LinkedIn Profile Tips: The 10 Mistakes You Want to Avoid and Why

LinkedIn Profile Tips: The 21 Mistakes You Want to Avoid – and Why

LinkedIn Profile Tips. A lot of people tell you what you should be doing, but what about what you shouldn’t be doing?

LinkedIn is the place to not only find others but also to be found. And that is why you need a profile that not only helps you get found but also will entice people to contact you once they view your profile. I see many people making fundamental mistakes that actually work against them in this aspect. If you’re going to spend time putting together a profile, I assume you want to maximize your chances of being contacted by the right people, right?

With that in mind, I have created an easy-to-understand list of several LinkedIn profile tips to check for with my reasoning. If it sounds like an exercise in search engine optimization, you are on the right path. Just like any website owner, you want to stick out and be found!

Note: I have a separate post if you’re looking for LinkedIn profile advice for college students.

Now let’s go in order from top to bottom on what you should be doing with your LinkedIn profile as if I was viewing your profile on LinkedIn, ending with some advice on how to think about your LinkedIn profile in general.

1. You’re Not Using a LinkedIn Cover Image

Most LinkedIn users are using the standard LinkedIn cover photo, and this is a huge mistake! Why? Using a custom LinkedIn photo sets you apart from 90% of LinkedIn users. Many people are extremely visual creatures, and remember what they see more than what they read. This means that you might not only grab someone’s attention if you use a custom photo – you might also keep their attention! 

If there is ONE thing you want to promote about yourself of business, THIS is the place to do it visually!

2. You’re Not Displaying Your Personal Photo

I wrote an entire blog post about why you should include your photo in your LinkedIn profile, but it all comes down to having credibility or not. There are too many fake profiles on LinkedIn, so you want to show that you are real. 

If you have taken the time to complete your online presence, why wouldn’t you display your photo? It just raises too many potential questions. Company logos or photos of pets obviously have no value here, so be sure to avoid anything not related to your body of work or applicable hobbies.

Also, make sure in your privacy settings that you are allowing everyone to see your photo. There is a setting that only allows your network to see your photo, and this is in essence making you “invisible” to people outside of your network.

3. Your Professional Headline is Not Branded Enough

See that space underneath your name? That is your “Professional” or Profile Headline. It will appear in search results next to your name as well as everywhere else on LinkedIn. It is, in essence, your elevator speech in a few words.

Are you just putting your title and company name here? Don’t! This is the place where you need to appeal to anyone who finds you in a search result to reach out and look at who you are. Your Profile Headline is the single most important piece of real estate you have, and you need to brand it as such.

4. You’re Displaying the Wrong Industry

When you complete your LinkedIn profile, next to where you put in your current location, you can also choose your current industry.

Choose carefully.

Not only will this industry become an important part of your branding being displayed prominently on your profile, but it will also determine what searches you appear for. That’s because Industry is a popular filter to use for searches.

So think of the Industry that you want to be found for when filling out this important piece of information.

5. You’re Not Listing Three Websites

LinkedIn gives you the ability to list three websites on your profile. Are you taking advantage of it? Do you have a social media profile that you want to advertise? Company website? A side hustle that you are working on? Anything that you would want associated with yourself should be listed here. You will be adding to the search engine optimization of your own websites just by the fact that you list them here!

6. You Haven’t Claimed Your Personal URL

When you sign up to LinkedIn, you are provided a public URL, which you can then include on your email signature or wherever else you want to lead people to your profile from. You can customize this when you edit your profile. Claiming your name here is one of the first things you should have done on LinkedIn. 

For instance, I can memorize my LinkedIn Profile URL, which is www.linkedin.com/in/nealschaffer, because I customized the last text to “nealschaffer.” If you have a common name, make sure you claim your URL before others do!

7. You Have Too Few Connections

This is a topic for debate, but too many people have too few connections on their profile, and thus are not getting found. The idea is simple: when you do a search, you will see results from your network. And vice-versa. So the more connections you have, the more search results you will appear in, pure and simple. 

Keep in mind, too, that part of the value of social media is about connecting with and learning from people you don’t know. So what are you waiting for? If you don’t know who to invite, here are some ways to get more LinkedIn connections as well as some LinkedIn super connectors you might want to connect with. Feel free to send me a LinkedIn invite as well!

