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How to write a great LinkedIn profile

All you need to know about creating a LinkedIn profile that will boost your job search. Stand out from the crowd on LinkedIn and impress potential employers.

When you’re looking for a new job, you need to effectively showcase your skills and experience to potential employers. In an age of social networking, this includes having an online presence in your job search.

With 500 million users worldwide, LinkedIn is the world’s biggest professional social network. Alongside using totaljobs to find great job opportunities, creating a LinkedIn profile is crucial to bringing your job search online.

According to one report, around 80 percent of employers use Google to search a candidate’s name when deciding whether to invite them for interview. A LinkedIn profile will usually be among the first results to appear in a search.

You need a LinkedIn profile that’ll impress prospective employers. On the flipside, you also need to avoid making common LinkedIn profile mistakes that put employers off.

So, to help you, we’ve created this guide on how to use LinkedIn while job hunting. With the input of LinkedIn experts, we provide practical advice on how to make the most of your profile.

How to make a good LinkedIn profile: the essentials

Creating a LinkedIn profile can open up huge opportunities for job seekers.

Libby Calaby, the co-founder of The Community People, a social enterprise that helps people to improve their career prospects through effective personal branding, emphasises the potential of LinkedIn as a platform: “It’s like going to a networking event and doing an elevator pitch all-in-one.”

To make the most of this opportunity, you need to show potential employers what’s unique about your skills and experience.

“If you use the internet, you’re already a personal brand,” advises Janet Oganah, a former barrister and communications expert who has founded Janet’s List, a platform for connecting consumers with businesses by women of colour. “Employers will search for you online. People who take this on board, and who are able to use their online presence to tell their story, are much more successful on LinkedIn.”

By linking together your experience, skills, and ambitions in your profile, you can build a compelling picture of what you offer to an employer.

In this section, we tell you how to make a great LinkedIn profile for your job search by taking these essential steps:

  1. Write a good LinkedIn summary.
  2. Show off your experience: write your online CV.
  3. Show the qualities employers look for: how to add skills on LinkedIn.
  4. Ask for a recommendation on LinkedIn.
  5. How to use LinkedIn for professional networking.

1. Write a good LinkedIn summary

The LinkedIn summary is the text field that sits beneath your name and profile picture.

It’s your personal pitch to employers to show what you offer, using no more than 2,000 characters (about 250 words).

The best LinkedIn summaries establish career goals, highlight relevant skills and experiences, and address any career history gaps.

Use our essential tips below to create a good LinkedIn summary.

Tips for a great LinkedIn summary

i. Think about your “mission statement”

Most people use their LinkedIn summary section to simply describe what they’re currently doing career-wise. They’re missing a trick:

The key to a good LinkedIn summary is to spell out your ambitions. It’s helpful to start by looking at what drives you at work.

“You need to spend time to think about your values and the type of work you want to do, and see that as your personal ‘mission statement,’” advises communications expert Janet Oganah.

Your mission statement should be at the heart of your summary. Use it to link together your previous experience with your future career goals.

ii. Tell a compelling story

It’s easy to see your career history as a list of facts and dates and forget that it’s actually part of a larger personal story.

But Libby Calaby, a personal branding specialist, emphasises that your summary “needs to be authentic. Yes, achievements and results are important, but it’s crucial to actually understand your own career path and share your personal journey.”

Make sure you tell a compelling and personal story by:

Talking in the first person

Otherwise, you miss the opportunity to introduce yourself to potential employers on a personal level. Moira Maguire is an experienced HR Director with a background in professional and campus recruitment in financial services, telecoms, and pharmaceuticals, and currently provides mentorship for job seekers going through the recruitment process. She advises not to use the more rigid, impersonal language of a CV: “LinkedIn is more informal, you’re expected to show your personality a bit more.”

Having a conversation

Imagine what you’d say to a potential employer if you were in an elevator with them for a few minutes. Think about the key points you’d like to get across and how you’d do this in an engaging, targeted way – and do it in your summary.

Not forgetting your mission statement

Once you’ve identified your key values and goals, as outlined in step 1, they should remain central to your narrative. This information shows what drives you professionally and provides context to your career so far.

iii. Choose specific examples of your skills and experience

Oganah warns that “a common mistake is providing a summary that’s not tangible enough and doesn’t give evidence of the impact of your work.”

