LinkedIn Summary

The Worst LinkedIn Summary Ever


Okay folks, I’m going to give it to you straight: There are certain phrases when used in a LinkedIn summary that have the same effect as nails on a chalkboard.

In other words, it’s such a turn-off as a hiring manager, it’s hard to focus on your profile as being credible after reading them. This is the profile summary someone asked me to review. I’ve underlined the phrases that make me want to cover my ears and run from my computer screen yelling, “NOOOOO. Not again!”

The Worst LinkedIn Summary

dynamic leader with the ability to drive change and proven track record of high accomplishments in various areas. Highly organized individual, believes in empowerment and team workhighly adaptable, strong business senseeffective communicatorresult-oriented, and can-do attitude.

What makes me cringe when I read this?

For starters, the person is being completely subjective. These aren’t facts about them (facts are backed by numbers and statistics). This summary is the person’s opinion of themselves – and it comes across as over-confident and canned. Honestly, it’s the worst use of a LinkedIn summary you can possible implement… especially during a job search.

If you are looking for a job in 2012, I am begging you not to ruin your profile with an unsubstantiated, over-used summary statement like this one.

What should be there instead?

Facts, facts, and more facts. Tell me about your accomplishments in as few words as possible, using numbers and statistics to support the truth. An example might be:

15+ years of experience leading teams of 10-200 staff members. Managed 30+ projects ranging from $100K-$1.7M in budget. 200+ hours of presenting and training on a wide variety of subjects including innovation, teamwork and project management.

See the difference?

In the original summary, the person is claiming to be all those things. In the revised summary they are proving it.

When it comes to your LinkedIn summary, remember you need to compel the reader to scroll down the page and look at your work history. These days, bragging won’t make that happen. Stating facts that entice them to see where you accomplished them will.

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CAREEREALISM Guidebook J.T. O'DonnellCAREEREALISM’s Founder, J.T. O’Donnell is a nationally syndicated career expert and workplace consultant who helps American workers of all ages find greater professional satisfaction. Her book, CAREEREALISM: The Smart Approach to a Satisfying Career, outlines her highly successful career-coaching methodology. Purchase her e-book of CAREEREALISM for only $9.95 by clicking here!


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J.T. O'Donnell

Job Search & Career Expert. Syndicated Speaker & Author. Wife. Mother. CEO of CAREEREALISM Media. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.


  1. The last time I was job hunting something hilarious happened to me. I was doing a lot of research on resumes, and leveraging yours to get greater notice. I came across some kind of article about “WORST WORDS TO USE ON YOUR RESUME.” And felt this twinge of panic, oh man, I better read it! Finished the article as was wowed, and continued researching. Within half an hour I found another article on another site saying “BEST BUZZWORDS FOR RESUMES.” Guess what? The lists shared about half the content.

    While I agree style is something you can use to HELP your resume, lets not forget a few simple things.

    At the end of the day, they are looking for YEARS IN THE FIELD, EDUCATION, BELLS AND WHISTLES. Style is like seasoning. Something might be still seasoned well but if it is a food you HATE it only helps marginally. While style is important because it is one thing you can control it is just a piece of the puzzle. In general I think quantifying success is smart, but at the same time I don’t think it will make or break you. Just a thought.

  2. I found this very interesting. Last year I was made redundant and was given career outplacement guidance as part of the package. I have always found it very hard to ‘sell’ myself as I was always taught to be deferential, but that gets you nowhere in today’s world, so I took the advice given and with the outplacement consultant wrote a new summary section to my CV and LinkedIn…. and guess what, it’s exactly in line with what you’re saying not to do.

    I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable with the ‘sell’ in my summary, but I am now wondering what to write. The example given is great, however, I’m trying to make a career change and therefore need to be more generic as I have to make it apparent that my skills and experience are transferable from my old role into the new direction I’m trying to take. This means to be specific as per the example would only lead recruiters/potential employers towards my old career not my new intended career direction.

