Work & Purpose

Top 5 LinkedIn Mistakes That Make You Look Bad

How a crummy LinkedIn profile can hurt a jobseeker's credibility

(This article appeared previously on AOLJobs.com.)
When it comes to your online presence and your LinkedIn profile in particular, for years, I've been telling professionals: “Brand or be branded."

It started when I was speaking to a group of executives who questioned the importance of having a well-developed profile. Wasn't their name and job title enough, they asked. My answer to them:

"When you fail to create a full LinkedIn profile, you are telling the professional world one or more of the following: A) You aren't tech-savvy enough to know how to use social media or B) You don't have any truly notable accomplishments or C) You have something to hide. To sum it up, not branding your career success online is a rookie mistake."

(MORE: How Job Hunters Can Stand Out From the Pack)

Making a Good First Impression

You would never go to a networking party dressed in your dirty old sweat pants or without any shoes, right? Of course not. You want to make a good first impression.

Failing to fully optimize your LinkedIn profile has the same effect online as coming to the party dressed in the wrong clothes. You risk looking like a rookie. Or even worse, like someone to avoid.

To help you complete your LinkedIn profile wisely, here are five classic mistakes that scream “I'm a rookie!”:

Mistake No. 1: No Photo (Or, a Bad One)

Studies show that people are seven times more likely to click on your LinkedIn profile if there's a picture than if you don't have one.

While not having a photo isn't good, having a bad photo is worse. You need to make sure your picture sends the right message. A smiling headshot that is well-lit, with a neutral, non-distracting background is the ideal.

(MORE: What Career Experts Say You Need to Know Now)

Mistake No. 2: A Lame Headline

The headline is the most important piece of real estate on your profile because it's directly tied to the search feature in LinkedIn. People find you based on keyword searches. If you have the terms they are searching on in your headline, you'll rise to the top of their list of results. Optimizing your headline with the keyword you want to be known for is a must-do.

Mistake No. 3: A Long-Winded Summary In the Third Person

Nothing screams, “I'm self-important” like an excessively long summary written in the third person. The word 'summary' by definition means short. Keep it that way!

Use this section of LinkedIn to roll-up your accomplishments into two to three quantifiable accomplishments. Don't put the reader to sleep with an epic novel. Instead, tease him or her with a short, impactful summary and the person will keep reading.

(MORE: 5 Resume Rules You Need to Ignore)

Mistake No. 4: Not Completing the Work History Section

It's not where you worked, it's what you accomplished that matters. Numbers are the most memorable thing on a LinkedIn profile, so take the time to list the top three to five quantifiable accomplishments you achieved at each job.

Mistake No. 5: Zero Recommendations Tied to Jobs 

Not having anybody take the time to write out and attach a recommendation to your more recent positions can make people wonder about you.

Without recommendations, others will wonder about your teamwork and ability to play nice with others. You should strive to have at least one recommendation (preferably, two) for any jobs in the past 10 years of your professional life.

Beyond the Rookie Mistakes
While those five are the biggest mistakes, there are other things to consider when building the best possible presence on LinkedIn. Keyword optimization, showcasing the right skills and including the best examples of additional experience you've had are all advanced attributes of LinkedIn profile optimization that can help you look good online and make you stand out. Then, you'll get contacted more by people interested in your abilities.
Don't ignore your LinkedIn profile. Sure it takes a little time to get it working best for you. But you want to come to the online professional party of LinkedIn looking your best. 


J.T. O'Donnell is a career and workplace expert who founded the top-ranked career advice site, CAREEREALISM.com. In 2009, she launched CareerHMO, the first on-line career care membership site which specializes in curing chronic career pain.

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