Are You Making These 8 Mistakes With Your LinkedIn Profile?

Katie Taylor Updated on July 10, 2018

You know what they say about first impressions, right? 

Well, there's a good chance you're making a first impression at this very moment, and you might not be coming off as well as you'd like. Recruiters are increasingly using LinkedIn to vet employment candidates, so having a great LinkedIn profile isn't just a vanity project. It's vital to your career. 

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How to write your best LinkedIn profile ever

The best LinkedIn profiles get people work—sometimes without even requiring an interview. Lucky for you, we're sharing some of the most common LinkedIn mistakes and tips for correcting them so you can make a good impression every time. 

1. Using an unprofessional photo

Your hair looks fabulous in the beach shot from your sister's wedding, and you can hardly tell that you cropped your cousin out of the frame. It's a great profile pic, right? 

Wrong. 

You don't have to go hire a professional photographer, but you do need a photograph with a professional tone. That means no beaches, no bars, no pets, no other people. And no looking off into the horizon. 

2. Filling the page with buzzwords or boilerplate

No one wants to read about how you "bring synergy to a team" or are a "self-starter." Writing about yourself and your skills can be challenging, so it's not surprising that lots of people end up using these tired phrases that don't really say who you are. 

One trick: enlist someone else to listen as you talk about what your best qualities are on the job. Have them ask questions and take notes. Use those to create a profile that sounds like you. Many of us get a bit stilted when we're writing, but when we talk out loud, we keep a real-life conversational tone. 

See also: 80% of Millennials Who Ask For a Raise Get One—Here's How to Get Yours

3. Leaving out important career information 

LinkedIn doesn't put a limit on how many words you can put into your profile, so your career history should contain a lot more than a job title and the time period you worked there—which tells a recruiter exactly nothing about why they might want to hire you. 

Under each job listing, describe not just what you did, but what your accomplishments were. So instead of saying this: 

  • Ran annual fundraising gala
  • Updated online donor management system  
  • Sent out monthly newsletter

Your bullets might say: 

  • Managed design and implementation of annual fundraising gala that raised $250,000, a 12% increase over previous years
  • Updated online donor management system to reduce staff hours spent on data entry and increase transparency, and
  • Designed and wrote monthly digital newsletter to 6000-member list (One donor replied that it was her favorite email of the month!).

Don't be afraid to tout your successes—and use real metrics whenever you can.

4. Using the third person 

Do not create even the slightest fear in a recruiter's or future employer's mind that they might be end up hiring someone who will walk around the office talking about themselves in the third person. "Angie's excited about the new marketing proposal," should never be said by anyone whose name is Angie.

Your LinkedIn profile is YOUR LinkedIn profile. It's not someone else's who writes about you. Write in the first person. 

As a reminder, the first-person is when you use "I." So no, Angie did not launch a new marketing campaign, YOU did. Or "I" did. (OK, we both did. Go us!) 

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5. Ignoring the headline

Should you use your current job title as your LinkedIn headline? 

Not if your current job title is Project Manager Level I. 

Just like in an article, your LinkedIn headline draws in a potential reader. Use it to talk about who you are. Here are a couple good LinkedIn headline examples:

If you are, in fact, a project manager, your headline could read "Helping Big Ideas Become Big Revenue as a Project Manager." You've shown someone who is landing on your LinkedIn page that you're passionate about the process of bringing projects to fruition and that you understand what's important to their business—revenue.

If you're received awards or had significant accomplishments, your headline is a great place to show those off. For instance, you might say "#1 Sales Team Leader at Oracle Since 2015."  They'll know they're looking at the best.

6. Skipping the summary

You know how you skim the first paragraph of an article to see if you want to read it? 

The person who might hire you is doing the same thing with LinkedIn profiles. If they make it past the headline, they jump to the summary to see if there's anything interesting there. 

If you're wondering how to write a LinkedIn summary that will grab someone's attention, here's a hint: use this space to talk about the benefits that come to people who work with you. Of course, you'll do a bit of that by talking about yourself, but a focus on your future employer (or client) gets them thinking about all the ways you could help them. Here's an example. 

"I'm a project manager with a passion for bringing complex apps out of the minds of their developers and into the hands of their customers. I've helped three startups build apps that made it to the front page of the Apple App Store, and all my clients beat their go-to-market deadlines." 

See also: Should You Quit Your Job? 6 Questions to Ask Yourself

7. Not having recommendations

In the age of Yelp, Amazon Reviews and Rotten Tomatoes, most of us don't do much without finding out whether other folks think our choice is a solid one. LinkedIn is no different. You need some reviews to let potential employers know you're not just making up all the great things you said about yourself. 

So how do you get recommendations? Two ways:

  1. Leave them for other people (they'll return the favor), and 
  2. Send a quick note to previous employers asking for them.  

You can even leave a review for a boss. Make sure it's detailed and unique. Don't write, "Dan was great to work for." Instead, you might say, "I was on Dan's team at Factory B for three years, and we never missed a deadline. Even when vendor orders were delayed and a customer changed specs at the last minute, Dan remained a calm and inspiring manager. We all wanted to be better employees when we were working with him." 

8. Forgetting to proofread

You wouldn't turn in an assignment without thoroughly checking it for errors (we hope). The same goes for your LinkedIn profile. Nothing will turn off a potential employer like a summary littered with typos and grammatical errors. It screams, "I just don't care that much"—not exactly the message you want to send. 

Whatever your career aspirations, having a professional LinkedIn profile is non-negotiable. Set aside an hour or two to go through these tips and update your profile so that it'll call out to potential employers. 

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About the Author
Katie Taylor

Katie Taylor is a content writer and editor with expertise in law and policy, finance, and entrepreneurship. She writes for startups and small businesses about everything from bookkeeping to telecom. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post and SheKnows.com. She is continuing to pay off law school loans and lives in Richmond, Vermont with her wife, son, and an unruly dog. Read more by Katie Taylor

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