    Any advice on how to pitch the summary in this circumstance? (which I think is also pertinent for those just starting out in the job market who don’t have the experience to write about in the summary section)

  3. On one side of the wall is a business with problems to solve, and people needed to work on these problems.

    You sit on the other side of the wall

    The wall is the HR department – clinging to the notion that the candidates can be identified by algorithms, web searches, recruiters who dont understand the problems of the industry.

    Stop wasting your time with recruiters, books, HR.

    In my field of optics, you could have spent all day at a recent trade show and talked to about 50 recruiters/HR people – you would have felt great but gotten no interviews past that stage becuase 3/4 of the jobs didnt exist. HR goes to trade shows just to be seen and “keep the candidate pipeline filled”

    Conversely, in three weeks, there is a local section of the professional organisation meeting where at least 10 company PRESIDENTS will be in attendance. Its free, and includes dinner, an hour of networking before, and another hour of networking after.

    Which one do you think you should attend??

  4. J.T.,

    So having updated my summary along the lines in this article, I’m wondering whether the equivalent “Summary statement” at the top of my resume should also be changed in the same way. Do you have any thoughts on that in this context?



  5. I just combine the two- if I’m going to say I’m a ‘good communicator’ or ‘team player’, I then give examples that prove these traits (therefore not making them subjective anymore). I agree that this article is very narrow in its approach to its audience- not all of us work in sales, or as managers, so we don’t all have fancy numbers/ stats/ figures to back up what we’re saying!

    I guess I’m doing alright, though- as a 22 year old university student, I’ve managed to pass interviews for my CELTA course (despite being the youngest one there), get teaching internships abroad, & already have my pick of graduate teaching jobs lined up (for once I graduate this summer). I’m not saying this to boast- just to prove that every ‘career expert’ has their own idea of what makes a good resume/ CV/ LI profile etc, but that being honest & straightforward about your achievements is usually the way to go!

    • Thanks for sharing your opinion. It’s always good to have another perspective in the conversation. Honesty really is the best policy!

  6. Thanks for the information. After reading it, I think I will change a little bit my summary… even though I’ve read somewhere else that it is important to have key words in the summary. May a mixture of both be the best option?

  7. Hey!

    Let’s not forget that this ‘opening para’ about the candidate was something insisted upon by the Recruiters!!! It is THEIR system of ‘word match’ that has created this culture where every candidate seeks to be the ‘ideal’ one… It is the ‘job profile’ published by companies/ recruiters that often start this way. Recruiters are known to say they have a short attention / time span, and so they would like a resume not more than, say 3 pages long… Well, the job requirement/ description is sometimes 5 pages! So if you want to live up to the ‘word search’ principle, you’d have to add much of this into your resume, right? Then imagine the extra length for ACTUAL information on job changes, actual experience, skill set, white space for convenient reading…etc etc…

    Btw, there are indeed some people who are ‘all that’! It is just unfortunate that those are now lost because recruiters – writing articles like these 10 years ago – have made everyone add this para at the beginning of the CV. I bet, another 6 years down the line the same industry will be telling candidates “What’s in the nos.? Nos. achievements are often achieved by the whole team… Tell me what kind of a person YOU are and what it is that is YOUR skill set’… Yes, the ‘your’ will always be in caps or italics!!!

    What an unfortunate world we’ve come to… where people who have no real clue about the job itself, are the first door to getting it!

  8. I get what is being offered to learn and unlearn in this article but, the thing I want to know is “How should a fresher go with the Summary and portray himself/ herself.
    It would be easier for an experienced person to gain an edge over it, what about the chicken who has just cracked open the egg shell.
    I would like to know it more than anything else.

  9. CVs/Resumes for me are 1% of the person. Nothing beats unorthodox interviews like interview while smoking, having lunch or sometimes even a walk in the park… or interview questions like have you ever thought of replacing me in this company?

