LinkedIn Headlines

LinkedIn Headlines: What Not To Do

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There are certain areas that always seem to cause controversy when training people on using LinkedIn.

The first area of controversy is about profile pictures. But the second, and I think most misunderstood area, is your professional headline.

Your headline is the area just below your name in the top-most blue box of your profile. Every time you send an invitation to connect, or send an inMail, or comment in a group, your headline appears below your name.

So, assuming your first impression with a recruiter is probably going to be on LinkedIn, those first 120 characters must have sufficient impact and clarity.

In reviewing many LinkedIn profiles over the years, and more recently getting to know the recruiting industry well, I can tell you the key points you need to know when writing or editing your headline.

LinkedIn Headline Basics

First, there is no magic formula. I’ve seen LinkedIn trainers build apps and even invent mix-and-match charts to help you write your headline.

It’s not that hard if you think about this from the point of view of your audience. After all, when you use social media, you are a publisher!

Write With Clarity

Remember recruiters are busy. Some headlines are so nebulous and non-specific that it’s hard for me to understand precisely what that person does. A vague or overly creative headline causes two major problems.

One, a creatively written headline probably lacks certain keywords or phrases that recruiters search for.

Two, people looking to fill positions are busy people. They don’t have the time to translate the meaning of “I help companies with go-to-market planning.”

You’ve got less than 10 seconds to get them to click on your profile from a search results page with a long list of your competitors.

Here’s the fix: clearly and concisely state your job title as it is described by your target organization. If you are currently employed, you should also note this in your headline.

Write For Impact

While it’s important to clearly state your job title, there is no way your title will take up all 120 characters available to you in the headline area.

And because the headline is your first impression, you have to find a way to differentiate yourself with a little personality.

For example let’s take our earlier headline and spruce it up a bit:

Senior Marketing Executive experienced in go-to-market planning in the software industry with a knack for adding excitement to business solutions

Are you addressing a need?

All this creative work is great, but it goes only so far if you haven’t uncovered the needs of your target organization.

In our example, although it’s a great LinkedIn headline, it would fall short if this person’s target company doesn’t need a strong go-to-market strategy – what if what they need is a marketing analyst?

Avoid the two extremes of too simple or too creative and give those recruiters a break. They will thank you for it!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Joshua Waldman

Author of Job Searching with Social Media For Dummies, Joshua is recognized as the authority for helping people find work using social media. His blog, Careerenlightenment.com, won the 2013 About.com Reader's Choice award for best career blog for original content.

5 comments

  1. I’ve heard both Victoria’s position and the opposite position from internal and external recruiters. Which makes it all very subjective and confusing. Perhaps a discussion on how recruiters search in the first place with that information provided by an actual recruiter who is currently doing that job would be even more helpful.
    However, I agree with her request to provide us with what you feel is a better LinkedIn headline in the example you gave. That would be very helpful.

  2. there is no place named headline in the edit your profile (conversely you could use, or reference what LinkedIn calls this line), the reference to the blue section that some one else sees is unhelpful when looking at my own profile, a snap shot or screen capture picture would be much more helpful to locate, check and improve my headline, the ideas are great but if they get lost in the implementation, ultimately they are of no help.

  3. Joshua, stating your job title or company name in your headline is a poor strategy. Recruiters/hiring managers/et al don’t know you yet. You’re merely a stat at this point…just someone who popped up on their radar. They don’t know you, they don’t know your job, they may not even know of your company, so these items do zilch for you in search. With this approach, you take up valuable real estate much better used by strong keywords. The rest of the profile can flesh out what you do and where. And stating in your headline that you are ‘currently employed’? Ludicrous. The recruiter can determine this by reviewing your job experience.

    Additionally, your sample headline is not “a great LinkedIn headline”. In fact, it couldn’t possibly work under any circumstance, let alone for the reasons you mention, since it is 145 characters – 25 over the character limit. And it would have been nice to see how you would have suggested your client reword this headline to make it workable. You kind of left us hanging there:)

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