Highlight achievements that best demonstrate your values, skills, and/or progress towards your goals.

Oganah recommends being as specific as you can: “If you’ve saved your organisation X thousands of pounds, say that. If you have represented X number of women in the past year, say that. If you have signed on X number of people to a course, say that.”

As long as you don’t share sensitive business information, key statistics will make you stand out to potential employers – providing evidence of your skills that most people don’t include.

Use the STAR (Situation, Time, Action, Result) technique to detail your achievements. This is a framework that is often used in competency interviews – using it in your summary will ensure your examples are targeted and effective.

If you’ve worked with specific people, or for organisations that are particularly impressive, make sure these are also highlighted in your summary.

iv. Explain any career gaps

The summary section is particularly useful if you’ve got an unconventional work history, for example you’ve taken a career break or you’ve experienced a period of unemployment.

Joanna Murchie, an experienced LinkedIn and personal branding consultant for The CV & Interview Advisors, advises highlighting what you’ve learned from your career break.

“You should explain how this period has enhanced your career and makes you a stronger candidate. For example, if you’ve taken a break to have children, you might want to discuss how you used this period to re-evaluate your career path. Similarly, if you’ve taken time out to travel, you can highlight what that experience has taught you. This is very useful context to any potential employer, as this is information that’s difficult to provide on a traditional CV.”

v. Include a call to action

Conclude your summary by providing a “call to action.”

Use one or two sentences to show what you’d like to achieve through your LinkedIn profile, e.g. you’re currently searching for your next job, or you’re looking to build your network for the future.

Use your call to action to make it clear to potential employers that it’s OK for them to contact you – that you’re open to opportunities.

LinkedIn summary examples

The following three useful LinkedIn summary examples demonstrate the different ways that you can communicate your career goals and highlight your achievements. They also show you the kind of language that’s appropriate for LinkedIn profiles.

The recent graduate

After graduating with a 2:1 degree in Business and Management from Brunel University and spending a year travelling in Asia and Australia, I am looking to combine my business knowledge with my passion for responsible travel by working in a graduate operations role for a sustainable tourism company.

My year travelling was life-changing. I saw amazing natural beauty and met lots of interesting people. During my travels, I worked as a waiter at an eco-lodge in Queensland and on the reception desk of a backpackers’ hostel in Bangkok. My experiences opened my eyes to the environmental challenges of tourism – making me passionate about using my skills to promote the benefits of travel while limiting its impact on the planet.

As part of my degree, I had an industrial placement at a small firm specialising in providing logistics solutions for haulage companies. This included:

  • Assisting managers in key local projects by organising budgets and checking process maps for errors. In recognition of my work, I was asked to assist on a high-profile national project.
  • Engaging with clients to provide updates on progress, for which I received positive feedback in the firm’s annual engagement survey.

My work placement gave me practical experience of project management that will help me hit the ground running in a graduate operations role.

As a student, I was also the part-time manager of the student union bar. During this time, I managed the bar budget and reduced spending by 25%, allowing us to host more social events.

The skills I’ve gained in project work, budgeting, and working with clients, along with my passion for sustainable travel, make me a great candidate for a graduate operations job in an eco-tourism business.

If you work in sustainable tourism and are looking to hire an enthusiastic graduate, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

The career break job seeker

An experienced marketing professional with a Postgraduate Diploma from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, I’m looking for a new role after taking a career break to start a family. With expertise in leading innovative projects and a passion for raising awareness of smaller organisations, I’d be a great fit for a start-up.

Before my career break, I spent 8 years as Marketing Director for a small educational charity. My achievements included:

  • Managing the organisation’s social media strategy, including growing its Twitter following by 300% over 3 years.
  • Leading a rebrand of the organisation, resulting in a 120% year-on-year increase in money raised through fundraising campaigns.
  • Creating a successful digital and print marketing strategy, resulting in consistent national media coverage of our local projects.

To refresh my skills while on my career break, I volunteered as an events coordinator for a local community arts group. This included taking on the promotional responsibilities for a sold-out exhibition, as well as organising a crafts event involving 12 different arts groups across Greater Manchester.

I’ve used my time out of the workplace to assess my career so far and plan my next steps. With my experience of marketing small organisations, including a proven record of increasing exposure and fundraising, I’ve decided that my skills would be most suited to a start-up looking to increase its profile and attract investment.