    Formal interview and resumes do not bring out the real person. Interviewees are prepared for that.

    So, be unorthodox. Surprise them with the unexpected.

    • I love the idea of unorthodox interview questions. I once interviewed for a teaching position @ a small private school. During the interview I was asked 2 unorthodox questions: “What is the smallest unit of government?” and “If you were stranded on a tropical island, what subjects would you be prepared to teach?”
      I have since used the second one when I was on the other side of the desk.
      BTW – the answer to the first one is “the self.” The school had a focus that year on teaching the students about self-management (aka self control, aka self-government. The more you govern yourself, the less you have to be governed by others).

    • @saintluci I wish this kind of thing would have been mandatory for all job interviews!!! Informality
      breeds efficiency and helps reveal true self of the target .But i think we may have to wait a longer
      time to see all this happening in real world. Good luck and thank you.

  10. Both paragraphs can be considered facts, and both can be considered subjective. The summary depends what you want to emphasize on and how you support it in the profile. Therefore, I disagree with this article.

  11. More of the same, armchair recruiter gibberish. You can rationalize one “ad” over another until you are blue in the face. Doesn’t change the fact that from the given information you have no way of knowing whats working and what’s not.

  12. Translation: “I’m an empty suit.”

    Sadly, there are job hunting “professionals” who will encourage the use of such meaningless buzzwords and pointless adjectives.

    • In some circles, I have run across folks that give job counseling advice and we got into some disagreements in regards to the set up of resumes and LinkedIn profiles. They swore up and down to do the former and gave the same advice to clients. Glad to see this backing up my idea of using real facts and laying off the subjective wording.

  13. No arguments that this “resume” is truly awful, but what’s behind such a collection of piffle? I suspect that this person was writing, not for recruiters or HR people, but for the machines that search resumes for keywords like most of the stuff that’s in here. this is advice that’s not uncommon. So you have somebody who doesn’t know what they’re doing writing for someone (or some thing) that doesn’t know what he/she/it is doing either. Frankly, they deserve each other.

  14. I can’t necessarily agree with this article. I’ve hired and interviewed countless amounts of people. The real problem is, that what you are stating you would like to see in a Resume or LinkedIn Profile is only valid if “it’s the truth.” Anyone can state numbers, you immediately take them for face value?

    Sounds Naive.

    Here’s a mistake many HR and Headhunters make routinely: They believe they KNOW the job they’re trying to fill. And it’s simply NEVER the case.

    • Great point! There could be countless of LinkedIn profile with “made up” facts to lure recruiters. So in a way, it goes both ways. Like you mentioned, just because someone puts facts/numbers on their summary doesn’t make it all true.

      I guess what’s even better is to include fact/numbers AND a little bit of description of yourself.

    • I’m in total agreement with you.

      The job I worked previously I knew how much I made the company thought hard work, but it wasn’t documented well enough for me to prove it on a resume. Besides most ex-employers don’t give references so how are you going to prove they did perform x and saved y for a company.

      Loved your comment. Cheers. :D

  15. …You must invest time in learning the right way to job search.
    The “right way” is written and re-written by the HR professionals to perpetuate their own industry, and to keep the applicant doing more and more of their work for them.

  16. I say ‘be honest’, whether you get the job or not, be yourself. Remember that you are making a first impression, if you do get a job interview, and if you look like you crawled out of a dumpster, or just got released from jail, then they are likely to send you back where you came from. Business is business, and if you don’t look like you’re ready to do business, then you will probably not be hired by the business. Same goes for the way that you conduct yourself, good manners, be forthright, watch your language, you’re selling ‘you’ during an interview.

    The same goes for the resume. Don’t church it up none, if you don’t know something, trying to B. S. your way past the HR manager who’s reviewing your resume and your job application is likely to end with both being discarded. HR people are sometimes school-trained. Some are from the old school, and your ‘interview’ will be your first 30 days on the job. Others keep reading through the pile ’til they see something/someone they like.

