Tips from 6 pros on how to write a winning LinkedIn profile

When you think about what makes a winning LinkedIn Profile, what comes to mind? Is it the first impression—background image, headshot, and Headline—the About, Experience and Volunteer sections, Skills & Endorsements, or Recommendations?

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Many people will agree that the Headline is key, as this is where you first tout your greatness. Others will say the About section rules; this is where you tell your story, including your why, who, what, and how. And Experience is where you elaborate on your accomplishments.

But there are many areas on your winning profile that show your greatness, and you should capitalize on them. This is what I impress upon my clients—use every section on your profile to show your greatness.

I asked five LinkedIn pros what comes to mind when they think of a winning profile. One of them writes of it from a recruiter’s point of view, another focuses on Skills & Endorsements, one equates it to a Swiss Army knife. Reading what they’ve written can help you create a winning profile.

We’ll start with our resident recruiter, Jack Kelly. He’s been with this series from the beginning: Tips from 5 pros on how to create content on LinkedIn and Tips from 6 pros on how to use LinkedIn to network.

Jack is a welcome contributor, as he provides the point of view of someone who reads profiles with the goal of hiring the right person. One of his tips to provide enough information in your experience section, lest you irritate the recruiter.

Jack Kelly, WeCruitr

Recruiters have their own opinion on what a LinkedIn profile should look like. When a recruiter has a job assignment from a company, usually it’s on a contingency basis.

This means that the recruiter is given permission to search for talent, but so are a number of other recruiters and the company itself.

The recruiter is in an intense race to find the best, most appropriate candidates before anyone else. If they can’t, the recruiter won’t earn anything for her time and efforts.

Since time is paramount, recruiters want to see a LinkedIn profile that clearly states the prospective candidate’s responsibilities. The summary should be an advertisement highlighting the specific amazing things they’ve accomplished.

Recruiters need to know exactly what the person’s title is, the name of the company he works for, how long they’ve been there, duties and crowning achievements. A recruiter will only spend about 30-seconds viewing this information. They don’t want to have to decipher what the person does.

As a recruiter, it’s frustrating to see a naked or barely dressed LinkedIn profile. You know the type—the person hastily slapped on his recent job without much, if any real effort or content.

You can quickly ascertain that he’s not too motivated or lacks attention to detail when the prior couple of jobs from five to ten years ago take up much of the real estate.

It’s unhelpful when the job responsibilities are vague. This is not supposed to be a guessing game. You’re not generating interest by purposely leaving vital information off of your profile. In fact, it’s annoying and irritating and a turn-off to recruiters.

You have to ensure there are relevant, industry-specific recognized keywords on your profile. When recruiters search on LinkedIn, they are purposely seeking out people who have on-target skills, experience and background.

Don’t use buzzwords like “results-driven,” “self-starter,” and “highly motivated.” Instead offer details on the successful projects you spearheaded, your achievements in your field and the value you added to your employers.

It’s not a good look when there’s no photo. If a recruiter sees a picture of a sports team logo, car or one with his girlfriend, there’s a strike against him. You should come across likeable in the picture. It’s not a deal-killer if you don’t, but recruiters are only human.

Recruiters know that their corporate clients desire candidates that show evidence of a progressive career arc. They’re not excited about someone who has held the same job for ten years or longer without any promotions.

They don’t want to see too many job switches. This seems unfair, and it is. However, the recruiters know that companies are leery of people who move too often. They fear that the applicant may be a flight risk and leave after only a year or two.

Hiring managers worry that maybe there’s a negative reason for the person constantly moving. It’s known within recruiter circles that there are people who are amazing at selling themselves on interviews and getting the job, but terrible at keeping their job. They’d prefer a person who has shown stability and loyalty.

Biron Clark also contributed to all three of the articles in this series. For his piece, he covered the key components of the LinkedIn profile. One tip he imparts is to focus on the sections of your profile that will be viewed with more frequency. Another is to keep your paragraphs short for better readability. This tip resonates with me and is one I impart on my clients.

