Microsoft may be about to buy LinkedIn, but that doesn't seem likely to change what separates a great profile on the professional network from a mediocre one. I review countless LinkedIn profiles each week and still see the same errors popping up time and again.
I recently worked with a senior executive in the finance industry, and her LinkedIn profile was really lacking in a few major areas. She was getting job offers—they just weren’t at the level she was aiming for, and the main reason was that she wasn’t properly selling herself, validating her skills, and positioning herself for her ideal role. After making a few improvements, though, she was able to connect with the right people to grow her network, and has just accepted a CFO role with a market-leading organization.
If you’re a jobseeker, LinkedIn can make you more attractive to prospective employers, help you position yourself in the job market, improve your chances of being head-hunted by recruiters, and much more. If you’re a consultant or business owner, LinkedIn can help you boost your visibility, increase positive validation for you and your business, and position you to entice your ideal target clients.
But you can't do any of that if you keep making these four common mistakes.
Perhaps the No. 1 blunder out there is failing to optimize your profile with the right keywords for your target. LinkedIn is a search engine, just like Google. There's no such thing as a universally "good" keyword—there are only those that get you the results you're looking for, and those that don't. So if you don't strategically plan out your keywords and pepper them appropriately throughout your profile, you won’t appear in the search results of the people you most want to find you.
Start with your "Skills" section. That's the easiest place to boost your profile’s keyword count. But you also need to embed the right industry-specific keywords in the right places throughout your profile. Consider using a "Specialties" subsection in your summary. And remember—you’re positioning yourself for the role or opportunity you want, not the one you have.
While your resume shouldn't include any personal pronouns ("I," "me"), LinkedIn is different—it’s all about connecting with one another. You want to "talk" to the person who's reading your profile. It’s harder to relate to someone who doesn’t directly speak to you.
Try using the second person to address the reader. Use the pronouns "you," "your," and "yours," even if they sound too informal at first (they aren't!). This can be especially effective if you’re a consultant or freelancer and using your profile for business growth and lead generation. For instance:
Are you an SME looking for a customized, convenient, and honest funding solution? We can help you by offering fast, flexible, and fully transparent lending solutions that are tailored to your needs.
Third-person narrative, on the other hand, can come across quite forceful and aggressive on a LinkedIn profile if it isn't written well.
As one writer recently put it, "LinkedIn has made connecting so damned easy that at times the ease of connecting actually defeats its own purpose."
It’s so important to send individual, thoughtful invitations to connect, explaining why you’d like to connect. Equally important is ensuring you engage with the sender when accepting an invitation to connect. Never just use the boilerplate, "Hi, I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn."
By sending more personalized notes, you’re providing value and effectively reminding your network what you have to offer. It's a two-way street, after all—by adding someone to your network, you're also (ideally) trying to find out how you can help them.
Recommendations on your profile will improve your credibility. LinkedIn Help Center says, "hiring managers and people searching for new customers and business partners prefer to work with people who come recommended by someone they know and trust."
You can ask current or past colleagues and supervisors or managers, clients, business associates, or former lecturers for a recommendation. The easiest approach? Just write a recommendation for someone and ask for one in return.
Essentially, your LinkedIn profile is a resume, business card, and elevator speech all rolled up into one. However, your LinkedIn profile is not your resume. Your profile is a personal branding page. You need both a resume and a LinkedIn profile, and they should be in sync with one another without being exact copies.
If you want your LinkedIn profile to be read by the right audience and subsequently help your career, fixing these four common errors is a great place to start. Networking has always been, and will always be, the top job-search strategy you can ever put into action. So make sure your networking tools are as sharp as they can be.
Sarah Cronin is the director of Sarah Cronin Consulting, specialist executive resume and LinkedIn profile writers. Sarah is a certified master resume writer and certified executive resume master (one of only 16 worldwide and 4 in Australia).