If you are a new business owner looking for the expertise of an experienced marketing professional, let’s connect!

The experienced manager

As a senior sales executive for over 20 years, I sell pharmaceutical products to healthcare companies across the UK and Ireland. Currently managing a team of 15 sales representatives, I consistently exceed national sales targets.

Formerly a Sales Director for a multinational pharmaceutical manufacturer, I currently work for Pharm Consultancy Inc. to sell equipment on behalf of several medical manufacturing companies. I have developed a wide range of sales and people skills developed over a 20-year career. My achievements include:

  • Exceeding annual sales targets for 8 consecutive years, which has ensured consistent growth for our client companies.
  • Successfully managing the annual team budget, which has allowed me to expand the team from 8 to 15 people over the past 3 years.
  • Winning the Pharm Consultancy Inc. “Sales Director of the Year” award three times.

Passionate about motivating my team to deliver exceptional results, I also provide sales training workshops across the UK on behalf of my company. Using my expertise in sales strategy, I’ve written numerous articles for leading industry magazines on team dynamics and business development.

I enjoy making new connections from across the sales and pharmaceutical sectors and I’m actively looking to expand my network on LinkedIn. Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss future opportunities.

2. Show off your work experience: write your online CV

The work and education sections are the areas of your profile that most resemble an online CV, with space for the name of each institution you have worked / studied at, job titles, dates, and details of each role.

But your LinkedIn profile should complement, not replace, your CV.

Personal branding consultant Joanna Murchie says that “the idea of LinkedIn is to give more weight to the CV, to provide more information about the person than the CV.”

Whereas it’s expected that a CV is a fairly detailed breakdown of your work and education experience, keep things short and sweet on your LinkedIn profile.

Recruiters will often scan multiple profiles looking for relevant candidates, so your work experience needs to be the quick “hook” that makes them want to ask you for a CV or a chat.

Here are our top tips on how to do this:

Pinpoint the most important parts of your work history

As Murchie explains, “you should provide a snapshot, much more brief than your CV, and very much achievement focused.”

For each of your roles, pick 3 to 4 of your most impressive and relevant responsibilities and/or achievements to highlight. Where possible, use numbers and statistics to evidence your skills, as covered in the previous Write a good LinkedIn summary section.

Use appropriate language for your industry, including LinkedIn keywords. More information on using LinkedIn keywords can be found later in this guide in the Use keywords to get found on LinkedIn section.

Address any gaps in your work history

While it can be tempting to simply leave out a career gap due to circumstances like travelling, redundancy, or starting a family, don’t shy away from it.

As communications expert Janet Oganah advises: “approach career gaps in an open and honest way. If you ignore or try to hide them, people will wonder what you aren’t telling us.”

List a gap as a career break, provide a brief description, and detail any relevant skills or experience gained in this period. Provide more context on the gap in your summary, as discussed in the previous Write a good LinkedIn summary  section.

Make the most of your work experience

Another common issue is a lack of work history to add to your profile. This is particularly the case for those who’ve recently finished university or school.

In this first scenario, you need to take a wider look at what experience you do have, whether through part-time work, work placements, or being part of a club or society.

Focus on how these experiences have given you relevant skills, and how they can be used in the kind of job you’re looking for. For example, if you’re looking for a graduate job at an accountancy firm, it’s relevant to highlight that you were in charge of the team budget in your position as captain of the university hockey club.

If you’re still stuck, Oganah advises “to look at what you may need to do offline to gain some experience and skills – volunteering is a great way of doing this. At the end of the day, LinkedIn can only work if you can bring the online and the offline together.”

Be honest about your work history

Don’t be tempted to get creative with the truth – remember that employers will check your history. It’s not worth risking your reputation and employment prospects.

Moira Maguire, an experienced HR Director and recruitment mentor, warns that “the danger for employers is that it’s fairly easy for people to add work experience and skills on LinkedIn that are not entirely accurate. But there are vetting processes in place before you get a job to check your claims.”

Regularly review your profile

Remember that your CV is only seen when you provide it to a potential employer – but your LinkedIn profile is on view all the time!

You need to regularly review your profile to make sure your work experience is accurate and up-to-date.

