Copy THIS: The Anatomy of a Successful LinkedIn Profile

by Team Caffeine · 1 comment


LinkedIn is the grandpa of the social networking world. It’s seen the rise and fall of empires including Bebo, MySpace and Digg, and it’s survived to tell the tale.

It’s always going to be a niche network, with its focus on helping professionals create connections. At the same time, because we all need to work to earn a living, it’s always going to be popular.

You can use LinkedIn to:

  • Find work. Whether you’re looking for your dream job, or just something to pay the bills, LinkedIn has what you need.
  • Connect with people. Including your current colleagues, and people you’ve worked with in the past.
  • Sell yourself. With your LinkedIn profile, you put your best foot forward.
  • Get noticed. Having an active LinkedIn profile drastically increases your changes of being headhunted and approached with job opportunities.
  • Grow your network. LinkedIn groups are perfect for meeting like-minded professionals.
  • Promote your business. LinkedIn is increasingly popular with brands, and has recently added features targeted at business users.

In this article, I’ll show you, step-by-step, what it takes to built a successful LinkedIn profile.

1. Show Your Face

Before you do anything else on LinkedIn, add your photo to your profile. According to LinkedIn expert Nicole Williams:

“You’re seven times more likely to have your profile viewed if you have one. Like a house that’s on sale, the assumption is that if there’s no photo, something’s wrong.”

Your picture is the most important part of your LinkedIn profile. It’s what people see when you’re interacting with them in groups or sharing status updates. It’s also the first thing they’ll see when they check out your profile. Their eyes will be drawn to your picture before they read anything about you. Make sure they’re drawing the right conclusions from your picture.

That’s why its vital to get your picture right. Choose a headshot and make sure you smile. Show those teeth! Business is all about people, and faces are the essence of people. By show your smiling face, you’re revealing that you’re somebody people can trust. You’ll be fun to work with. Before you’ve said a word, you’ve created a genuine connection.

Make your picture as professional as you can by going for an industry appropriate look. We live in informal times, and smart-casual is the best for most, unless you’re in an industry with conservative dress codes (e.g. law), or it’s important that you convey a rebellious, free-thinking image, in which case you choose what you wear.

If you want to kill two birds with one stone, you can show what you do in your picture, and convey the essence of your personal brand.

  • Work in construction? Why not show an image of you wearing a hard-hat?
  • Outdoor adventure instructor? how about a picture of you rock climbing?
  • If you’re a farmer, let’s see you out in the fields!

2. Add an Attention Grabbing Headline

After your profile picture, the next most important part of your LinkedIn profile is your headline.

Most people make the mistake of writing only their job title in their headline.

Why is that a mistake? Because aside from your picture, your headline is all most people will see of you on LinkedIn.

Your headline shows up whenever you write a comment in a group, or share a status update, or when you appear in search results. Unless it’s attention grabbing, people won’t click through to see your profile.

Our favorite formula for writing a compelling headline is:

Job title – How you help people.

For example:

  • Software programmer. I code software to help fresh produce wholesalers manage stock levels.
  • Women’s personal trainer. I teach busy professional women how to keep fit.
  • Construction worker. Reliable, motivated and always on time.

Want to know more about writing a compelling headline? Check out our article here.

3. Write a Keyword-Rich Summary

These days, LinkedIn profiles are pretty flexible, and you can shuffle them about as you want to. However, the default setting is to display your summary at the top of your headline.

Your summary is where you get to really sell yourself, so we recommend keeping it first.

In your summary, expand upon your headline and explain how you help people. In addition:

  • Think about how people might search for you on LinkedIn. What search terms would they use if they’re looking for your skills, experience, or services? Make a list of these search terms – also called keywords, and be sure to include them in your summary.
  • Don’t be shy of name-dropping. If you’ve worked with big name companies, say so, even if they’re only big names in your niche.
  • Proofread it! Spelling mistakes look unprofessional and will make you stand out from the crowd for the wrong reasons.

4. Ask for Recommendations

Your reputation is only as solid as what others think of you. That’s why your profile is only as solid as your recommendations.

Recommendations do your selling for you. There’s nothing you can say about yourself that can’t be said more powerfully by someone else. Why? Because when prospective employers are looking at your profile, they know you’re putting a positive spin on things. Whereas recommendations are from a neutral party.

When you’re starting out on LinkedIn, don’t be afraid of asking for recommendations. Reaching out and requesting a recommendation is a great way of making contact with old workmates. There’s no harm in asking, and most people will be happy to help.

What’s more, if you need particular skills highlighted, then say so in your request.

Still struggling to get recommendations even though you’ve asked for them? Then reach out by making recommendations for people in your network. Then they’ll want to return the favor.

5. List Your Skills (& Collect Endorsements)

For the past year or so, LinkedIn has allowed you to list your skills and be endorsed for them.

You can list almost anything from speaking Mandarin to Salsa to using an iPod.

Once you’ve listed a skills, your LinkedIn connections can endorse you for that skill. All your endorsements are displayed on your profile.

Currently, there’s a debate over whether it’s best to list as many skills as you can think of, or to hone down your skills to a minimalist list.

On the minimalist side, the argument is that the fewer skills you list, the more endorsements you’ll collect on them. That’s why minimalists advocate grouping skills together. For example, instead of listing Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. as separate skills, why not combine them into a single skill: Social Media Marketing.

On the other hand, the more skills you list, the more keywords you have in your profile, and the more likely you are to be found in search.

Top tip: Endorsing others will increase the number of people who endorse you.

6. Showcase Your Best Work

LinkedIn’s profiles are media rich. You can add videos, a graphic design portfolio, samples of projects you’ve managed, or a list of your publications.

These features are around a year old, and many LinkedIn users have yet to catch up, so by taking advantage of them, you’ll put yourself ahead of the crowd.

It’s always better to show what you’re capable of than to merely make claims about what you can do.

7. Complete Your Career History

LinkedIn profiles have always been a way of showing your resume online. Yet in today’s fast-paced, multi-media world, this is arguably the least important factor in your LinkedIn profile. That’s not to say you shouldn’t include it. Not showing your career history is an easy way to raise questions about your profile. But it’s probably the last thing people will look at when they check out your profile.

When you’re listing your past jobs, write about what you did in a way that shows off the skills you need for your ideal job. Write like you’re explaining what you did to a recruiter at a job interview.

You don’t need to go into too much depth. Just make sure what you write about your jobs reinforces everything else in your profile.

Over to You

What are your top tips for putting together a stunning LinkedIn profile?

Lori R Taylor is the founder and executive editor of Social Caffeine. In 2009 she started her own direct response focused social media agency, REV Media Marketing LLC, coining the phrase given by her young son, “You bring the rain, we’ll make it pour.” Follow Lori on Twitter.

David is our acting editor. He’s British, but we don’t hold that against him.

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