How to Use LinkedIn to Improve Your MBA Strategy

Sharon Joyce, Fortuna Admissions

Sharon Joyce, Fortuna Admissions

8 tips to maximizing your online professional profile

When admissions views your LinkedIn profile – chances are good they will – make sure it will tip the balance in your favor, not undermine your application.   

It’s no secret that your social media posts are fair game to any MBA Admissions Committee. More than a third of admissions officers visit candidate’s 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.

The good news is that you can – and should – use this information to your advantage. Because LinkedIn is the most professional among the various social media channels you may be using, it’s of special interest to admissions.

As former Associate Director of Admissions at Berkeley Haas, my colleagues and I were looking for consistency across an applicant’s personal and professional identities. Do you seem like the person you represented on paper? How does your LinkedIn profile reflect your personal brand? If you’re invited to join our MBA community, will you represent our school well? In my coaching role at Fortuna Admissions, my colleagues and I integrate a thorough social media audit in the early stages of the application strategy. A robust presence on LinkedIn is a must-have.

So how can you use LinkedIn to improve your business school application strategy?

Here are eight tips for maximizing your online professional profile:

  1. Enhance your profile to be consistent with your MBA application.

Look to amplify your LinkedIn profile as part of your business school application process. And as you do, consider your key audiences, which are now MBA admissions and alumni, as well as students and faculty of your target programs. At the minimum, make sure your profile is up to date. But most importantly, ensure that it’s consistent with the information and achievements you’ve represented across your application.

  1. Showcase your distinction and accomplishments.

Step back and create a list of your accomplishments and unique distinctions that might not surface on other media or materials. Then, look for ways to include these key elements in your profile. Remember that schools want to get to know you, which means allowing your values and passions to come across. The summary statement, for example, is a place to convey your unique qualities and some creativity. Always keep your key audiences in mind, looking for ways to add or emphasize items of particular relevance. In your summary, have you strategically positioned the two or three most important things they ought to know about you?

  1. Include quantifiable achievements.

Weaving quantifiable metrics into the body of your profile can really amplify your achievements. Where possible, underscore work experience with how much, specifically, you’ve boosted productivity or increased revenue, for example. Your profile is also a place to cite awards or accolades, even if academically based.

  1. Seek appropriate recommendations.

Because LinkedIn reflects on your professional visibility, having recommendations lends additional weight to your profile. Given that you’re soliciting recommendation letters in support of your application, it’s appropriate to ask your recommenders to provide a brief testimonial quote to add to your LinkedIn profile. Note: It’s important to have more “up” recommendations than “down”– i.e. people who have supervised you in the work setting or in one of your community service endeavors. For LinkedIn, it’s okay to also have a couple of testimonies from team members or clients; it’s nice to evidence what peers think about you, too. Banking some LinkedIn recommendations is also a tactical move in the longer run as your audience shifts to potential post-MBA employers.

  1. Engage with the school community

Follow and engage with your target schools to demonstrate your interest. It’s also a great way to do your research on a program, follow the latest news and announcements and stay connect to the school and its community.

  1. Increase your participation

Take it a step further by following the people or groups leading conversations in arenas you’re passionate about, such as artificial intelligence, renewable energy or social innovation. If you can demonstrate you’re a subject matter expert engaged in the issues, it can help to differentiate you from others with a static profile. Any sort of relevant self-promotion you can do through your participation, even a well-placed comment on an article authored by someone else, is advantageous.

  1. Connect to school alumni (with discretion)

It’s appropriate – and strategic – to connect with school alumni with whom you’ve met, especially if you’re looking to build the relationship. If you’ve only met virtually, I recommend asking permission and getting the green light first. I do not, however, recommend reaching out to alumni or students with whom you’ve not had a personal interaction or met face-to-face. Once you’ve crossed the acceptance threshold to become a member of that school’s community, it’s a different story. This is a murky area in terms of social media norms, but it’s also where your good judgement matters.

  1. Show good judgement

Speaking of judgement, this is about being discerning in your posting and sharing, as well as who or what you choose to follow. The reality is that admissions is typically “scanning out” more than “scanning in,” so make sure anything you’re putting out there is professional. It’s really a judgement check. While business schools won’t screen out applicants for their political persuasion (unless extreme or discriminatory), participating in controversial groups or discussions can get tricky. Your filter should always be whether you are putting things out there that appropriately reflect who you are and what you care about.

“Admissions officers have a hefty workload, so any online audit is likely to be brief,” says my Fortuna colleague and former MBA Admissions Director at IE Business School, Lisa Bevill (see her article, Smart Social Media Tips For MBA Applicants, for advice on auditing and enhancing your online presence across all social channels). “But a quick skim can impart incoherence, or, alternatively, a compelling personal brand.”

You can view a short video blog on this topic featuring Sharon with Fortuna Co-founder and Director, Caroline Diarte Edwards.

Sharon Joyce is a director at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former Berkeley Haas Associate Director of Admissions. Fortuna is composed of former admissions directors and business school insiders from 12 of the top 15 business schools.