“Revisit [your profile] every couple of months, at least”, recommends Murchie. “Ask yourself: does my profile reflect what I’m doing right now? If it’s out of date, and you apply for a job, potential employers may find stuff on your profile that seemingly contradicts your paper CV – and that’s really dangerous.”

3. Show the qualities employers look for: how to add skills on LinkedIn

The Featured Skills & Endorsements functionality enables you to share a list of skills, which can then be “endorsed” by your other LinkedIn connections.

It works as a quick reference guide of your skills and experience. Use it to show that you have qualities employers look for.

A list of skills also makes it easier for you to be found in LinkedIn searches by using keywords. For further details on LinkedIn keywords, go to the Use keywords to get found on LinkedIn section later in this guide.

Here’s how to add skills on LinkedIn and get them endorsed:

  1. Click on the “Add a new skill” icon in the Featured Skills and Endorsements section.
  2. Use the search box provided to add relevant keywords from the LinkedIn skills database.
  3. Other people in your network can now provide LinkedIn endorsements by clicking on the plus symbol next to a specific skill that you have added. You’ll be asked to accept any endorsements before they are shown on your profile.

To make your skills and endorsements work for you, keep them relevant and targeted to your industry. LinkedIn only shows a selection of your skills and endorsements on your profile, based on their relevance. To see the whole list, the reader has to actively click the “show more” icon.

LinkedIn shows the skills and endorsements it sees as most relevant to the particular reader, based on the details in the reader’s own profile.

For example, a skill is more likely to be seen on your profile if it has been endorsed by a mutual connection or by people in the same industry as the reader.

By doing this, LinkedIn ensures that:

  • Potential employers see the skills and endorsements on your profile that are most relevant to them.
  • Endorsements are kept relevant because endorsers see the skills that are most applicable to them when they go to your profile.

“[In 2016] LinkedIn changed the way endorsements are managed,” Libby Calaby, personal branding specialist, explains. “Whereas before, anyone could endorse you for anything, there’s now added emphasis on appropriate, credible endorsers.”

In this set up, a smaller, targeted list of skills, endorsed by relevant people in your industry, is much more useful than a large list of generic ones.

“You can be endorsed for up to 50 LinkedIn skills – but I really wouldn’t recommend going this far,” advises Calaby.

Top skills to list on your LinkedIn profile

You need to do your homework to make the most of your Featured Skills and Endorsements.

Research the skills employers look for in your field. “Look at the ‘hot’ skills in your industry at the moment,” Joanna Murchie, a personal branding consultant, advises.

“For example, you might be able to use a particular piece of software that’s really in demand in your industry.” You’ll definitely want to show this type of skill off on your LinkedIn profile!

Your first port of call should be totaljobs. Look at listings for jobs you’re interested in and make a list of the skills required for these jobs.

LinkedIn also provides an annual summary of what they see as the most employable skills. The most in-demand industry skills on this list tend to be technical in nature. LinkedIn include the following as the top employable skills for 2018:

  • Cloud and Distributed Computing.
  • Statistical Analysis and Data Mining.
  • Middleware and Integration Software.
  • Web Architecture and Development Framework.
  • User Interface Design.
  • Software Revision Control Systems.
  • Data Presentation.
  • SEO/SEM Marketing.
  • Mobile Development.
  • Network and Information Security.
  • Marketing Campaign Management.
  • Data Engineering and Data Warehousing.
  • Storage Systems and Management.
  • Electronic and Electrical Engineering.
  • Algorithm Design.
  • Perl/Python/Ruby.
  • Shell Scripting Languages.
  • Mac, Linux and Unix Systems.
  • Java Development.
  • Business Intelligence.
  • Software QA and User Testing.
  • Virtualisation.
  • Automotive Services, Parts and Design.
  • Economics.
  • Database Management and Software.

If you have any of these specific skills, make sure you add them to your profile.

Don’t be disheartened if you don’t have any of these in your skillset, it simply means you’ll need to do a bit more research on the relevant skills for you and your industry.

4. Ask for a recommendation on LinkedIn

Recommendations on your LinkedIn profile are an opportunity for others to share their experiences of you, your work, and your skills.

By making sure you have relevant recommendations on your profile, you show employers that there are professional people willing to vouch for you in a public forum. They get a reference before they meet you, which can make a huge difference to the success of your job search.