Biron Clark,

Not all sections of your LinkedIn profile are viewed with equal frequency, so you should focus your attention on the areas that get seen most. These provide the biggest opportunities for “quick wins” when updating your LinkedIn profile.

The first section that comes to mind is your LinkedIn headline. Your headline shows up in search results even before someone decides whether to click on your profile or not.

It’s also shown when you share a post or comment on someone else’s post.

A LinkedIn headline is like your online elevator pitch. It’s what people see first, and what they make an initial judgment with, so spend a good amount of time here.

Make sure you have a friendly, professional-looking profile photo, too.

Next, focus on your “About” section and your “Experience” section. These sections both appear high on a profile and are frequently viewed.

I recommend using very short paragraphs or bullet points to make the content eye-catching and skimmable. People don’t like to read long paragraphs on LinkedIn, generally, so break your paragraphs into smaller pieces.

Next, take advantage of the LinkedIn “Skills” section, which provides up to 50 slots for you to enter skills that also serve as LinkedIn profile keywords.

Finally, get at least one LinkedIn recommendation written by a colleague. Most job seekers still have no recommendations on their profile (just skill endorsements, which are different), so you’ll stand out immediately if you have at least one recommendation.

As you write all of the sections above, think about your target audience.

What do they care about? What do they find relevant?

Your LinkedIn profile is a marketing tool to help you attract your ideal audience, so you need to write it with your target reader in mind. Before you take action on anything above, sit down and think about who you want to respond to your profile, and what factors they’d respond best to!

Your Skills & Endorsements section is more important than you might think. This is what Susan Joyce tells us. Your skills are one of the criteria recruiters use to determine if you’re going forward in the hiring process. And endorsements do matter.

Susan Joyce,

For a winning LinkedIn profile, focus on building the “Skills & Endorsements” section of your profile! This is an easy section to ignore. Don’t, especially when job searching!

Your profile must have at least 5 skills before it can qualify as “All Star.” An All-Star profile has much greater visibility in LinkedIn than other profiles, resulting in many more opportunities.

Three skills are visible on your profile, and you choose them. These 3 skills are more likely to receive endorsement votes than the others which require someone to click “Show more” to see them.

Increased LinkedIn Recruiter Visibility

The reason skills are required for All Star? Skills are one of the primary search criteria in LinkedIn Recruiter when recruiters search for qualified job candidates. If you do not have many in-demand skills on your profile, or many endorsements for the skills you claim, your profile will not be very visible in LinkedIn Recruiter’s search results.

Your Skills

Review the job requirements for the job you want next. Pick the skills you have which are in greatest demand for your target job.

Increase your credibility by getting endorsed for those skills. The best endorsements, when appropriate, are highlighted by LinkedIn as:

  • Endorsements by members who have several endorsements for the skill are viewed as “highly skilled at this.”
  • Endorsements by colleagues from the same employer.

LinkedIn allows you to have up to 50 skills – very important keywords in LinkedIn Recruiter!

Getting Endorsements

Only first-degree connections can endorse you for a skill. Often, reciprocity works. You endorse a colleague or friend for their skills, and they demonstrate their gratitude by endorsing you for your skills. You can also reach out, and ask someone to endorse you, especially after you have endorsed them.

Types of Endorsements

In 2020, LinkedIn added skill-level options (“Good” “Very good” “Highly skilled”). LinkedIn also began requiring members indicate how they know someone actually has the skill when endorsing them (“Worked together directly” “Managed the member” “Reported to the member” “Worked together indirectly” “Heard about the member’s skills from others” “None of the above”).

Skills Assessments

In September 2019, LinkedIn added “Skills Assessments,” visible as the “Skills Quiz” option in Skills & Endorsements. Passing the quiz and receiving the skill badge to add to a profile increases credibility and helps demonstrate to employers the member has that skill.

