First impressions matter, and your LinkedIn profile is often someone’s first (or second) impression of you when cultivating a professional relationship. Your profile is an important part of your personal brand and since you have complete control over what to include, it’s up to you to put your best foot forward in every section.
A strong profile requires not only thoughtful content, but also ongoing maintenance at every career stage. Missteps with your profile may negatively affect how others see you and even unwittingly damage your credibility. However, for any LinkedIn profile mistakes you make, there’s an easy remedy, which can ultimately strengthen your professional image.
LinkedIn Profile Mistakes
Get ready to fix your LinkedIn profile if you:
- Post a poor headshot or none at all. You lower the likelihood that your profile will be viewed by omitting a picture. According to LinkedIn’s official blog, “Members who include a profile photo receive 21x more profile views and up to 36x more messages.” Excluding a headshot also makes it harder for someone to identify you after you’ve met in person.Posting a poor headshot won’t help profile views either. Change your headshot if your image:
• Includes a pet, child or anyone else;
• Shows you on a beach, golf course or mountaintop;
• Is a group shot or shows you clearly cropped from a group shot;
• Is blurry or low-resolution;
• Is an outdated representation of you (be honest with yourself here);
• Includes you in sunglasses;
• Was taken with a webcam and you’re looking down instead of straight ahead;
• Shows you with a drink in hand at a party;
• Was taken at a formal event and you’re wearing a tux or gown;
• Shows an awkward pose or head tilt.
- • Includes a pet, child or anyone else;
- Have outdated information under Experience. Your profile should show your current position and organization. If you’ve been the Senior Vice President of Marketing for the past 2 years, it doesn’t reflect well on your personal brand (or your company’s) if you’re still listed as the Director of Marketing. Similarly, if you’ve had a new job for six months, your profile shouldn’t show that you’re still employed by your former firm.
- Exclude board positions. Whether you serve on a board of a nonprofit or public or private company, if you omit this information, you miss out on showing a unique aspect of you as a professional – one which may positively impact credibility and opportunities. Furthermore, it augments your skill set and experience and demonstrates a higher level of responsibility.
- Include your work email address. Generally speaking, provide a personal email instead of an employer-linked one (unless you own your company). Since LinkedIn is a common channel for job opportunities (even when you’re not looking), don’t offer to communicate about a potential opportunity with a recruiter or anyone else using your work email (through LinkedIn or elsewhere).
- Only include a job title in your headline. A title alone doesn’t provide enough information about you, especially if you work at a lesser-known organization (e.g. Director at Smith Company). Your headline helps others gain a quick sense of who you are, so take advantage of the 120 characters available. When you appear in search results, an informative headline is key to entice others to click to your profile (note, however, that your headline is somewhat truncated on a search results page). Describe your specialty, noteworthy results you drive and if you have an industry or functional expertise, all of which inform and entice readers to learn more.
- Have a very brief Summary that doesn’t tell your story. Providing an overview of your company or the products you sell does little to introduce who you are and capture attention. Your summary – written in paragraphs, bullets or a combination of the two – should communicate your value and include key points you’d like others (i.e., potential and existing business contacts, employers, clients, media, vendors) to know about you. Moreover, the first two lines, visible when someone lands on your profile, are critical. Your message should have impact and compel readers to click on, “See More.”
- Write your Summary in third person. Your profile is not a bio on a company website and shouldn’t be written like one. Rather, it’s your calling card and contains information you choose to include. Own the voice and write it in either the first person or use imperative, action-oriented statements (akin to resume writing). Don’t use third person. LinkedIn is not telling others about you; you’re telling others about yourself via LinkedIn.
- Exclude key certifications and licenses. Exposure (or lack thereof) in search results may impact your consideration for a job, business or speaking opportunity. Including CPA credentials, FINRA licenses, PMP or Six Sigma Black Belt certification, state bar admissions etc., not only enhances your credibility and qualifications in the eyes of others, it also increases the chance you’ll appear in relevant keyword searches.
- Include typos. This may seem obvious, yet it bears mentioning because countless profiles still have glaring mistakes! Even small errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation (especially in sections like headlines and summaries) can pose a distraction to readers, signal carelessness and call into question your attention to detail. Just as you’d carefully proofread a resume, bio or any important business communication, take care with writing your LinkedIn profile. No matter how strong your experience is, poorly written content can undermine your qualifications and damage the impression you make.
- Leave off your undergrad degree and only include a graduate degree (or vice versa). Alumni networks are ripe with opportunity to build new connections and reacquaint with older ones. By omitting college/university information, you lose out on potential chances to connect to former classmates, find commonality before meetings/interviews and facilitate key introductions via shared connections. (This can be true for many secondary school affiliations as well.)
LinkedIn profile mistakes, however small, can negatively influence the impression you make on others and cause you to lose out on potential business opportunities, jobs, board roles, speaking engagements and chances to serve as a media source. By correcting course and providing a compelling snapshot of who you are today, you’ll establish and reinforce strong, positive professional visibility, which – in contrast – can lead to valuable connections and opportunities.