    No one is under any legal obligation to give you a job, in this life. That’s something to keep in mind when you’re in the waiting room to get interviewed.

    • Bert,
      “…sometimes school-trained….” . Very agree. The recruiters have to develop their skills as well.
      Could you advice me how to proceed when I am applying for a job taken from job’s Board. I do not have a chance to choose the recruiter who is holding this job and I cannot bypass him and contact with the client directly because he is the only connection with him. I am applying for that role on which I am 100% qualified and 100%+ passionate about. I did all my best to prepare my Resume and cover letter ( according to the instructions from executive recruiters like you), I am patient, I am honest, I am myself, I am everything what “HR professionals” are advising me to be and in the end no any feedback. They have been overloaded by applications etc. etc!. I am in the hands of this person without any possibilities to interfere. He/she is overloaded and my application is in the junk.
      I am working as a PM in the construction industry. If I am overloaded by problems and documents I could not work effectively and the results will be .:-(. All this means that I have to improve my skills , and system of work to decrease the number of the problems and document flow. After 25+ years in this busies I am continuing to learn and develop my skills. .What is this”‘overloaded recruiters”. “Why these enemies the applicants are overloading me with their B.S. resumes”? Sorry but for this mess you have a big part of the guilty. For instance you could precise the advertisement and description of the offered job. Many of so-called recruiters are not qualified for this job and this is creating frustration. Applicants and recruiters are in situation of “trench warfare”. Yes this is he business but not necessary to be on this way.
      Let be fair and professional!

  17. It’s amazing how some people believe they are all that.

    I had an interviewee coming once to an interview.

    Let’s just say he was never called again.

    I spoke with someone the other day in a group on Facebook, dedicated to job seekers sans-experience.

    Some of the people who were looking for a job actually had experience in the industry for some years (hitech and marketing positions).

    These people are unemployed and I was wondering why. When I read some of the stuff they wrote about themselves, I knew why they were struggling so much.

    The most ironic part was that “HR Professionals” told them to write that stuff about themselves.

    It’s impossible for every candidate to be all that…

    • I agree and disagree with you.

      In my industry I have worked with incredible people who are exactly as the description above and the sad thing is that peoples Opinions on how a resume should be written varies from person to person. Today we have an article that says Numbers and facts are need to prove you’re all that and a bag of chips. Next it’ll be right back to Innovative, out of the box thinker. It’s the usual round about. However it comes down to the HR/Recruiter looking at your resume and either taking it for what it is or allowing their own opinion to cloud giving that person the slightest chance at an interview.

      However Why would someone who claims they did x and saved y for the company be considered when they don’t provide actual paperwork showing that accomplishment?

      Its just discriminatory, in my opinion, to not consider someone just because they put certain descriptive words in their resume.


  18. Jeremy Scott Listerud, P.E.

    t HRI think the descriptive words are to bring attention to the person ability. It was HR people paid attention to in the 1990’s and early 2000’s . Some of the older HR people still like those words and phrases. However, the statistics and numbers are not proof either. Anyone can put numbers in such as “I lead a team on a $20 billion project in New Mexico.” There is the basic skill and position and your number. The reality is my leadership on that project was only 200,000 of that total cost and the team was only 1 of 25 teams on the project.

  19. You missed a few of my “favorites”.
    “Out of the box thinker”, “visionary” and “honest”.

    People who are truly out of the box don’t event see the box – much less describe themselves in relation to it. Self proclaimed visionaries almost always are not. And if you have to tell me you’re honest, I know you’re lying.

    You folks out there with “fuzzy” jobs and no numbers / quantifiable results – have faith:: there is always a way! For example, to the marketers – “hard to say what I have done”. How many campaigns have you worked on? packaging designs? release strategies? What was the outcome of those campaigns in terms of market share growth? Revenue increase ? etc? Were they against tight deadlines? Part of a team effort? With a budget?

