Oh joy. LinkedIn has added a Skills section for your profile.

It’s a new section so it’s still optional.  LinkedIn is pitching it as a great way to showcase your skills. I decided to enter my skills in as a road test of sorts.  Based on this, I recommend:

  1. Decide what you think your core skills are. Make a list.
  2. Test drive the terms on the LinkedIn “Skills” page. There are pre-set terms you can select from a popup menu, and you also can enter in your own term.  See what comes up when you start typing, and decide whether you want to use one of the LI options or not.  For instance, I put in “Leadership.” There were several options, such as “Leadership Development,” “Team Leadership,” “Organizational Leadership,” “Cross-functional Team Leadership,” etc. I chose “Strategic Leadership” as well as “Organizational Leadership.”
  3. DON’T enter anything in yet. No “saving” anything yet. Instead, make a paper list of all the terms you choose, and then PRIORITIZE them in order of the things you love most, are best at, and are most in demand by potential employers (your market).  This is really important: My list is an unprioritized mess still, because I haven’t had the time to go back and reorder the skills.  I’ll get to it…I’m not actively seeking work, so it’s not time-sensitive.
  4. For each skill on your list, determine if you are Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced or Expert. You also will be able to say how many years experience you have, from <1 to 20+.  Remember, this is all on paper FIRST.
  5. Once you have a final paper list, you can enter the skills on LinkedIn. IF YOU REALLY WANT TO DO THAT…and I really hope you don’t.

I believe it is a very bad idea to include a list of ranked skills on your LinkedIn profile. In essence, you are pre-screening yourself and saving the recruiter/employer some work. Saying you are at any skill level will limit how employers/recruiters perceive you.

Do you really want to say you are at Intermediate skill level at something? Or a Beginner? Or even Expert? Based on what criteria? The people who have chutzpah and/or many years of experience will say they are Advanced and Expert, while people with humility or low self-esteem will think they are being honest and say they are Intermediate or Beginner. Who is an employer to choose?

Another platform, VisualCV, has had the skills rating function for a couple years now. It asks you to rank yourself on skills from “novice” to “rock star.” I love the terms, and still have trouble with the concept.

Most employers want and think they can and should get “rock stars.” In this tight job market, more employers are looking for 100% of their “must have” list, unrealistic though that is.  So why would anyone want to rule themselves out of the race from the get-go?

My recommendation: unless you are confident that you are Expert and have the experience to back that up, it’s not a great idea to list skills.

Unfortunately, I believe more and more employers and recruiters will want to see these rankings. So be prepared to do it the smart way, as I outlined above.