8. You Haven’t Taken Advantage of the “Open To” Section

One of the newer options that LinkedIn has been rolling out is the ability for you to add some targeted promotional messaging near the top of your LinkedIn profile indicating one of three things:

  1. You provide services (for sales and marketing professionals)
  2. You’re hiring
  3. You’re open to job offers

This section might not be appropriate to everyone, but if you fall into one of the above three categories, you’ll certainly want to take advantage of this.

9. Your Branded Summary Doesn’t Contain Your Strategic Keywords

Assuming that someone finds you in a search result and likes your Professional Headline, the next most important part of your profile will be your Summary mentioned above. This is the chance to fully brand yourself and ensure that any keywords that you want associated with yourself are found here. 

You also want to write something compelling, just as you would in the Executive Summary of your resume. This is your stage to tell the world who you are and what you can do! Utilize it to your fullest advantage!

10. You’re Writing Your “About” Summary in 3rd Person

If you want to have an inviting profile and allow people to get to know who you are as a person, you’ll want to write your summary in an inviting way. The only way to do so is in first person.

In other words, instead of writing,

“Neal Schaffer is an accomplished marketing executive….”

you write

“I have worked with a dozen innovative brands on their digital transformation projects for sales and marketing…”

When you write in the first person, you are bound to make a better connection with people who visit your profile, and they will read your summary as if they were literally listening to you speak it.

LinkedIn has always had an area where you can add multimedia content to your profile, but recently they have added a dedicated section to this content which they call Featured.

Adding multimedia to your featured section is a simple and effective way to stand out on LinkedIn. The exact type of multimedia content you select is not quite as important as simply having it there. Why? Multimedia posts encourage people looking at your LinkedIn page to stay longer, and dig deeper into your experiences, and get a better feel for your personality. You can add audio, video, or even a slideshow, all of which will keep potential audiences engaged and help you stand out from the LinkedIn crowd.

12. You Don’t List Enough Companies You Worked At Or Schools You Attended

One of the ways you are found is through searches on company names or schools. If you are only listing your current company and/or not even displaying your university, you are missing out on potentially being found. 

Check this out: I did my Junior year of college abroad in Beijing many moons ago. I had been out of touch with all of the 15 or so Americans that were there that year. Two of those 15 have found me on LinkedIn! Another high school friend who I lost touch with found me recently. They would not have found me had I not listed my Junior year abroad school and high school name on my profile. 

Companies are even more important in that there are potentially more colleagues that may be trying to find you or previous colleagues who might want to network with you! You may be missing out!

13. You Don’t Describe Your Past Work Experiences

Even if you’ve listed positions and titles that you’ve previously held, it means nothing if you don’t have any job descriptions. Job descriptions provide you the perfect opportunity to pepper your profile with keywords that will help you get found. Why wouldn’t you take advantage of this? I will talk about this later in this article, but you need to treat your profile as an inbound marketing tool and NOT your resume!

14. You Haven’t Added Any Volunteer Experiences

Volunteer experiences demonstrate more of who you are, what you are interested in, how you spend your spare time, and how willing you are to use your time to benefit others. Listing your volunteer experiences can demonstrate interests and abilities you possess outside of your current work, and posts detailing volunteer experiences can provide a simple way to stand out from your LinkedIn peers.

In a nutshell, adding volunteer experiences makes you more relatable as a human being, and this can help set you apart from your competitors who do not take advantage of this opportunity.

15. You Haven’t Added Relevant Skills to Your Skills Section

LinkedIn added a Skills section sometime ago. Have you checked in and seen what is listed there?

LinkedIn often pre-populates your Skills section through AI, and if you are not managing it, you might not be represented by the most appropriate skills.

Take control of the situation by choosing the 50 skills that you want to be know for.

Skills are also used in some paid versions of LinkedIn to find people, so this is another reason to maintain its relevance.

16. You’re Not Managing Your Endorsements

When people endorse your skills, they often start with those at the top.

If you are not managing your skills, you might be endorsed for skills that you are not skillful in or are not top priority these days.

Make sure that you put your highest priority skills at the top so that you are endorsed for the right ones!

17. You Don’t Have at Least Three Recommendations

This is the same as not displaying your personal photo. Why? When you sign up for LinkedIn and first fill out your profile, LinkedIn used to recommend that you receive three LinkedIn Recommendations in order to get your profile to 100% completion status. Recommendations prove that you are real and add credibility to the work experience that you say you have.

