By: Bogdan Zlatkov
When the modern elevator was invented in 1853, it birthed the elevator pitch. 150 years later, when LinkedIn was invented, it birthed the dreaded LinkedIn headline.
If you thought that pitching yourself in a 30 second elevator ride was hard, try pitching yourself in 120 characters.
A few weeks ago, I was chatting with Bogdan Zlatkov about what makes a strong LinkedIn headline. Bogdan is the Lead Instructor at Growth Hack Your Career and runs a great e-course that has been used by thousands of job seekers, so he’s seen his fair share of both good and bad LinkedIn headlines.
He explained, “Despite what popular articles will tell you, there is no one right way to write a LinkedIn headline. Your LinkedIn headline should be your unique calling card, but it should also be optimized for recruiters to find you.”
Bogdan gave me some great examples of how to write a good LinkedIn headline, so I thought it would be great to have him share some of his tips here.
Without further adieu, here’s Bogdan:
Thanks, Anda! In this post I’ll go over the 7 most common mistakes people make with their LinkedIn headlines and I’ll also go over how to improve them.
Let’s jump right in!
1. Seeking opportunities…
This is the most common and probably the worst headline of all because it’s a selfish headline. This headline is like hanging a sign on your front door saying, “help needed, anything helps.”
The reason this headline doesn’t work is because it isn’t positioning you as an expert who can offer something, instead it’s framing you as someone who needs help.
2. Successful project manager with 8 years experience…
When I was studying writing at university, there was a saying that our professors kept telling us over and over, “show, don’t tell.” Rather than telling your reader that you’re successful and have experience, show them your experience through your full LinkedIn profile. Remember, people who are successful don’t need to write that they’re successful, especially in their headline.
3. Ambitious creative thinker seeking…
When you’re optimizing your LinkedIn headline for recruiters, it’s important to put in keywords that the recruiter will actually be using to search for you. The general rule here is to use nouns, not adjectives.
A recruiter isn’t going to type “ambitious” or “creative thinker” into the search bar. But they are likely to type something tangible like “UX designer.”
4. Marketing, Sales, Data, UX Design, Cloud Computing…
These LinkedIn headlines are strange and my suspicion is that people write them because they’re only trying to optimize for keywords. This is when optimization can go a little too far and you just get a series of words that don’t make sense.
Your LinkedIn headline should include keywords, but it also needs to have the connective tissue that strings it into a logical sequence.
5. CEO at…
Unless you’re a CEO of a company that has at least 5 employees, you shouldn’t position yourself as a CEO. A CEO is a very serious role that involves a whole lot of responsibility.
If you created your own company that’s great, but until it’s a bigger company you should position yourself as a Founder rather than a CEO. It’s easy for recruiters to sniff out if you’re an actual CEO simply by looking your past job experience. You don’t want them to ask you, “so how did you go from a product associate to a CEO in just 3 months?”
6. Sales Specialist.
Writing a short, matter of fact headline like this is fairly common. We all agree that building up your LinkedIn profile can be a hassle, but that doesn’t mean you can just ignore the realities of LinkedIn.
Whether we like it or not, LinkedIn is here to stay (I should know, I used to work there). We now need to compete against hundreds of thousands of other people, so a simple headline simply isn’t enough.
7. Proven non-profit and private sector professional actively seeking Curatorial, Community and/or Social Impact roles
In contrast to the above example, putting too much into your headline can also hurt your chances of landing a job. Although this headline is using the full 120 characters, it’s actually pretty confusing because it has too many subjects in it.
When writing your LinkedIn headline, it’s important to break up the information into smaller chunks. Avoid using more than one “and” in your headline and limit the use of commas and slashes.
Now that we’ve seen what not to do, here are a few simple ways you can use to improve your LinkedIn headline:
1. Use Nouns
If you simply avoid using adjectives, you’ll naturally stay away from fluffy words like “ambitious” or “successful.” Stick to nouns that describe your professional expertise. Here’s an example:
Digital Marketer | Facebook Ad Specialist | Managed $5MM in Revenue
2. Use Dashes
Rather than using commas to separate your ideas, which can lead to long sentences, try using either a horizontal or vertical dash. Here’s an example:
Director of Client Success |Market Certified |Salesforce Certified.
3. Add some Flair
In a sea of LinkedIn headlines, it can be easy to get lost with all the other people who have “optimized” their headlines. I like to have my typical keywords, but then also add something interesting at the end. Here’s an example:
Content Marketer | SEO Writer | Video Producer | Beat Mark Zuckerberg at hockey
4. Add your Awards
Very often we get so focused on our day-to-day job that we forget about our past accomplishments. If you’ve received an award or certification, your headline is the perfect place to use it so that you can stand out. Here’s an example:
Telly Award-winning Content Marketer | HubSpot SEO Certified |
When I was at LinkedIn and other companies, I saw first-hand how recruiters look for candidates to fill the open roles at our company. The best way I could describe it as a quick-scan approach.
In many cases they would run the applications through an “Applicant Tracking System” (ATS) which would pull the best candidates based on the keywords it automatically finds in the resume and LinkedIn profiles. Then the recruiter would take a quick peak at the resume or LinkedIn profile and (in under 10 seconds) batch them into a YES or NO pile.
Then and only then, would they go through the trouble of actually reading the profile or resume in detail.
This is why your LinkedIn headline is SO important to having a successful application. It’s that front door that invites a recruiter or hiring manager to knock with the opportunity you’re looking for.
So, I hope this article was helpful and opens more doors for all of you.
Bogdan is a Telly award-winning content strategist who has worked with some of the top companies in Silicon Valley including Prezi, AdRoll, and Guidebook, and LinkedIn.
As a LinkedIn insider, he’s seen first-hand what recruiters look for in a resume and how they make hiring decisions. He has also personally tested over 400 applications, done 150+ interviews, and worked with dozens of students 1-on-1 to help them land their dream jobs. These days, he enjoys being the Lead Instructor at GrowthHackYourCareer where he teaches over 26,000 readers how to improve their resumes and nail their next interviews.