    If you can’t quantify at least some of what you have done, be prepared for a long search – and get a job where you can!

  20. I enjoyed reading your guidance,discussion & article.It is important for all of us to learn the right way to approach & act as a professional.Thanks for sharing. Veena

  21. Everybody, and I mean everybody is employed because they are either going to make money, or save money in some way for the business.

    To all you who don’t see the value you are bringing in terms of addition revenue, Margins etc, ask this, what would not happen if I wasn’t doing it and what would that mean to the revenues of this business. Then simply consider the situation before you started and what you have managed to achieve, in quantifiable terms.

    You don’t have to be in sales, it doesn’t have to be Leadership. An administrator is making money by freeing up the time of others so they can be more productive so he/she is saving time and therefore money. The efficiency of the team would go down noticeably if he/she wasn’t doing their job well.

    • James:

      Please give us an example of what you like to see.

      Is it this?

      The summary on your profile looks like the first minute of an infomercial. This seems appropriate for your line of work, but it does not seem appropriate for my line of work.

  22. I believe the article is a generalisation of what you think employers want to see on a resume, whether it is on LinkedIn or as a word document they sent you. I agree that a lot of the phrases used in summaries are unnecessary and dont mean much however does that mean that a person is unqualified for a job because he uses the word “teamwork” or any other redundant phrase in their profile? Sorry but that is complete narrow mindedness.

    • I completely agree with you, Koen. If you’re a hiring manager and you discount a person simply because they use phrases like “dynamic” and “goal-oriented” in their summary on LinkedIn… you’re an idiot, and chances are your competitors are hiring all the great employees you missed out on by being so narrow-minded.

      When I hire, I want someone who knows those qualitative aspects of a candidate are important. They’re what makes one candidate a better fit over another, even if they have quantitatively similar experience. We all have our little pet peeves when it comes to resumes or social media profiles, but if, as hiring managers, we let our own personal biases prevent us from truly considering great candidates, we’re doing a disservice to our organization.

    • A Recruiter (not recruiter)

      This article isn’t just a generalization, it’s basically a re-hash of the “Most overused buzzwords” articles that pop up on LinkedIn, which themselves are a bit silly. One reason people use these kinds of words and phrases a lot? Career guidance “experts” told people for years it would help them “stand out from the crowd”. The irony.

  23. I echo Darcie’s comment. There are many of us out there who have done really good work, but if we haven’t been in sales/marketing or leadership positions, then it’s much more difficult to quantify our results. Also, as Marquis stated, people can lie about their results as well, and if they have former or present co-workers they’re friends with, those people may validate their skills/expertise and/or even provide a recommendation (if they are in a managerial position). In my summary, I indicate that all proposals I’ve written have been approved for funding, which is correct. However, because I wrote them on behalf of an organization and they go out with a letter signed by the organization’s CEO or President, it’s much harder to really promote that I’ve had 100% with writing proposals, even though that is truly the case. In fact, many organizations will not allow a person who has produced documents such as proposals to put those documents in their portfolio, even if they were the one who wrote them. However, the organization’s CEO or President could put those documents in their portfolio, solely because those documents essentially went out in their name. That’s why I’m not a huge proponent of people having to quantify their successes in their summaries.

    • Why I hate numerical quantitative summary’s . When you state your Summary in Numbers instead of Qualitative and ethical statements. I have only Imagine why would you be out of work. You leave the reader to wonder you lack leadership qualities and you are self centered and I ask myself why would you be out of work?

  24. Great article. The first thing that I did after reading this, it go to my summary and grade it. I have opportunities to improve, but hopefully its not the worst LI summary ever.

  25. Oh JT, where do I start? And who do I blame for a world where resumes and LinkedIn profiles are a cross between great fiction and some salacious Rupert Murdoch run “journal”?

