8 Mistakes Leaders Make on Their LinkedIn Profiles

When was the last time you were contacted by a recruiter because they found you on LinkedIn? If your answer is “never”, or “more than 6 months ago”, it’s likely your LinkedIn strategy (or lack thereof) is hurting your job search.

At the senior manager and executive level, recruiters and headhunters actively search for top talent, relying less on advertising and more on their own elbow grease to generate a pool of appropriate candidates.

More than once, I’ve found that the candidates I sourced myself were of a higher calibre than those who passively submitted their resume, and so as a recruiter, I tended to allocate my time accordingly; I would spend the most hours on ‘active search,’ using internal databases and tools like Boolean searches, LinkedIn, and other social media to identify and reach out to top prospects.

If recruiters aren’t contacting you, it’s likely because your digital presence isn’t working for you, with LinkedIn forming a significant piece of that puzzle. Here are 8 clues your LinkedIn profile may be ruining your job search, and how to rethink it.

1. Your LinkedIn profile IS your resume.

Other than not having a LinkedIn profile, this is probably the biggest mistake I see job seekers make. I completely understand the temptation: you’ve just spent hours crafting the perfect resume, why not parlay it into an online presence with a simple copy and paste, right?


It’s important to resist this temptation for a few reasons. To start with, your LinkedIn profile and your resume have different audiences, with both groups requiring carefully tailored, but different, messages.

Beyond that, however, you’re missing a valuable opportunity to let your personality shine through. LinkedIn is less formal than a resume, and it’s perfectly appropriate – desirable even – to offer more insight into who you are and what makes you unique.

Treat your LinkedIn profile like the mission critical piece of marketing content it is, and make the effort to get it right.

2. Your LinkedIn job history doesn’t match your resume.

Back when I was recruiting, this was always a huge red flag. When a candidate’s LinkedIn profile didn’t align with their resume, I at the very least wondered why, and I’d occasionally brush the candidate off entirely because I didn’t have time to figure out the real story.

I was a fairly patient recruiter and was often willing to dig a little deeper than most of my colleagues. When I got to talking to candidates, I realised it was often because they’d taken a non-traditional career path, such as contract work, consulting, or freelancing, and simply didn’t know how to group experience to deliver an effective message that worked for both their resume and LinkedIn.

While your details may be mismatched for innocent reasons, consider what sort of unspoken message it can send – a lack of attention to detail, laziness, or outright dishonesty – and you realise how important it is to clean up both your resume and LinkedIn profile to ensure the job titles, companies, and dates of tenure match. If you’re unsure how to effectively group jobs or contracts so as to truthfully and effectively communicate your experience, consult a personal branding agency with recruitment and marketing specialists on their team. They’ll be able to take a big picture view, and will help you effectively define and communicate your key value add.

3. Your headline is full of throwaways.

Your headline is the hardest working part of LinkedIn, and provides huge value in only 100 characters.

Your goal with the headline is twofold:

  1. Ensure that you show up in recruiters’ search results by using appropriate keywords, and
  2. entice recruiters to click on your profile by ensuring that your headline stands out.

Start by putting yourself in the recruiters’ shoes. Consider the keywords they’re using to search for candidates. Let’s say that you’re looking to step into a VP, Finance role for a consumer brand. Do you think the recruiter is using throwaway terms like “high performing” or “professional” in their search? Of course not: they’re using job titles and industry terms, and perhaps key skills and qualifications.

Compare the two headlines, below. Which do you think is more likely to come up high in the search results?

  • High performing finance professional with extensive leadership experience.
  • MBA-trained Chartered Accountant & VP Finance I 10+ years FMCG turnaround experience.

With the headline, every word matters. Use highly searchable terms and avoid clichés at all cost.

4. You’re afraid to be awesome.

In my experience, managers and executives tend play it a little too safe when it comes to LinkedIn profiles – and this is a mistake. Think about the types of people you like to work with, and how you yourself behave at work.

I’m guessing you thought of people who are vibrant, funny, warm, empathetic, and inspirational. Now ask yourself: is your LinkedIn profile portraying those qualities?

For some reason, job seekers seem to freeze up when their fingers hit the keyboard, opting for “safe” descriptions of themselves that are, frankly, really boring. Recruiters read hundreds of snooze-inducing LinkedIn profiles each month: don’t add to their boredom.

