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9/23/12 - Does Your LinkedIn Headline Suck?

Jenny Foss — August 2, 2012


Welcome to the most overlooked LinkedIn profile section: The headline.

If you’re a LinkedIn user, especially one who’s attempting to leverage your LinkedIn presence for professional gain—please race over to your profile immediately. And once you’re there, tell me what you’ve got going on for your headline.

Current title and company name? Yes, yes, I thought so.

Don’t fret. The vast majority of people screw up the headline on their LinkedIn profile, most often because they don’t even realize that you can edit your headline to anything you want. That’s right, your headline is yours for the taking.

By default, LinkedIn populates your headline with your current job title and employer—and that’s precisely what a lot of people leave in there. But allowing the LinkedIn default to take charge of your headline is a dumb move. Why? Because this little 120-character section is prime marketing real estate. Done well, your LinkedIn headline can be used to promote your brand statement, core marketing message, most enticing expertise, and all-around spectacularity (please don’t use that word in your LinkedIn headline.)

Simply put, you can sell yourself, your stuff, and your services, all with a stellar LinkedIn headline.

So how do you get from job title to stellar headline? A great LinkedIn headline incorporates at least a few of these five elements:


1. Succinctly showcase your specialty, value proposition, or your “so what?”
As a recruiter, most days I breeze through LinkedIn profiles fast and furiously. If you want my attention, you’ll do yourself a tremendous service if your LinkedIn headline instantly showcases to me your “so what?” Why should I stop and take a closer look at you? Tell me—in your headline.

PMP-certified project manager – Known for successfully leading multi-million dollar projects in developing countries.

If I were looking for a certified project manager who could take it and run on a challenging international assignment? You’d better believe I’d read further into this guy’s profile. He’s got a good “so what?” The guy whose headline says “Project Manager, [company I haven’t heard of]”—I might pass. (Even if he put “international development” in his interests, which I’ll never see.)


2. Speak directly to the audience you want to entice
Your LinkedIn headline (and, for that matter, your entire profile) should consider its target audience, and then speak directly to it. What will compel or seduce the decision-maker at the receiving end of your message? What does she likely care most about? Address that your headline.

Let’s assume for this next example that I’m a robotics industry recruiter (which I actually am). I’m a robotics recruiter, and I’m looking for someone who knows how to program the heck out of all types of robots. This headline would catch my eye:

Customer-focused pro who can program every robot in your manufacturing facility. Specializing in ABB, FANUC, and Kawasaki robots.


3. Be specific
Again, consider who you’re trying to reach with your headline, and how you can stand out from the competition. The more specific you can be, the better.

Tireless, caring Registered Nurse who helps pediatric cancer patients and their families feel at ease throughout treatment and recovery.

If I were looking for a nurse to care for children or cancer patients—you bet I’d give that profile I second look.


4. Worm in the important key words
Where don’t key words matter anymore, really? Indeed, key words are important when it comes to your LinkedIn headline. What are the most likely terms or phrases someone looking for a “you” might search to find you on LinkedIn? Embed as many of those as you can into your headline.


5. Be creative
Memorable wins, always. (OK, unless it’s scary memorable. That loses.) If you can use some attention grabbing creativity and get the “so what?” about you across? You’re an all-star.

A couple of excellent examples of headline creativity:

Reliable pet-sitter who will find out and report back to you exactly what your dog is up to when you’re not home.

Copywriter who knows how to craft web content that goes viral. Oh, and you’ll never beat me at Scrabble.


So what if you’ve just realized that your current headline sucks? Go to your LinkedIn profile now and click “Edit Profile.” You’ll see the tiny word “Edit” next to your name. Click on that, and then get down to business. I promise, it’s that easy.

LinkedIn is full of space-wasting, say-nothing headlines. With a bit of effort, yours can totally be the standout.

About the AuthorJenny Foss operates a Portland, OR based recruiting firm, Ladder Recruiting Group, and is creator of the blog JobJenny.Your job search BFF and tough love expert on finding career passion, Jenny recently wrote her first ebook, To Whom It May Concern: Or, How to Stop Sucking at Your Job Search. You may also find Jenny on Twitter @JobJenny.