“In our experience, candidates with recommendations on their profiles are three times more likely to get invited to interview,” states Joanna Murchie, personal branding consultant.

She stresses that feedback is an expected part of the social media experience: “I wouldn’t go to an expensive restaurant or book a holiday without looking at online recommendations. Testimonials are so important in modern culture. Recommendations from real people, in positions of responsibility, will validate the rest of your profile.”

Communications expert Janet Oganah says that “if an employer is faced with two similar candidates, a recommendation could be the difference between giving an interview or not.”

Despite these benefits, many job seekers simply don’t have any recommendations on their profile.

Make sure you don’t make this mistake by following our tips for getting a great LinkedIn recommendation:

How to ask for a recommendation on LinkedIn

Requesting a LinkedIn recommendation is pretty straightforward:

  1. Click on the “Ask to be recommended” icon on your profile, which sits in the Recommendations section underneath Featured Skills & Experience.
  2. Type in the name of the person you want a recommendation from. To request a recommendation from someone, you need to already be connected with them on LinkedIn. For more information on how to connect with people, see the How to use LinkedIn for professional networking section in this guide.
  3. You’ll be asked to provide information on how you know the person. Pick the appropriate responses from the drop-down menu provided.
  4. An invitation is generated. You’re given the option to customise the invitation by adding your own message.
  5. Click “send” to action the invitation.

While sending an invite is an easy process, it’s something people find difficult in practice. “In the true British way of things,” Oganah explains, “many people are loath to bother others to give them a recommendation. But you shouldn’t be afraid to ask.”

Always take the opportunity to add a personal note to your invite.

Make it as easy as possible for them to provide a recommendation by reminding them who you are, how you know each other, and being clear on what exactly you are requesting from them. Be concise and polite.

Oganah acknowledges that it isn’t always easy to ask for a favour, especially if it is from someone in a more senior position to you:

“If you feel slightly ill when you hit ‘send’, that’s normal! And don’t think it is an automatic rejection if that person doesn’t get back to you right away, wait a week and send a polite follow-up – sometimes people are simply busy and forget.”

Who to ask for a recommendation on LinkedIn

You should make a list of the most relevant people from whom you can ask for a recommendation on LinkedIn.

The most effective recommendations are provided by professional people in your industry – such as former managers, colleagues, and clients. Murchie explains, “recommendations from people in your relevant industry will further enhance your profile’s searchability.”

“Offer a recommendation in return. This process revitalises old connections and relationships, which is always positive.”

5. How to use LinkedIn for professional networking

To maximise the potential of your profile in a job search, you need to learn how to use LinkedIn to make connections across your desired industry.

“LinkedIn is all about building social capital” advises communications expert Janet Oganah. This means being part of a wider network. By giving and receiving information with others, you build relationships that can lead to future career opportunities.

To help you build your social capital, here’s our top tips on how to use LinkedIn for professional networking:

i. Make LinkedIn connections

Use LinkedIn to make “connections” with people in your industry.

By connecting, you can see their key activities on LinkedIn in your home feed, and they can see yours. This includes seeing LinkedIn posts and comments, as well as job changes and other career activity (if they allow this in their privacy settings).

It also means they can provide recommendations and endorsements for you, and vice versa.

Connections can be requested by taking these steps:

  1. Go to their profile page.
  2. Click “Connect” underneath their profile photo.
  3. LinkedIn will give you the option to provide a personal message along with your invite. When you are ready, click send.
  4. Your invitee will get the option to accept or decline the connection.

As LinkedIn is a professional networking site, it’s acceptable to send a connection request to someone you don’t know personally (although they should be linked to your career or industry).

When requesting connections, personal branding consultant Joanna Murchie recommends that your “always, always provide a personalised message with your connection request. If you don’t, it’s a bit like bumping into someone in the street, giving them a business card, and just walking off.”

“Send something like “I’m a recent graduate, trying to get into X industry, wondered if we could have a chat…” or “I completely agree with what you posted in the Civil Engineering LinkedIn Group, so I wanted to connect…”, as this shows initiative and proactivity, the sort of things that would make someone want to hire you.”

Pay it forward by helping to connect others if it’s beneficial to them: “by helping others in your network, they will be willing to do the same for you,” Oganah advises. “But always take the time to check with each party first [before making the introduction].”

ii. Use your networking skills in LinkedIn groups

An easy way to start expanding your online network is to join LinkedIn groups relevant to your career.