If you’re one of those people who lights up the room, don’t write a vanilla LinkedIn profile. Add interest by including personal details and insights about the type of professional you are:

  • Write in the first person, using “I” language. Third person is too formal and stiff, and doesn’t come across as particularly likeable.
  • Include clues about who you are and why you do what you do, such as your professional mantra or an anecdote that proved to be formative in your career.
  • Let people know what you’re like to work with. Do you have a relaxed, open door management style? Are you known for keeping things fun during high- pressure moments?

5. Your LinkedIn profile is not scannable.

A lot of the LinkedIn advice I’ve read suggests you familiarise yourself with LinkedIn’s word and character limits, and use all the allotted space to tell your story.

From a recruiter’s point-of-view, this is terrible advice. Recruitment is a high-volume, high-pressure role, and most recruiters are extroverted, sales-oriented types who are always pressed for time.

The truth of it is, recruiters aren’t going to spend their time digging through your LinkedIn profile for the details that matter to them. They’re going to take 30 seconds to scan it, and then either click the “back” button on their browser, or pick up the phone to actually talk to you.

Write for a limited attention span, and go for quality, not quantity.

  • Follow the rules of writing for the web, which means short, snappy paragraphs and sentences that aren’t too long or dense.
  • Mix up your profile with keywords, like job titles and industries, that the recruiters’ eyes are naturally scanning for, and more ‘personality’ driven content (Tip # 4) to keep it interesting.
  • Make your role descriptions easy to scan, by including both paragraphs and bullet points that describe mandates, accountabilities and a few accomplishments with facts and figures, which tend to naturally draw the eye.

6. TMI (Too Much Information).

Once your LinkedIn profile is published, keep in mind that anyone can access it. How would your boss feel about what you’ve written? What about your clients, team, shareholders, or any other stakeholder groups with which you regularly interact?

While it should be obvious you need to avoid revealing competitive or proprietary information on LinkedIn, I’ve seen candidates over share details that, frankly, made me question their integrity and professionalism.

When in doubt, leave it out, and make sure you steer clear of sensitive information, such as:

  • Employee performance issues, such as putting a member of your team on a development plan.
  • Solving problems created by a predecessor or someone else in the company.
  • Contentious relationships or organisational culture issues.
  • Current commercial initiatives, such as potential JVs, redundancy programs, or expansion into a new market.
  • Specific budget and revenue figures.

7. You haven’t put in the effort.

As a professional brand builder and executive resume writer, I spend a lot of time crafting perfect LinkedIn profiles for my clients. After years as both a HR manager, recruiter and a resume writer, I can tell you that creating engaging, searchable and click-worthy LinkedIn profiles takes time.

On average, my team and I spend at least 15 hours on the entire process of setting a strategy and then writing a resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile. If you blasted through the process, writing your LinkedIn profile in an evening, you probably did it wrong, and that mistake is likely costing you in your job search.

  • Take the time to define your key value and marketing ‘key messages’ before you start writing, and think of examples and accomplishments to support these messages.
  • Write your draft, and then step away from the computer for a day (or at least a few hours) before going back in to edit for key words, spelling and grammar, and content.
  • Get the opinion of a trusted friend who knows you professionally and personally to provide feedback.

8. You’re not active on LinkedIn.

This may seem obvious, but given the fast-paced nature of most managers’ and executives’ lives, it bears repeating: once you’ve invested the time and effort into creating an effective LinkedIn profile, you need to actually use it.

  • Add your contact information, such as an email address or phone number, in your profile to make it easy for recruiters to contact you, and make it a habit to check your LinkedIn Inbox at the beginning or end of each business day so as to not miss opportunities.
  • Join groups for your industry and function to increase your networks’ reach, and make it more likely you’ll show up in recruiters’ keyword searches.
  • Consider writing and publishing blog posts about your function, industry, or general professional topics, such as leadership, to your LinkedIn profile. ‘Recent posts’ show up with your name in search results, and the listings with this feature really do pop against the other results, making it hard to resist clicking through.

Author: Irene McConnell runs Arielle Careers, Australia’s #1 executive personal branding agency. They specialize in crafting executive resumes, LinkedIn profiles and digital career assets.

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