Skills Quizzes are being rolled out gradually, expanding the number of skills and the languages for the tests. You have 2 opportunities to take the quiz on a particular topic, answering 15 multiple choice questions in 22 minutes or less.

Of course, LinkedIn would be very happy if you participated in LinkedIn Learning to increase your skills.

Endorsements Are Not Recommendations

On LinkedIn, do NOT confuse “endorsements” with “recommendations.” Recommendations are short paragraphs written by someone attesting to the high quality of your work and included in the “Recommendations” section of your profile.  While recruiters find these written recommendations very useful, LinkedIn does require them for All Star.

To read more about Skills and Endorsements read this article.

Madeline Mann writes about a very specific topic; your location. I have to admit that I overlook this important aspect of a winning LinkedIn profile. It’s not necessarily where you live; it’s where you want to work that’s important, according to Madeline. She also sees value in the Skills and Endorsements section.

Madeline Mann,

LinkedIn is a search engine that can help opportunities come to you, so it is crucial that you are optimizing every aspect of it. There are two areas of the profile that are highly influential to showing up in search, yet they are often overlooked.

The first place to optimize is your location. Candidates who have the same location as the person who is searching are much more likely to show up in the search. Therefore if you’re trying to get a job in another city, make your location that city.

I have a client who resides on the East Coast but frequently comes to the West Coast to work with her clients and is interested in possibly relocating here for a full time job. Anyone searching for executives in Los Angeles would never see her profile since it says she is on the East Coast, and so to tap into those opportunities she changed her location to Los Angeles.

She included in her About section that she lives a bicoastal lifestyle and in her interviews explains her setup. This is not seen as dishonest, they are actually glad that she made it apparent that she is so open to relocation. So be strategic about your location.

Second, consider your Skills & Endorsements section. That’s right, that section down at the bottom of your profile in the nose bleed seats, where people endorse you for different skills. This is one of the highest predictors that you will show up in a search. Put key skills from you profession in this section. For inspiration, go to the profiles of professionals who have the same job as you and see which skills they have.

You can have up to 50 skills but still delete any that are unrelated to your work. Pin your top 3 most important skills to the top of endorsements to encourage more people to endorse you for them, even if others are endorsed more. And the best way to get endorsements? Endorse others!

To know more changes to make on the rest of your profile, grab this LinkedIn Profile Checklist.

Do you have a Swiss Army Knife. I used to own one but have since lost it. Sonal Bahl equates your LinkedIn profile to this incredibly versatile tool. I’m happy that Sonal agreed to contribute to this article, as she mentions some very important aspects of your profile. I love the point she makes about your profile not being your resume.

Sonal Bahl,

Your LinkedIn Profile: The Swiss Army Knife

We’ve all heard about the incredible utility of the Swiss Army Knife, and since the 1880’s, you can use it to punch files, cut, open a wine bottle or a can…and so much more. The epitome of design and utility, multiple uses in one.

Well, LinkedIn has been around since the early 2000’s, and your LinkedIn profile is the Swiss Army Knife of social media profiles! Except it won’t throw you back a pretty penny.

Now before you brush me aside with your cynical pish posh, let’s dive in and break some of those myths that convince you that your LinkedIn profile is ‘good enough’:

1. Your website: If you don’t have a website, fret not. Your LinkedIn profile is your little space on the interweb. Imagery and visuals like a clean and attractive headshot, as well as a banner in the background, welcomes the visitor and draws them in to ‘read more’.

Think ‘about’ section of a website. What can really help is a nice profile picture. Studies have shown that a profile pic results in 21 times more profile views and 9 times more connection requests. Website, check.

2. Sales landing page: I know what you’re thinking, “I’m not selling something, I’m not a business owner.” Shhhh, don’t ever say that out loud, ever again. You’re selling your skills, your personality, your experience, towards the next opportunity.

