There are certain areas, when training people on using LinkedIn, that always seem to cause controversy. The first area of controversy is about profile pictures. But the second, and I think most misunderstood area, is your professional headline.
Your headline is the area just below your name in the top-most blue box of your profile. Every time you send an invitation to connect, or send an inMail, or comment in a group, your headline appears below your name.
So assuming that your first impression with a recruiter is probably going to be on LinkedIn, those first 120 characters must have sufficient impact and clarity.
In reviewing many LinkedIn profiles over the years, and more recently getting to know the recruiting industry well, I can tell you the key points you need to know when writing or editing your headline.
First, there is no magic formula. I’ve seen LinkedIn trainers build apps and even invent mix-and-match charts to help you write your headline.
It’s not that hard if you think about this from the point of view of your audience. After all, when you use social media, you are a publisher!
Write with Clarity
Remember that recruiters are busy. Some headlines are so nebulous and non-specific that it’s hard for me to understand precisely what that person does. A vague or overly creative headline causes two major problems. One, a creatively written headline probably lacks certain keywords or phrases that recruiters search for.
Two, people looking to fill positions are busy people. They don’t have the time to translate the meaning of “I help companies with go-to-market planning.” You’ve got less than 10 seconds to get them to click on your profile from a search results page with a long list of your competitors.
Here’s the fix: clearly and concisely state your job title as it is described by your target organization. If you are currently employed, you should also note this in your headline.
Write for Impact
While it’s important to clearly state your job title, there is no way your title will take up all 120 characters available to you in the headline area. And because the headline is your first impression, you have to find a way to differentiate yourself with a little personality.
For example let’s take our earlier headline and spruce it up a bit:
Senior Marketing Executive experienced in go-to-market planning in the software industry with a knack for adding excitement to business solutions
Are You Addressing a Need?
All this creative work is great, but it goes only so far if you haven’t uncovered the needs of your target organization. In our example, although it’s a great headline, it would fall short if this person’s target company doesn’t need a strong go-to-market strategy – what if what they need is a marketing analyst?
Avoid the two extremes of too simple or too creative and give those recruiters a break. They will thank you for it!