Optimize your Connections

It's critical to put in the time to build your profile, add to your connections, and effectively use your contacts to aid in your job search.

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How Do I Create a Good LinkedIn Profile?

Rock Your LinkedIn Profile (video)

For a lot of recruiters these days, if you aren't on LinkedIn you don't exist. Developing a stellar profile and a strong presence will build your professional credibility and help you to get noticed. Once you get your LinkedIn page up-to-date and packed with relevant keywords, you'll likely be surprised at how much more attention your profile will get.

Let's take a look at the elements of a standout profile. Keep in mind that this should be an extension of your resume and cover letter—not a carbon copy.  Don't forget to maintain your presence so you appear active—you can do it in 15 minutes a week.

LinkedIn Profile Must Haves

Features a professional profile photo (preferably a headshot with a simple background)
Has an engaging headline (not just "student at U of I", for example, "Experienced Marketer with Operations Management Experience")
Has a customized URL (i.e., www.linkedin.com/in/namehere)

especially if you have a common name

Is free of spelling or grammatical errors
Features an engaging summary

Here are the top strategies to help you make connections:

1. Follow the companies that you are interested in on Handshake.

  • On your "Employers" page in Handshake, search for the employers that you are interested in and then "Follow" them.
  • When you follow an employer, you will be notified when they are hosting events and when they post jobs. This is the best way to keep tabs on your favorite employers. Some companies will even list a public staff contact. Make sure to attend any relevant events and introduce yourself to the recruiters.
  • You can also see the names of U of I students who have worked for that employer.  You can reach out to current students and alumni to learn more about that company.

2. Using LinkedIn to connect with Recruiters and Alumni

  • To connect with recruiters, start by typing "Recruiter" with your industry, target company and location in the search bar.
  • Bonus: notice that you can see mutual connections for each search result. If a recruiter is already connected to somebody you know well, take note and use this in your introduction later on!
  • If you'd like to focus your search on specific job titles, you can also search "recruiting for [Name of Position, Location]" and change the "People" filter on the left side to "Content". You may find posts advertising openings for the exact job you want.
  • Send the recruiter a brief, 2-3 sentence message. Introduce yourself, express your interest, and any other relevant information.  See below for more sample LinkedIn messages!
  • To connect with alumni, start by going to the University of Illinois page on LinkedIn or to the Gies College of Business LinkedIn page.
  • Next, visit the "alumni" menu item, from here you can narrow the alumni that you see
  • Try using the search bar to select your criteria (such as company name, industry or position title), review the alumni that match your criteria and identify people that you'd like to connect with to learn about their careers
  • Send the alumna a brief, 2-3 sentence message. Introduce yourself as a U of I student, express your interest in their career and request to learn more about their career path.  The best way to get to know someone?  Conduct an Informational Interview!  See below for more more information and sample LinkedIn messages!

3. Attend events, info sessions, Gies Showcase events and career fairs.

  • The best way to make connections with the right people are to attend the right events.  Recruiters remember names and faces if you are active and show geniune interest in their organization.
  • During the academic year, BCS hosts many events where you'll be able to network with employers.  Make sure to attend and introduce yourself to the recruiters. (Turn your camera on and ask questions in Zoom events)
  • Follow up with professionals after the event through email or LinkedIn.  Thank them for their time and ask if they are willing to speak with you individually to answer your career questions  (see below for tips on conducting informational interviews).
  • In addition, many companies host info sessions and other events specifically to attract potential employees. Make sure to introduce yourself to recruiters at these events. You can find some employer events posted on Gies Groups.  You can also "follow" your top companies on Handshake.  When you follow a company, you will receive notifications when they post jobs and events that you can attend.

The Easiest Way to Research and Find Alumni on LinkedIn

Are you looking for the easiest way to research and find alumni on LinkedIn?  Read this article for the best tips on connecting with Gies Alums!

Connect With Your Connections

The more connections you have, the better your chances of finding someone to help with your job search. Employers often look for referrals from their own employees to fill positions before opening up a job to the masses, so someone who is employed at the company or has connections there will have a leg up in referring you as an applicant.  Your goal is to maintain or establish relationships with people working in your field and people with whom you are already connected.

LinkedIn Request Samples

Informational Interview Request Sample Text

Dear Ms. Smith,

I am a currently a Gies College of Business student at the University of Illinois and am exploring accounting as a possible major. One of my goals is to conduct informational interviews with alumni who are in occupations that I am considering. When I came across your profile on LinkedIn, I was excited to see how you were using your accounting degree as an International Tax Partner at PWC. I would love to learn more about your career as a tax accountant, particularly because of my interest in international practice. I would like to arrange a brief 15-20 minute phone or video call in the near future.

I know that you are very busy, so I will follow up with you next week if I do not hear from you.

Thank you!


LinkedIn Request Sample Text

Someone You've Never Met:  Whether a professional from a LinkedIn Group, someone you admire, recruiter, or alumni, finding common ground should be your primary goal. Get their attention and quickly validate yourself.

