Discussing LinkedIn with MBAsLast night I was a featured panelist at Rutgers University where a discussion with alumni of Rutgers’s Executive MBA Program (REMBA) spanned job search strategy, resume development and networking, but focused primarily on LinkedIn.

I found it remarkable that MBAs are just as concerned with their job prospects as the rest of us are, though perhaps they needn’t be. In a study conducted by the Executive MBA Council and the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), nearly 75% of recent EMBA alumni polled said they’d recuperated their grad-school investment and 43% had received a pay raise. Notably, those with < 3 years of experience had seen their median incomes fall by 4.5% since 2007, but that’s compared to a 7.6% drop for the workforce at large over the same period.

The majority of questions were about LinkedIn. Here’s a taste:

Q: How much of a resume should be filled out on LinkedIn?

A: Wrong question. Your LinkedIn profile isn’t a copy-paste job from your resume. It requires a) finesse to ensure that your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile are complementary, but not identical; b) an understanding that many recruiters who view your LinkedIn profile will never see your resume; c) attention paid to the LinkedIn profiles of leaders within your industry; and d) an understanding of how to write and develop content for the web.

Q: How do I exploit squeeze network with my classmates and fellow alumni on LinkedIn?

A: Don’t start-off asking for help. Instead, aim to give before you receive. Offer up relevant book and article recommendations; job candidates (assuming you’re not the right fit yourself); professional connections; industry information; event synopses; expertise; etc.

Q: Why does LinkedIn keep prompting me to have a “100% complete” profile?

A: Because why should you, an understandably anxious job seeker, be allowed to be 100% done with any aspect of your job search? Why should you get to feel like you’ve successfully completed something and thereby feel good about yourself?!

By compelling you to create a perfect profile, LinkedIn is getting you to spend more time on their site (good for ad revenue and search rankings) and in the process upselling you a fee-based subscription.

Ironically, some of the details that LinkedIn bugs you for can be detrimental to your job search. For example: What were your undergraduate courses? If you’re an MBA with 10+ years of professional experience, listing undergrad courses will make you seem more junior than you are. There’s no good reason to include them.

Q: What’s with endorsements on LinkedIn? These seem totally bogus.

A: Yes, “bogus” just about covers it. The best is when someone endorses you for your written communication skills when their own LinkedIn profile is filled with spelling and language errors. How would they know if you had strong communication skills?! (Wait…what are you laughing at? Your profile is also full of mistakes!)

Q: What do I do when I’m invited to connect with a stranger on LinkedIn?

A: If the stranger is Warren Buffet or Richard Branson, just accept the invitation. Short of that, I suggest you write back without accepting to see who it is you’re dealing with. Something like: “Thank you for your invitation to connect. Before I accept, can you please remind me how it is we know each other?” In some cases the person will go away; in others, you’ll get your answer. There’s also a slim chance that you’ll offend: “I’m Warren Buffet. If you don’t know who I am, then I suppose I no longer wish to connect with you”.

Thanks to the Rutgers EMBA Alumni Association for inviting me to speak and for assembling a talented and well-balanced expert panel, including: Gretchen Gunn, Recruiter and Principal, MGD Services; Marcus Cáceras Broussard, HR Generalist; Lincoln Rowley, Founder, Rutgers Executive MBA Alumni Association; and Florence Herman, Director of EMBA Career Management and Alumni Relations at Rutgers.

Starting next week I’ll be a guest blogger for Rutgers’s EMBA blog! Thought you should know.