Your ‘headline’ and ‘about’ section, when beautifully sprinkled with keywords that are used to search for someone like you, are all about what you can do for them. Sales page, check.

3. Blog: want to write an article? LinkedIn is still a great place to do so. Never mind that articles on LinkedIn don’t get as many views as some years ago, the purpose isn’t to show what you know, but to show authority and expertise in what you know.

And articles are evergreen with a much longer shelf life than posts, which in essence are short form blogs. Blog, check.

4. Resume: your work experience section comes to life on your LinkedIn profile! But for heaven’s sake, please don’t copy paste everything from your resume. Instead, tell a story, explain your top achievement, how you grew within the company, how you helped people and revenues to grow. Think: short, easy to read bullets. Resume, check.

5. Background check: Is your recommendation section vacant? Think Amazon reviews, but about you. When was the last time you bought something on Amazon with zero reviews. Exactly. Get cracking, ask 10 people who have praised your work in the past, to document their praise on your profile. Background check, check.

6. Trophy case: received some awards or got some accomplishments you’re particularly proud of? Use that section, and don’t be shy! Trophy case, check

7. CSR page: done your own version of corporate social responsibility like volunteering at a school or working for the underprivileged? Mention it, own it and share it with pride! A study 5 years ago stated that 41% of hiring managers value volunteer experience at the same level as paid experience.

I hope I have convinced you of the gold you’re sitting on, in terms of your LinkedIn profile. If you needed one more reason, consider this: An original Swiss army knife can retail for anything from $100-$1000. Your LinkedIn profile is free. And the outcome of a ‘sharp’ LinkedIn profile? Priceless.

Bob McIntosh,

Your winning LinkedIn profile is about your personal brand. First we need to agree with the definition of “personal brand.” One aspect of it is that it’s humanizing. Another is that it defines your greatness. Lastly, it’s consistent. Anything less is empty words on the screen.

There are four areas on your profile that demonstrate your personal brand:

1. I call it your background image. Often overlooked, it is the first thing that brands you, unless you have the default image LinkedIn provides in its place. If this is the case, you’re not thinking about your personal brand.

Ideally your background image illustrates your industry or something of interest. A double whammy if it does both. I had a client who worked for the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) as a marketer. Her background image showed her with the mountains in the background. Perfect.

2. Most people see the profile Headline as the most important section of your profile. What your Headline needs to achieve in branding you is delivering your greatness in 260 words or less. I had a group of eight people select from 86 Headlines the 10 best ones.

Here’s one that includes the required keywords to be found as well as a powerful branding statement:

Lezlie Garr Career Change Advocate | Certified Career Transition Coach & Resume Writer | LinkedIn, Interview & Job Search Strategist | I help ambitious professionals shift out of soul-sucking work and into meaningful careers

3. Perhaps the place where you can best brand yourself is your About section. The reason I say this is because it, more than any other section, allows you to show the human side of you while also demonstrating your greatness through accomplishments (the what and how).

In a recent article I wrote, I talk about how the first three lines of your About section need to capture the reader’s attention. Explain in first-person point of view your passion or what drives you. Now back it up with some accomplishments that prove this. I call this branding.

4. Lastly, is your Experience section where you hit them over the head with your quantified results. Let’s say you increased efficiency 45% by improving manufacturing processes using Lean methodology. Now, that’s talking the talk and walking the walk.

Where’s the human element in your Experience section? Use first-person point of view. Start with a mission or job summary and continue the narrative with accomplishment statements written in first person. “I’m proud to have increased efficiency 45% by improving manufacturing processes using Lean methodology.”

In describing your greatness, make sure you’re consistent throughout your whole LinkedIn profile. This is how you’ll create a winning profile. Like Sonal Bahl says, “…You’re selling your skills, your personality, your experience, towards the next opportunity.”

Now check out the other two articles from this series:

Tips from 6 pros on how to use LinkedIn to network
Tips from 5 pros on how to create content on LinkedIn

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