Among social media outlets, LinkedIn (LNKD) is one of the more straightforward: a respectable photo, a flattering but brief work bio, and perhaps some quirky personal interests. A little dull maybe, but that’s about all a recruiter needs to know about you.
That’s about to change: This week, LinkedIn announced that users will soon have more design license over their profile pages, with the option of adding stock images (some pencils, a laptop, or flowers, for example) or a custom backdrop—similar to what’s already available on Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR). The banner background is available only to premium subscribers now but will be rolling out to all users in a few months.
I’ve added an image of a jacaranda tree to my profile (right).
The background is a small and subtle change, but it does reflect a willingness to use design to engage users at LinkedIn, which has thus far kept the profile pages corporately uniform. “It’s a natural next step for users to own their professional real estate,” says LinkedIn spokeswoman Kenly Walker. “It’s an opportunity for people to be more unique.”
Before you start stressing out about hunting down the perfect uniquely-personal-but-still-professional-enough photo, consider that recruiters might not really care too much. Those in creative industries might value candidates with a little more flair, but “more recruiters are concerned with your background and professional experience,” says Derek McKechnie, managing partner at recruiting firm Lucas Group. If you really want to declare your love of wine—or your dog, or live-action role playing—just include it as a bullet in your interests section, he adds. It shouldn’t be the first thing a recruiter learns about you through a splashy background banner.
With the new features, LinkedIn is doing more than encouraging users to put their most design-y foot forward. It is also eager to keep its users invested and engaged. Facebook, Google, and Twitter are increasingly being used as professional and job-hunting services; Zappos recently announced that it was launching its own social network for aspiring employees. “Personalization is the Holy Grail,” said Dipchand (Deep) Nishar, LinkedIn’s senior vice president of products and user experience. Get a user to spend time making his profile just so, and he’s more likely to come back again—and again.
The company declined to comment on whether users will eventually be able to control other aspects of their profile design, such as font and layout. If you want to do that, for now you’ll still need an old-fashioned resume.