Why is it better to tell your career story versus the history of your career? The former engages the recruiter. The latter puts most readers to sleep. Traditionally, job seekers have explained their career chronology on CVs (resumes) with generic descriptions of their responsibilities. And once LinkedIn came along, many just copied and pasted this non-value conveying text onto the platform.
Whether on a CV or LinkedIn, you should always make the most of the space to not just say what you did, but how and why it matters. LinkedIn especially offers many unique ways to do exactly this and thus spin a story that connects with your target audience. If you optimize it both for the algorithm and for the people in your network, you’ll have a much better chance of coming up in recruiter searches.
How to write a good LinkedIn profile
First and foremost, keep in mind that LinkedIn works based on an algorithm. The platform uses keywordsand user activity to sort professionals for candidate searches. Therefore, putting effort into optimizing the LinkedIn profile and regularly using the platform will maximize your exposure to recruiters.
Also, the various sections offer you a generous amount of characters to really develop a story that “speaks” to your audience directly. Never use more words than necessary, but don’t hold back either! Let your wowfactor shine here, but only those that are relevant to your audience. Bearing this in mind, here is how you can make the most out of your profile:
1. Headline (120 characters)
What are the keywords your target audience is using to find candidates? Find this out first and then adapt your profile accordingly. Some fields like the headline and About section are especially important for the algorithm and also for the recruiter who makes it to your page. One good way to identify the keywords recruiters are using is to search the jobs you are targeting on LinkedIn. If you read three or four job descriptions, you’ll see a pattern in the types of skills and qualifications companies are looking for. (Assuming of course you are looking for similar types of jobs in the same functional area or industry.) Make sure your headline connects with as many of these as are true to your brand and value.
That means you should aim to use all 120 characters if you can without adding any “noise” (i.e., additional skills or talents that are not directed to your audience). Keep in mind this is not the place to say things like Seeking new opportunities in marketing and sales or Open to networking. These take up space for valuable keywords and send the wrong message: you come across as asking for something rather than offering your valuable talents.
Here are a few example of keyword-rich headlines:
Senior Sales & Marketing Executive: International Expansion ► Team Building ►Product Innovation ► Brand Development
Career Coach • HR Consultant • Global Mobility • Trainer • Talent Management
Real Estate & Construction Industry Executive | Global Expansion | Property Acquisition, Development & Management
Business Unit Manager | IT Manager | SAP | Global Strategy | Continuous Improvement | Coaching & Mentoring | MBA
Senior Petroleum Economist: Upstream & Downstream Oil & Gas Asset Evaluation | Project Management | Business Development
2. About section (2,000 characters)
This is your elevator pitch, where you tell “your story” and the value you offer your audience. Though some recruiters may not read more than the first three lines, the algorithm sure does, so you might as well use the space to incorporate keywords organically. (Note that the algorithm can punish artificial keyword stuffing.)
There are various ways to write your summary, and of course, there are no real rules. The following guidelines can help you structure your ideas:
►Make sure the first three lines are engaging. When you are reading an online newspaper, if you like the first few lines (the lead), you’ll click on “read more.” Same goes for LinkedIn. So spend more time engineering this part of the text.
►Convey your unique brand. Ensure it is aligned with what you say about yourself across your marketing docs and in social media.
►Avoid large blocks of text. Break it up into paragraphs that are no more than three lines or use bullets or arrows to list key information. LinkedIn doesn’t allow bold or italics or any kind of formatting. However, it will take the following:
★ ♦ ◘ ☆ ■ □ ▪ ◊ ● ▌▄ ◘ ♫ ♥ ^ √ ! ! ? # TM © ® @ $ # + ► ◄ ▲ ▼
►Close with a call to action. In this way you can tell the reader how to contact you and that you offer a solution for their challenges. For example, “I would love to hear how I can help you ensure smooth processes and a well-trained, customer-oriented staff to build your brand. Feel free to contact me at…firstname.lastname@example.org”
If you are stuck and need inspiration, check out this article by personal branding expert William Arruda or LinkedIn’s LinkedIn Summaries We Love and How to Boost Your Own
3. Professional Experience Section
Position Title: (max. 100 characters with spaces)
Position Description: (min. 100 and max. 2,000 characters with spaces)
Use titles that are aligned with your CV, then use the description to show off how you influenced outcomes.
Keep it simple; either write a short paragraph or bullet points. Avoid repeating what you have said in the About section and include numbers and data to support your accomplishments.
One way to take advantage of the 100 characters here is to expand upon the title to give a quick snapshot of the achievements or main skills applied in each job. For example, if the title is Senior Manager, that’s only 14 characters. My client’s key accomplishments were in process improvement, talent management and team leadership. So I developed the title with these ingredients as follows:
Senior Manager: Team Lead |Process Improvement | Talent Development
Since pictures are worth a thousand words, don’t miss the opportunity to use them. You can consider adding a link to the company you work for, you company’s promotional video for a new product you have been working on, a video from a speaking engagement, or any number of other visual aids. This will make your profile more dynamic and allow you to back your professional experiences and your personality with audiovisual content.
5. Other considerations
LinkedIn has many other sections that feed into the algorithm and support your personal brand. Be sure to make the most of them to send a clear, coherent message. For example, the skills and endorsementssection together with recommendations may be somewhat self-selected, but they are taken into account and are a way of validating your claims. (Ok, we all have a friend who endorse and say we are wonderful at this or that, even though they have no idea what we do at work or how well, but LinkedIn has been working on filtering through the fluff, a subject for another article!)
Also, consider the volunteer section. If you work in career development, perhaps in your free time you volunteer for an organization that helps college drop outs get onto a career path, something completely aligned with your brand. And don’t forget to include your licenses and certifications.
Most importantly, stay active on the platform. Even if you have a perfectly optimized profile that is a joy to read, if you do nothing on the platform, then you get nothing. It doesn’t mean that you have to create unique content on a regular basis, but at least share interesting articles or comment on posts in your feed.
One final consideration: LinkedIn is one of your showcases to the world and therefore it is important to put thought and effort into how you want to be seen by others. Always ask a friend or colleague to review your profile and give you feedback. Or if you don’t want to go it alone, reach out to a professional profile writer to do it for you.