A robust LinkedIn presence is a must-have.
So how can you use LinkedIn to enhance your MBA application strategy?
Here are eight tips to maximize your online professional profile:
- Modify your profile to complement your MBA application.
Look to enhance your LinkedIn profile as part of your MBA application process. When you do, consider your key audiences, which are now business school admissions officers and alumni, as well as faculty and students of your target programs. At the minimum, ensure your profile is up to date. But most importantly, make sure that it’s consistent with the data and distinctions you’ve represented across your broader application.
- Showcase your accomplishments and differentiators.
Step back to create a list of the accomplishments and unique differentiators that may not surface on other media or materials. Then, consider how to include these key virtues in your profile. Remember that admissions wants to get to know you, which means allowing your passions and values to come across. The summary statement, for example, is a place to convey some creativity and your stand-out qualities. Always remember your key audiences, looking for ways to emphasize or add items of specific relevance. In your opening summary, have you strategically positioned the two-to-three key things they should know about you?
- Include achievements that are quantifiable.
Weaving quantifiable metrics into the substance of your profile can really enhance your at-a-glance profile. Where possible, underscore work experience with how much, specifically, you’ve increased revenue or boosted productivity, for example. Your profile is also a place to cite accolades or awards, even if academically based.
- Seek appropriate recommendations.
Because LinkedIn reflects on your professional visibility, having a few recommendations can lend your profile additional weight. Given that you already solicit letters of recommendation in support of your application, it’s appropriate to ask your recommenders to additionally provide a brief testimonial quote to share on your LinkedIn profile. Note: It’s valuable to have more “up” recommendations than “down”– i.e. people who have supervised you in a professional setting or a community service endeavor. For LinkedIn, it’s also okay to also have a couple of testimonies from clients or team members; it’s nice to show what peers think about you, too. Garnering some LinkedIn recommendations is also a tactical move for the long run as your audience shifts over time to potential post-MBA employers.
- Engage with the school community
Engage with and follow with your target schools to underscore your interest. This is also a great means of researching a program, following the latest news and announcements, and staying connected to the program and its community.
- Increase your participation
Take it a step further by following the people or groups driving conversations in areas you’re passionate about, such as renewable energy, social innovation or artificial intelligence. If your participation in the issues can demonstrate your subject matter expertise, it can help to differentiate you from others with more a static profile. Any sort of tactful and relevant self-promotion you can do through your engagement, even a thoughtful comment on an article authored by someone else, is advantageous.
- Connect to school alumni (with discretion)
It’s strategic – and appropriate – to connect with school alumni with whom you’ve met, especially if you’re looking to build relationships. But if you’ve only met virtually, I recommend seeking permission and getting the green light first. I do not, however, recommend reaching out to students or alumni with whom you’ve not had any real interaction or met in person. Once you’ve crossed the threshold to acceptance and become a member of that school’s community, it’s a different story. In terms of social media norms, this is a murky area, but it’s also where your good judgement matters.
- Show good judgement
Speaking of judgement, be discerning in your sharing and posting, as well as what or who you choose to follow. The reality is that admissions committee members are typically “scanning out” more than “scanning in,” so ensure anything you put out there is professional. It’s really a judgement check. While b-schools won’t screen out candidates for their political persuasion (unless discriminatory or extreme), participating in discussions or groups that are controversial can get tricky. Your lens should always be whether you are posting or participating in ways that appropriately reflect what you care about and who you are.
“Admissions officers have a hefty workload, so any online audit is likely to be brief,” says Lisa Bevill, my Fortuna colleague and IE Business School former MBA Admissions Director (see her article, Smart Social Media Tips For MBA Applicants, for insights on auditing and boosting your online presence across all social channels). “But a quick skim can impart incoherence, or, alternatively, a compelling personal brand.”
View a short video blog on this topic featuring Sharon with Fortuna Co-Founder and Director, Caroline Diarte Edwards.
Sharon Joyce is an Expert Coach at Fortuna Admissions and former Berkeley Haas Associate Director of Admissions.