Dear (insert name),

I am a current student at the University of Illinois and I have been reading your blog on LInkedIn for six months and really appreciate the insights you share. I would love to spend twenty minutes hearing how you got started and learn more about where your career is headed. Please let me know if you would be willing to chat.

Thank you, —(Insert name)


Recruiter that  You've Never Met-

Dear (insert name),

I am a current student at the University of Illinois and will be graduating in May.  I am very interested in your Supply Chain position.  I  have had experience leading a team as intern last summer at Coyote Logistics.  I'd love to connect and learn more about the opportunity at your company.

Thank you, —(Insert name)


Someone from Your Past: Even if you worked together previously, this contact might not remember you right away. Therefore, stress the capacity in which you worked together.

Dear (insert name)

I enjoyed working with you as an intern at (insert company) last summer. In fact, I still use some of the Excel workarounds you taught our team! If you are free sometime in the next month, I would love to hear more about your role at (insert company) since this is a career path that I'd like to explore.

Best, —(Insert your name)


Someone You Know: Even close acquaintances appreciate positive vibes. When connecting with current or former friends/co-workers/classmates, compliment them on projects, interests, or strengths.

Hi (insert name),

It was great to work together last year on (project name), you were such a great project manager, I learned so much from you! Congratulations on your new role at (company name). I'm thinking about taking my career the same direction. I'd love to catch up and learn more about your role.

Best, —(Insert your name)


A friend of a friend

Hi (insert name),

My close friend, Elli Stevens suggested that I reach out to you. She interned at your company last summer and raved about your leadership skills. I'm a current sophomore at U of I and am interested learning more about career paths in brand management. I'd love to speak with you about your career.

Best, —(Insert your name)


Someone You Met at an Event

Hi  (insert name),

I really enjoyed the recent Gies CEO event that you participated in as a panelist.   I'd love to connect and learn more about how you decided to work as Consultant for PwC.

Thanks, (Your name)

How to Conduct an Informational Interview

An informational interview is a meeting to learn about the real-life experience of someone working in a field or company that interests you. It's not a job interview, so it's important to keep focused on getting information, not a job offer.  You may feel awkward reaching out to people you don't know. However, most people actually enjoy taking a few moments out of their day to reflect on their professional life and give advice to someone with an interest in their field.

Benefits of Informational Interviewing
  • Get firsthand, relevant information about the realities of working within a particular field, industry or position. This kind of information is not always available online.
  • Get tips and insider knowledge about how to prepare for and land your first career position.
  • Learn what it's like to work at a specific organization.
  • Initiate a professional relationship and expand your network of contacts in a specific career field; meet people who may forward job leads to you in the future.
Arrange the Interview

Either call or e-mail to make contact. The introduction could be: "Mrs. Smith, Brad Johnson suggested I speak with you. My name is Steven Olson and I am interested in the ________ field. I could use advice from someone who is in this field. Do you have time in the next two weeks to meet for about 20 minutes?  I would really like to learn more about your company and the ________ field from someone with your experience."

Hold the Meeting

Develop a brief introduction of yourself and your hopes for the meeting.   After introductions, give a brief summary of your career goal, or what you want to learn from them.   Prepare plenty of questions to make good use of the time.  Respect their time.  Ask the person if you may contact them again in the future with other questions.  Ask for names of other people to meet so as to gain different perspectives.


Send a thank-you note within 1-2 days to express your appreciation for the time and information given. Based on whether the informational interview was relatively informal or more businesslike, this may be a brief handwritten note, an email, or a business letter.   Keep records. Write down what you learned, what more you'd like to know, and what your next steps should be.  Follow up on any actions that you said you would take based on their recommendations (i.e., reaching to a colleague).   Keep in touch with the person, especially if you had a particularly nice interaction; let them know that you followed up on their advice and the outcome. This person could become an important part of your network.

Sample questions include:

  • What is a typical day like in your job?
  • What do you like most / least about this career?
  • Is your job typical of others in this field?
  • What are current job prospects like?
  • Are there related fields I might want to look into?
  • What makes a resume impressive in your field?
  • Is my resume appropriate for this occupation?
  • How do you stay current in your knowledge?
  • What are employers looking for in this career (skills, education, experience)?
  • What's the best way to find out about jobs in this field?
  • What is the career ladder for this position?
  • What would you recommend I do at this point to get into this field?
  • What are the future trends for this field?
  • Is there anyone else you would recommend I talk to in this field?

Questions to build Rapport:

  • What was your favorite UIUC restaurant?
  • What RSOs did you belong to?
  • Where did you have internships at when you were a student?
  • How do you like living in your current location?

To learn more about a specific company, ask questions like these:

  • What's the corporate culture like here?
  • How do you normally hire for this occupation?
  • What is the average turnover in this type of job?
  • Which firms do you think are your toughest competitors, and how do they differ from your company?