    Experts who offer ‘sage counsel’ on what companies want have never recruited (which might be be such a capital offense since mist recruiters are average despite their incredible ESP skills), the journalists who aren’t even career advisors write article after article about how to be competitive in a job search, and companies cry about how they can’t find A talent, all converge into a Perfect Storm that creates a job search advice cesspool.


    Companies – describe the real job in terms of performance expectations; leave out the qualitative personality characteristics because frankly your people suck at assessing these…

    Job seekers – be honest; some of you ARE average (despite all the Blue Ribbons you garnered for finishing 8th). Describe for me your accomplishments in business terms rather than using ubiquitous (and inflated) resume terms. Describe yourself in a way that won’t make your best friend laugh at you.

    Career experts. Please. Just. Stop. Or at the very least spend a week shadowing a great recruiter so you can start to see how recruiting happens…

  26. This is why is terrible. The second example is really but, anybody can lie on that too. I find making those summaries a pain in the rear, it doesn’t seem to please a bunch of unhappy professionals/recruiters no matter how many times I have changed it up.

  27. Is it possible to define accomplishments within the Job History caregory as a follow-up to subjective Linked-in Summary?

  28. One reason people use phrases like that in profiles is that those are the words that hiring managers use in job-descriptions. If job-descriptions say that hiring managers want “dynamic leaders”, then people will claim to be dynamic leaders. So many companies these days depend on automated screening that attempts to match keywords. How can you blame job-seekers for trying to use the keywords that the automated screening systems are looking for?

    • KM Ruskin: Bingo! Right on the money!
      If hiring managers or recruiters want specifics, they should put specifics in their job descriptions. We’re professionals and are capable of screening ourselves based on what the job description tells us. What would be the point of presenting ourself for a job whose description doesn’t present at least a likely match?
      If you want “15+ years of experience leading teams of 10-200 staff members.” then put that in the Job Description (or make sure your recruiter does.)
      All too often, I cringe at job descriptions that ask for not much more specific than “Good communicator” or “familiar with Revision Control Systems”. Good grief! You might as well be asking me if I know how to tie my own shoes!
      If you put cringe-worthy phrases in the description of what you’re asking for, you’ll get cringe-worthy phrases in response.
      Put specific requirements in your descriptions and you’ll get qualified responders.

  29. I actually think the worst kind of Linked In summary is the ‘naked’. when I am headhunting, as oppose to career coaching, I get really cross with people who claim they are ‘available now’ or ‘independent consultant’. why should I bother to stop and look at their profile at all? the second worst are the bland and generic, again.. where are the pointers that tell me I need to read this. Linked In is not a generic CV Board it is a site for professionals and they should have skills and knowledge to bring to market.. get them in the headline!
    And incidentally, I would not use LI to look for recently graduated people, I’d use a niche site or cv library where I’d search on CV keywords.

  30. what summary of someone like me who don’t have experience just graduated can be?I’ve gragusted in sports management please help

  31. Terrific.. Makes complete sense. But Linked profiles include many more than those who were leaders, project managers and trainers. What about us grunts who can certainly claim the same attributes but who are unable to offer tangible experience as proof?

  32. And since all agree that typos are the most offensive of mistake, perhaps this otherwise excellent article should not be referring to “applying for jobs in 2012″.

  33. I have always looked at LinkedIn Summaries as the most important part of your profile, beyond the Headline.
    I’ve noticed two types of Summary Statements on LinkedIn

    #1 – Driftwood – Either a naked (empty) or slightly naked (no good info) Summary Statement
    #2 – Barf – Lots of blah, blah, blah words, often sucked from their resume and as you said above, no value to qualify the person by quantifying their experiences

    I prefer for the LinkedIn Summary statement to be an enjoyable read, filled with bold, proud statements of success & enjoyment. I use the phrase, “I can, I have & I enjoy” as the guiding statement for writing LinkedIn Summary and Experience statements.

    I love following your stuff JT as well as the articles that I write at

    Thanks for sharing JT.

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