These recommendations can only work in your favor, so why don’t you have at least three of them? And working for a long time WITHOUT any recommendations can have the opposite effect of sending a red flag to people who might want to do business with you!

18. You Don’t Showcase Any of Your Accomplishments

LinkedIn is not the place to practice humility. If you have had a strong or exciting job title in your professional history, own it! If you were showered with awards at one of your positions, let people know! Highlighting your experiences and how you excelled in those roles can provide even more insight as to why a person might want to get in touch with you, and keep you on their radar.

LinkedIn has an entire profile section dedicated to your accomplishments, with presets to help you enter the following information:

  • Publications
  • Patents
  • Courses Taken
  • Projects
  • Honors & Awards
  • Test Scores
  • Languages Spoken
  • Organizations You are a Part Of

19. Treating Your Profile Like a Resume Instead of an Inbound Marketing Tool

I mentioned this earlier, but let me repeat myself here as this mindset shift is critical to your success on LinkedIn.

Resumes are targeted items, trying to reach out and appeal to a specific person or department. They are typically quite narrow in their focus, and they often do not provide a large window into who you are as a person. Instead of treating your LinkedIn page like a resume, try to look at it as a professional “dating” tool, wherein you are offering a bit more personality, insight into why you are a great person to connect with, and a wider range of your scope, abilities, and interests. In a resume, your target audience is quite small; on LinkedIn, your target audience is vast. Treat your profile as such.

20. Not Checking In to LinkedIn Regularly to Engage with Others in Your Network

Like most social media sites, LinkedIn is intended to be used regularly. Whether you pop on each time you sort through your emails, or you hope on a few times each month to check your settings and edit the different sections on your site, checking in with people in your network on a regular basis lets them and potential leaders in your industry know that you are paying attention to the careers of your connections and keeping yourself in the loop with people you’ve connected with. 

Get into the habit of checking out your news feed on a regular basis and engaging with your network through liking or commenting on their posts. A little engagement goes a long way in both keeping mindshare as well as exposing your profile to new connections who might be engaging with the same content.

21. Not Publishing Status Updates Frequently Enough

Want to promote what you are working on? Ask for professional advice? Source introductions for your next business trip? Share the latest news from your industry?

Whatever it is, get into the habit of sharing more on LinkedIn. This is another way to both attain mindshare with your network and get your content and you exposed to a larger audience on LinkedIn. 

Did I miss any LinkedIn profile tips that you’d like to share?  Let me know!  And if you didn’t make any of the above mistakes, congratulations!  You’re in good shape ;-)

Hero photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

These are the 21 most common mistakes I see people make on their LinkedIn profile. Read on for LinkedIn profile tips you will WANT to use!
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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.
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58 Comments

  1. Amazing article! your infographic is also awesome. LinkedIn is the best platform for business lead generation. We should avoid these mistakes which you have written in your blog. Thanks for sharing this article. I will help lots of people.

  2. Dear Neal

    Thank you for the article!

    Please, help me understand one point with my LinkedIn profile.
    LinkedIn proposes me “Improve your profile”. And suggests to fill “What’s your current position?”
    At the moment I study at DBA(Doctor of Business Administration) program. What is the best way to reflect that fact – in “current position” or in “education”?
    And what to write? “I study…” ?

    Thank you in advance,

    • Hey Alex – that’s a really good question. The “current position” is what appears in search results, so whatever position you want to promote to the outside world is what you should put there. Hope that makes sense – and thanks for the comment!

  3. Thanks for the comment Paul. This blog post was written some time ago, and endorsements were only released recently. I plan to write a blog post on it so stay tuned – but either way, endorsements should not be one of the main things you do on LinkedIn, although it is one new form of engagement.

  4. Hi Neal,
    That was very interesting, there is however just one thing you might add to the list, endorsements. I recently received one and then endorsed other peoples’ skills. I’d be interested to know your thoughts on the matter. I mean, should you go hunting for endorsement now?
    Paul
    (links have been deleted by admin)
     

    • Paul, this is a great point! I myself sat down and wrote about 7-8 endorsements for people I have worked with or were my clients, simply because I wanted to give them the credit for some great work and projects we completed together. Coincidentally, several of the same folks did the same for me, without me ever having to ask!! I say give endorsements and credit where credit is due, and good karma fill follow.

