The LinkedIn tools that I am going to describe are F-R-E-E with your F-R-E-E account (we like free). You may not find all of these tools suitable for your search strategy so I'll sort each tool in separate buckets making it easy for you to read and decide which ones you do want to use.
*IMPORTANT NOTE - If you have not created a well written profile read Alison Doyle's article called "LinkedIn Profile". At the time of this post Alison's LinkedIn profile ranked #6 when I did a Google search for "Alison Doyle".
Groups can strengthen and extend your existing network and link you to like-minded professionals. As a group member you can invite other members of your group to become part of your network. Once they accept your invite you'll have someone within your network who can "introduce" you to others within their network. Here's an example of how I would use my group during my job search.
Sally is a recruiter for a company that I would like to work for however; Sally is not part of my network nor is she part of my group. Robert is connected to Sally and Robert is a member of my group. I send Robert an invite and after he accepts the invite I can direct message him asking for an introduction to Sally. The concept is the same when you go to a party. If you want to meet someone you find someone you know at the party who knows that person and get an introduction.
Groups can also keep you updated on industry news and trends. You don't want to go into an interview using buzz words that are no longer in style or you're unfamiliar with the newest industry related technology, software, or best practices.
Being a member of a group also enables you to build your own social brand by starting conversations and commenting on other conversations. By contributing to group discussions you are displaying your knowledge around a particular topic. I am a member of a couple groups and I provide resume and cover letter writing ideas, job search techniques and other related topics to my group's discussion boards 1-3 times per week.
Some groups post job openings that a job seeker could be missing out on.
LinkedIn has over 12,000 groups with the keyword "jobs" that are all free to join. Don't be overwhelmed with the number. Choose your industry and then find 2 or 3 groups for job seekers that has the largest number of members.
Following Companies ("Company Pages")
The Company Page offers businesses a platform to present their brand and service. As a Recruiter I follow my competitors to see who was promoted and who departed. As a convenience I receive an email summarizing the company's activities and I am able to set the frequency of the emails. As a job seeker I would follow a company that I would like to work for to find decision makers and find new job opportunities. Someone who leaves a company may mean a new job opportunity for you. If you are connected you could send your resume and cover letter expressing an interest in applying for the role that John Doe vacated (provided you are qualified) before the position is posted externally.
LinkedIn profiles are searchable but in order to contact the user you must be connected directly. If my background or interest is IT and I am interested in connecting with IT recruiters I can find 44,000+ recruiters who recruit in the IT industry.
In my instance I have 12 recruiters in my network and 8, 562 recruiters who I have group relationships.
LinkedIn Answers is another space where you can build your own social brand by answering questions posted by others, showcase your knowledge and stay abreast of industry news.
Merely creating a LinkedIn account is not going to attract staffing personnel to your profile. You need to brand your profile, establish your credibility and connect with others. All of the features I mentioned will do that for you. And the beauty is all of them are free and low maintenance.
If you use LinkedIn please share your best practice(s) in the comment section below.