If you're in the market for a new job, you've probably been spending more time on LinkedIn updating your profile and expanding your network. The professional social network, which now boasts more than 100 million users, has a number of free tools and features to kick start your job search. But could one of its paid options give you the edge you need to land the perfect job?
Lewis Howes, LinkedIn expert and author of LinkedWorking: Generating Success On The World's Largest Professional Networking Website, says that paid account or not, the goals of what you do on LinkedIn are the same. "It's important for job seekers to understand how to build quality relationships that add value to the decision makers at the companies they want to work for the most," he says.
Here's what you need to know about LinkedIn's three paid options, and how they differ from what you can get for free.
Free vs. Paid LinkedIn Accounts: Key Features
In many instances, LinkedIn's free account offers you just a taste of the extended features in its paid accounts. Here are a few of the top perks:
See who's viewed your profile: This feature, located on the right-side about halfway down when you log in to LinkedIn, gives you some detail about who's checked out your profile. Usually you'll receive a handful of names—sometimes anonymous, sometimes not—as well as how often your profile has shown up in search and how many views your profile has received.
If you upgrade to one of the paid accounts, LinkedIn gives you access to more information, including the top search keywords people used to find you, your viewers by industry and geography, and the full list of people who have viewed your profile.
[Want more LinkedIn tips, tricks and analysis? Check out CIO.com's LinkedIn Bible.]
Search by salary: When you search for jobs on LinkedIn, you're able to narrow the field by a number of filters including location, job function, company, the date the listing was posted and more. If you upgrade to a paid account, LinkedIn gives you the added option of searching by salary.
Move to the top of the list: When you upgrade to a paid account, you're moved to the top of the list when you apply for jobs. This feature was introduced two years ago and helps you stand out more with hiring managers.
Send InMails: InMail is a feature available in only two of the three paid LinkedIn accounts, which lets you directly message anyone on LinkedIn. If you have a free account, the contact first has to accept your invitation to connect before you're able to message him. With a paid account, you can send InMails to perspective contacts without first having to be connected.
Howes says that while InMails can have advantages, you can still obtain the same value from the free LinkedIn accounts. "There are ways to connect with decision makers by simply growing your personal network on LinkedIn. Getting introductions [through your existing connections] add more credibility and social proof than simply reaching out by yourself," he says.
For the complete list of features for paid accounts, check out LinkedIn's upgrade page.
Differences Among Paid LinkedIn Accounts
LinkedIn has three types of paid accounts: "Job Seeker Basic," "Job Seeker" and "Job Seeker Plus." Each includes the features mentioned above, with the exception of InMails (noted below). Here's how the three differ:
Job Seeker Basic
Price: $19.95/month on a monthly basis; $15.95/month when paid in full.
Company Introductions: 10
Price: $29.95/month on a monthly basis; $24.95/month when paid in full.
InMails: 5 per month
Company Introductions: 15
Job Seeker Plus
Price: $49.95/month on a monthly basis; $39.95/month when paid in full.
InMails: 10 per month
Company Introductions: 25
Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and enterprise collaboration for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at firstname.lastname@example.org