The most valuable space on your LinkedIn page is the professional headline field just below your name, and the two biggest determinants of whether you will merit further review or will be passed over are what you choose to do with your photo and how you use the space after your name.
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Forget telling the world your job title. In this day of small entrepreneurs, digital startups, and workplace mobility, your title means far less to potential employers than your impact. Instead, let LinkedIn employers know your "why" -- that is, how you impact others or what you are passionate about. Let the employment history section tell the story of your work history. Anyone who is interested in your specific qualifications knows how to scroll down to see that information. Your job is to give them a reason to want to take the time to look.
Why Your LinkedIn Headline Matters
Employers are being bombarded with resumes from applicants with a range of skills. Many of them are unqualified for the position to which they are applying or have been unemployed for so long that they are more interested in employment than the company or job in question. Employers like to know that candidates are both genuinely interested and genuinely qualified. With the high number of job seekers in the market, interest and passion are sometimes harder to determine than qualifications.
The question you as the job seeker need to continually ask yourself is this: How can I make it as easy as possible for the employer to see what a perfect fit I am for their open position? You do this by telling the employer simply and directly that you are impactful, passionate, and qualified in as few words as possible. Getting the employer's attention is the hardest part of the process. Once you have an employer's interest, you can work with them to get the details of your background, resume, experience, and more.
Does this work? Absolutely!
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I have one client now who changed his professional headline to incorporate his passion. Almost immediately, he was contacted by a recruiter with two possible jobs. The recruiter's reason? The passion indicated by the headline was exactly what the companies were looking for and exactly what was lacking in all of the other candidates they had interviewed. This client's specific indication of passion for the technology these employers wanted to integrate not only allowed him to be noticed immediately, but also gave him a negotiating advantage when it came to determining his starting salary.
Tips on Making the Most of Your LinkedIn Headline
1. Search Your Industry and the Job Postings You Find Most Desirable for Keywords
Those words are the ones your potential employers are likely searching for when they are looking for candidates. Consider using some of these when you are crafting your headline. There are online tools that will help you analyze these if you choose, but typically a simple review of listings will give you a good idea.
2. Make Your Headline Impactful and Personal
Remember that your goal is to make an impression on the employer. If you find yourself slipping into your job title, step back, try again, and rework your headline until you feel like it accurately represents the person you will be to the employer.
3. Dare to Compare
Look at what those you admire are using for their headlines. You may not be an influencer yet, but gain inspiration from those who are using LinkedIn well. Combine your employment needs with some future vision-casting to make your headline speak to your present and your future. That injection of passion, vision, and inspiration will resonate with readers of your profile.
Common Headline Mistakes
1. Listing Yourself as 'Unemployed' or 'Seeking New Opportunities'
While this may be the truth, you have many places where your current status can be made apparent, including the last date of your employment further down on the page. An unemployed or "seeking" headline can often be perceived negatively, so even if that is the truth, avoid using that headline unless there is a compelling reason for doing so.
2. Trying to Appeal to Everyone
LinkedIn is for networking. You are trying to appeal to your ideal employer. Target your headline to that demographic. What do you most want that group of individuals to read about you? Put that up front. Once you are employed, you can update your headline to read something else. The beauty of LinkedIn is that your profile can be as dynamic as you are. When your life changes, so will your profile.
3. A Lack of Professionalism
While you do want to self-promote, remember to be professional in your headline. Avoid off-color language, phrases that could be misunderstood, or obscure references (unless the obscure references are relevant to the audience to whom you are appealing for employment).
Erica McCurdy is a practicing International Coaching Federation (ICF) certified professional coach, strategist, and inspirational speaker. You can find out more about her at www.McCurdyLifeCoach.com.