  5. This is very helpful information.

  6. Victoria Sauron
    Victoria Sauron

    Should the entirety of my profile be publicly consultable? Doesn’t it create privacy concerns to have my whole CV public knowledge? Thanks!

    • Victoria, it really depends on your objective. If you want to be found, only list those things on your profile that you feel comfortable being found for! If you don’t want to be found, put the bear minimum on your profile. Hope this advice makes sense!

  7. I have no idea what you are facing, but you should go to your Settings and customize so that you don’t receive emails in your Inbox and only when you log into LinkedIn.com. Hope the information helps.

  8. I need help in stopping the endless list of linkedin names (emails) that show up about 20 every few minutes automatically.  I could have clueless clicked on some button by mistake.  Thanks. 

  9. For those who first time use Linkedin, should read this blog post. Every single point here is important to build relationship on Linkedin.

  10. Hey Josh,

    Thanks for your criticism, which is always welcome.

    When I wrote that post, I was thinking holistically of the biggest mistakes that I could think of which people were making. The result was that blog post. Not doing something can lead to a critical mistake in terms of not being able to truly maximize the potential for the platform.

    Perhaps the headline was misleading in terms of what you were expecting – and that might have led it to it being less effective in your eyes – but I still stand by the advice.

    In the future, however, I will consider the use of double negatives when I write similarly titled posts.

    Thank you for your feedback!

  11. “What you shouldn’t be doing” lists are typically things not to do.  This list is the same advice I’ve seen in “What you should be doing” articles except you use double negatives.  For example, “You shouldn’t not display your personal photo,” or “You shoudn’t not claim your personal URL.”  Maybe I’m being picky, but this caused me to find your approach to the topic far less efficient than other articles I’ve read.

  12. Hi Neil, ref point two, I would add that your professional headline should answer the question “What do you do?” but as an outcome.

    • Good advice Ben. I’m all about the branding and differentiation aspect of your headline, but depending on what your LinkedIn objective, your advice may actually be more suitable. Thanks for contributing!

  13. I’m is your new youngest sister for this second. Every thing seem perfect by following your step.  But I couldn’t find my own profile when I use search engine.  Am I forgetting some things.

    • Don’t know what to tell you – it may take time to get indexed. But just make sure you use your name as your real name, make your profile completely visible to the public, AND customize your custom LinkedIn URL with your real name.

  14. I have just been made redundant and have stated this on my profile; however i have been told that this is not appropriate and that i am taking a pop at my previous employer. I have written “due to my company withdrawing from my county, i have been made redundant”. I can’t see anything wrong with this, but what is the LInkedIn etiquette with this?

    thanks

  15. How do you add employment to LinkedIn without using dates? Also, I customize my resume to each position I apply for. What if my resume and LinkedIn profile do not contain the same previous employers?

  16. Great point Reuven – thanks for weighing in!

  17. Neal – Great post. On number 10 I’d add that the job description field is used to find people on searchs. So leaving it blank drops your hits.
    Reuven

  18. Wow – that is very frustrating. Some people just don’t want to be bothered at certain times of their lives, and even though they said they might be open to career opportunities in their Contact Settings, they might not have updated them recently

    I always tell people that InMails truly are the “Hail Mary” of LinkedIn engagement – however, if there is no other way for you to contact that person, that is the best you could do…

  19. I am a corporate recruiter/HR professional with a 5 star rating on Inmails and although rare, I have received a decline “innapropriate” when sending an Inmail to someone that has designated that they are open to career opportunities.  frustrating.  suggestions? 

  20. Thanks for pointing that out ;-)

  21. How do I solicite myself for a sales job on Linkedin while working for a large financial firm doing accounting/finance without looking like I am chomping at the bit to leave my current position?

    • Thanks Chase – without a doubt!

    • Cs6061 – this is easy. Don’t do anything overt about wanting a job in Sales in the hope other people randomly find that & contact you (say because you posted something in your profile, an update or a group about looking for a job in sales). This is all passive anyway.

      The real value of LinkedIn comes from being able to research Industries, Companies and People and then proactively reach out to them yourself. Not 10-12 people, hundreds and hundreds of people, on an ongoing basis.

      Do it all under the banner of Business Networking, make it win-win, about them and non-self promotional, take massive action in meeting just the type of people in just the right companies & industries you want to, and you’ll have endless opportunities to bring up your interest in getting into sales, in a natural & well timed way, in a business but casual setting.

