By Bob McIntosh
I’ve written or critiqued hundreds of LinkedIn profiles in my role as a career coach. Whether this impresses you matters not. I only mention this to let you know I’ve seen brilliant, so-so, and downright terrible profiles. In this article I’m going to address what makes a profile terrible.
Don’t be offended if your profile falls under the following faux pas; not everyone has the gift to write their own powerful profile. Nor do they have the resources to hire a professional resume/LinkedIn profile writer (the two are mutually exclusive).
Let’s start at the top.
A painful background image
I experimented by searching for a Project Manager to see what the first profile would have for a background image. Much to my dismay the first one at the top of my list had the default one LinkedIn provides (below).
I say “dismay” because the person whose profile sports this background image presents an outstanding photo, which I’d show you if I weren’t afraid of retribution from said person. Why didn’t this person finish the job? Said person could have Googled “LinkedIn background images” to find a free one.
A painful photo
There are numerous photos that I find painful. Here they are in no particular order:
- The imposter. This photo is 10 to 20 years old. Come on, we al realize that people age. I’m not satisfied with the photo that depicts my age, but it is what it is.
- The over-the-top photo. You know these photos of people who are trying too hard to impress us with their creativity.
- The group photo. Not really a showing the group but someone who has an arm draped over their shoulder.
- The blurry photo. I can’t make out who the person is. This shows they don’t care about quality.
- The selfie. I’ve seen photos of people shooting selfies in their car.
These are only a few of the photos that make reading a profile painful. Trust me, it’s worth investing some money in your photo; it’s part of your personal branding.
A painful Headline
Some will tell you that the Headline is the most important section of your profile. In a poll I conducted on LinkedIn, 46% out of 1,176 voters concluded that the Headline is more important than the Experience (30%) and About (24%) sections.
I wouldn’t neglect this section if I were you. This is prime real estate that is weighed heavier than others in terms of keywords. Read this article if you need ideas on how to write your Headline: Is your LinkedIn profile Headline memorable? 5 ways to write it
A few painful Headlines include:
- Unemployed statement. Writing that you’re Unemployed, Seeking Employment, Open to New Opportunities, etc. do nothing for your branding. Save that valuable space by using the Open to Work badge LinkedIn provides.
- Your title and current employer only. If you have enough remaining space to show your value, it’s fine to state this. But it’s more important that you have keywords that help others find you. A branding statement is helpful, as well.
- The scatter-brained Headline. This Headline gives readers no idea what you do or want to do. Visitors must have a clear vision of your career direction and areas of expertise at least.
Here’s one from Elise Finn which is nicely written*
Director and Co-Founder of Nkuzi Change – helping large organisations unlock the potential of Middle Leaders through Coaching | Leadership Coach | Senior Exec in FTSE 100 Companies | She/Her
And read some of the best Headlines here.
A painful About section
Although the poll mentioned above might indicate your About section isn’t as important as the other two, it is extremely important. So don’t fudge on this one. The About section is read by people who want to know your story; it’s where you can describe your passion, excellence, and voice.
A painful About section looks like this:
- It’s your resume’s Summary. Enough said on this. I can see a person’s resume Summary a mile away. It’s short and devoid of first-person point of view and sometimes is full of cliches.
- It’s too brief. I wouldn’t assume that your About section should be as long as mine, but I will advise that it provides some value. Some visitors find this section to be of most interest, so don’t disappoint.
- It’s too dense. When I see a paragraph that’s 10 lines long, I ignore it. If I want to read something that long, I’ll read Moby Dick.
- There are too many keywords. Some people like to cram as many keywords in their About section in order to be found by recruiters who are looking for particular skills. It’s best to sprinkle them throughout your profile to create a flowing document.
I wrote a recent, comprehensive post on what a strong About section looks like, so I won’t go into great detail about what to include in yours.
A painful Activity section
If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, it means you’re not using LinkedIn for one of it’s greatest assets; allowing you to be heard. This is where I like to see that people have shared long posts, commented on what others have written, created polls, maybe written articles.
Read an article I wrote on 10 easy tips on how to communicate with LinkedIn members. In it I explain how to make your voice heard on LinkedIn through the aforementioned paragraphs.
A painful Experience section
This section is one of the most neglected ones on a LinkedIn profile. And I don’t understand why. Here’s where you can really tout your greatness through accomplishments that are hopefully quantified. If not quantified, you can qualify them using first-person point of view.
A painful Experience section looks like this:
- Only includes the bare basics. This means one’s title, place of employment, and months and years of tenure. Come on, show me the money! Give me some description.
- Like About, it’s the resume’s Experience section. Here’s where you want to include only the best of the rest. In other words, highlight the accomplishments and the accomplishments only. If you have mundane duties on your resume, no need to mention them here.
- It shows no character. Start creating your profile by copying and pasting your resume content to it, but then personalize it with, you guessed it, first-person point of view.
For example, “The team I lead keys into the business priorities, builds learning experiences to amplify the superpowers of the organization, and crafts engagement experiences to retain and celebrate the employees who achieve incredible results. We have such a blast making Inspire a place where people feel connected and are stretched to reach new heights.” ~Madeline Mann
- You don’t utilize keywords. This is similar to your Headline where you simply write, “CEO at ABC Company.” Boring. Instead, write, “CEO at ABC Company ~ New Business Development | Global Strategic Relationships | Marketing and Sales“
This article explains why you should ignore your Experience section.
A painful Education Section
Yes, your Education section can be painful. Many assume that LinkedIn wants you to write this section like it would appear on your resume. Wrong. You want to put some detail into it.
This is painful:
University of Massachusetts
Bachelor’s Degree, English
Here’s my colleague Stacy Thompson‘s profile’s Education section, which is much better:
Bachelor of Arts Field Of Study Sociology, Pre-Law
Activities and Societies: Undergraduate Government of Boston College, AHANA Leadership Council-Event Planning Director, Voices of Imani Gospel Choir
Member of the Undergraduate Government
AHANA Leadership Council Member
AHANA Leadership Council Assist Director Event Planning
AHANA Leadership Council Director, Event Planning
Voices of Imani Member, Leadership Role
In case you’re wondering, AHANA stands for: African, Hispanic, Asian and Native American descent. I’m proud to say that Stacey is a member of our city’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee.
A painful Recommendations section
I include this section because Recommendations (section) doesn’t get the respect it deserves. I recall when this section was considered to be one of the most popular among recruiters. Now it’s anchored in the basement.
Skills and Endorsements took its place as one of the criteria to have an All Star profile. Now S and E is also in the basement. There’s justice for you.
A painful Recommendation section looks like this:
- Poorly written recommendations. There are multiple typos and grammatical mistakes. Sharing them is just as much your mistake as the writer’s. You have the ability to send them back for revision.
- This section is all about you. So you have 20 recommendations. Great. But how many have you written for others? Are there crickets going off in your head?
- You got nothing. You’re so afraid of asking for recommendations that you literally have none to show. Which leads to….
- They’re old. The recommendations you have were written for you when you last looked for work, which was 10 years ago.
You might hate me for pointing out the faults of your profile, but I’m not writing this article for love. I’m writing it to make you better. When you write a strong profile–or have someone do it–it makes you think of your greatness. You need to think about your greatness.
*Elise has changed her Headline after this writing to include a tagline at the beginning of her Headline.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com