While many people have come to understand, appreciate, and leverage the revolutionary power of LinkedIn as a job hunting and networking tool, there continues to be a high level of frustration regarding certain small “quirks” of the site.  In fact, given how often the powers-that-be at LinkedIn change the interface, I’ve had numerous occasions where I’m teaching a class on the site and suddenly realize that a certain feature has completely changed or disappeared!

This being said, here’s a quick list of tips, tricks, and workarounds I’ve been compiling recently regarding usage of the site — addressing some issues people continuously seem to wrestle with:

Why Can’t I Include a Personalized Note When Inviting Somebody?  When inviting people to connect with you on LinkedIn, it’s always a good idea to include a short, customized note to help grease the skids and some additional context about your background and the reason behind the invitation.  The problem?  Unlike the old days, you now have to actually open a person’s full profile and click the “Connect” button you’ll find there to include a note — versus clicking “Connect” anywhere else on the system (such as the results page of a people search).  If you don’t open the person’s full profile before inviting them, you won’t be given the option to personalize the note and the system will just send out the horribly generic default message, which reduces the likelihood a person will recognize your name or accept the invitation.

•  Why Can’t I See My Full Summary When Editing It?  Not long ago, LinkedIn adjusted the “Edit Profile” screen on the system to only display a tiny snippet of the Summary section (and a few other sections) when you’re editing them.  This makes it really tough to see what your full profile is actually going to look like to the people who end up visiting it.  The solution?  At the top of the Edit Profile screen, look for a blue button that says “View as…” and click on it.  This will pull up a page that shows your entire profile at once, and all the text it contains, exactly as it will appear to others.

Why Am I Not Seeing Many Search Results, Sometimes?  This one’s got me pulling my hair out.  I’m not sure how many of you have noticed it, but as of a few months ago, when you run various searches on the system you’ll occasionally get a message at the top of the screen saying “some search results have been filtered to improve relevance” followed by a “show all results” link.  Simply put, it seems that LinkedIn has started to try to do your thinking for you, which is annoying, because not only do they not disclose why or how they suddenly feel the need to second-guess your search intentions — but you can easily miss out on some great profiles if you don’t remember to click the “show all results” link.  So my advice is to ALWAYS click that link, at the top of every search results page, so the system doesn’t exclude some appropriate individuals who match your search criteria.

•  Where is the “Advanced Company Search” Page?  While most people never realize it, LinkedIn has a very useful page allowing you to build a  list of target companies by Location, Industry, Company Size, and other parameters.  The problem?  It’s nowhere to be found in any of the main system menus.  To access this page, you have to first click the “Advanced” link on the top of the screen, then click the “Advanced” link in the top left of the next screen (under the black “search” button), then click the “Companies” option you’ll see.  Finally, after these three somewhat-redundant clicks, you’ll be shown a screen that allows you to build a company list using a series of filters located on the left toolbar.

•  How Do I Add Bullets & Symbols to My Profile?  As you may have noticed, LinkedIn doesn’t allow formatting of any kind (such as bolding, italics, or underlining) to one’s profile text.  You can, however, still give your profile a little extra “pop” by using symbols and special characters to make certain elements of your profile stand out.  On my profile, for example, I’ve inserted little black stars (★) between my “headline” elements to give the text a little extra pizzazz.  How to do this?  Open a blank MS Word file, use the “Insert Symbol” command to insert the desired bullet or special character into your Word document, then copy/paste this symbol into your LinkedIn profile.  While not all of the symbols in Word will work for this purpose properly (if they’re not supported, they’ll show up as weird white boxes) you’ll note that you can use many of the standard symbols such as round bullets, triangles, checkmarks, and stars.

Anything else that’s bugging you about LinkedIn?  Any other aspects of the system that are giving you heartburn?  As always, feel free to drop me an e-mail or chime in with a comment and I’ll do my best to lend a hand…

P.S. I also just read an article on the LinkedIn Blog here that says major changes are coming to the site (and the mobile app) in terms of how users are able to exchange messages with one another — might be worth a read to see the functionality that’s about to be rolled out!