  22. Great article Neal. I should add my job descriptions.

  23. Good point Janna! Agreed!

  24. Good point Janna! Agreed!

  25. Janna Jungclaus
    Janna Jungclaus

    Another mistake some people make is to use the InMail function to send bulk messages to their contacts. This is makes them unpopular because it's annoying, clutters up people's inboxes and can be considered spam. If someone wants to communicate with people they should either use the Q&A function, interact in groups, or ask people to sign up to their autoresponder on their website.

  26. Thanks Flyn…excellent advice. LinkedIn is a social networking site, and social networking is all about providing value. Showing it in your LinkedIn profile is a natural extension of that.

  27. I think one of the biggest mistakes is not listed here — that is not writing your profile in a way that provides value to others. People aren't interested in you until they see the value you can provide. You should start providing that value immediately with your profile.

  28. Thanks for the comment Dick. Yes, there are many other things that you can do with your LinkedIn profile, like what you suggest, that will make it beneficial for you. I only concentrated on those things that I thought would apply to every LinkedIn user, regardless as to whether they use any of the optional applications or not.

    @NealSchaffer

  29. All useful points for success with LinkedIn. If you have a blog make sure to setup the applications section to take your blog posts and feed them into your LinkedIn profile. I find this another way to have a move complete LinkedIn profile and make it easier for others to connect

  30. Thanks for the comments Jason. The LinkedIn Status Update, considering that you don't need to do more than once a day, is something that you shouldn't need to even pre-schedule…tweeting several times a day day in and day out is another story… ;-)

  31. GoodPeopleJapan
    GoodPeopleJapan

    Being careful to not sound like a marketing broadcast, you can use free tools like Hootsuite, to pre-schedule regular updates to your LinkedIn Status Update stream. It doesn't mean you shouldn't jump in and add on the fly, topical comments too, just that a monthly or weekly update can be set and forget, maximizing your time.

  32. GoodPeopleJapan
    GoodPeopleJapan

    Ditto about the groups. Not just joining them, but taking part, driving activity and value, and, if you're ready for it and where possible, take the connections offline & in person. (GoodPeople Japan I set up specifically for this purpose – engaging my personal network in Tokyo, in person around a theme they've indicated they're interested in).

  33. Thanks Kelly!

  34. Great tips Neal!

  35. Thanks for the excellent additions Alejandro!

  36. Alejandro Rodriguez
    Alejandro Rodriguez

    I´d like to add:

    NO affiliate application: They let us a lot about us. Blogger let us show our lattest posts. Slideshare is another good tool to show some good presentation or simply our resume in other format.

    Missppelling words: it is a clever idea to write everything in some word processor with grammatical corrector and then cut and paste in our profile. Missppelling word show us careless.

    • Not sure if you did it on purpose or not, and I realize this is an older comment; but  the point you make is very valid especially since the #1 most commonly misspelled word is “misspelled”…

    • Great point! I completely agree with you, it will happen even to the best of us, even after triple-reading our writing that something will stay misspelled. Yes, to the grammatical corrector tools! :)

  37. Thanks for stopping by Barbara, and excellent advice. I do see more people using the Status Bar in a more savvy way, and I am starting to get comments on my own Status Bar which I didn't have a few months ago. If everyone keeps using it in a savvy way, it will increase in value and thus become that much more important for all of us.

    – Neal

  38. LinkedIn users should also remember to update their status regularly. This is a great way to stay top of mind with your network.

  39. Thanks for the comment Ted and it's great to see you here online! Yes, creating a presentation of yourself using Slideshare is one way to “brand” yourself on LinkedIn. My advice on branding is actually on keywords and positioning even before you think about a presentation. If done right, the branding should be strong even without the optional Slideshare presentation.

    – Neal

  40. Market yourself by adding the LinkedIn ability to upload your own Powerpoint presentations using Slideshare using topics that re-enforce your branding and abilities.

  41. Thanks for the compliment Yvette. I agree that Groups that are essential to success on LinkedIn, but I couldn't fit a one-liner on them in my “Top 10” blog post ;-( But you are bang on with what you write about LinkedIn Groups!

  42. Great post, Neal! The other mistake that I think people make is that they don't take advantage of Groups. Groups are a great way to find connections within your industry. Becoming active in groups helps you to continue to promote your brand and establish your online identity.

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