LinkedIn groups are forums for networking and discussion relating to a particular skill, interest, or industry. You can look for groups to join by using the LinkedIn search function.

For example, if you work in publishing, you might search for terms such as “publishing”, “publishing UK”, or “business to business publishing.” You’ll see the most relevant results to your search. Scan your options carefully, then decide what groups you’d like to join.

Groups are very useful for connecting with others in your field. “Groups keep you updated on trends and hot topics,” asserts Murchie. “They’ll also enable you to correspond with others. They provide an open door to senior influencers that you might not otherwise be able to talk to”.

By answering a question that has been posted in the group, or making an insightful comment in a conversation, you are inviting these influencers – often potential employers in your field – to take a closer look at your profile.

This puts you in a great position to make connections with potential employers – or even get asked for a CV or an interview.

iii. Follow companies on LinkedIn

Follow companies and institutions that interest you by clicking on the “Follow” box that appears on their LinkedIn pages.

Murchie says this can be invaluable for a job search: “You’ll be kept updated on job opportunities and, in an interview situation, you’ll be able to talk knowledgeably both about the firm and the wider industry.”

iv. Engage with LinkedIn posts

To really engage with others on LinkedIn, regularly look at your newsfeed on the LinkedIn homepage. This provides a snapshot of the latest activities of your LinkedIn connections (if their privacy settings allow this), your LinkedIn groups, and any companies that you follow.

It also shows LinkedIn posts, which are blog-type articles that many industry leaders will write in order to share their perspectives on hot topics and trends in their field.

Don’t be shy about commenting on these posts. This is a chance to engage with key experts in your area – something that’s much rarer in the offline world.

If you have something relevant and interesting to say, this will make you stand out to potential employers and may lead to making some great connections. If you feel confident, you can even start to publish some posts of your own.

v. Avoid social media pitfalls

While being engaged and proactive on LinkedIn will expand your network and strengthen your job search, it’s important to avoid these common social media pitfalls:

Don’t share sensitive or confidential information

Although sharing expertise will show off your knowledge and skills, personal branding specialist Libby Calaby advises not to discuss anything that shouldn’t be aired in public: “Don’t share detailed financial information from your previous companies, or anything seen as competitive intelligence or sensitive data.”

Be careful what you share – or you could land yourself in hot water.

Be selective about what other users can see

You can look at your general privacy levels by going into your account settings – monitor this to help you control what others see in their newsfeeds.

Also note that, when you go into edit mode to update your LinkedIn profile, you’re given the option to “Share with network” when you publish your changes. If you enable this, your connections are notified on their newsfeeds as to what you’ve updated.

Be aware that a flurry of profile activity can suggest to others that you are job hunting – which will cause you problems if you don’t want your boss or colleagues to know. As Calaby states, “as soon as people see you updating your information, they’ll talk!”

If you want to avoid this, stick to LinkedIn’s default position and keep “Share with network” turned off.

Keep inappropriate thoughts to yourself

Remember that it’s not only future employers who can see your activities on LinkedIn – it’s potentially everyone, including your current employers and colleagues!

Experienced HR Director and recruitment mentor Moira Maguire has seen first-hand how seriously companies take the risks of oversharing on social media. “Senior corporate executives are increasingly having ‘digital reviews’ to look at their social media footprint to make sure nothing is being posted that would create risk.”

If organisations take it this seriously, so should you.

Avoid oversharing: LinkedIn isn’t the place to air your frustrations with your current boss, to complain that you should have been promoted, or share your political views.

Look at the potential impacts of any of your posts on LinkedIn before publishing – and keep them professional and relevant.

How to strengthen your LinkedIn profile: advanced tips

Once you’ve spent time creating a good LinkedIn profile and started to expand your network on LinkedIn, some small tweaks can increase your LinkedIn profile strength to take your job search to the next level.

Here’s our top tips to make a great first impression to employers and increase your chances of being found in a LinkedIn search.

Make first impressions on LinkedIn count

To entice potential employers to take a closer look at your profile, you need to know how to make a good first impression on LinkedIn.

The information at the very top of a LinkedIn profile is what comes up in the results of a LinkedIn search – namely, a profile picture and a heading. Along with the summary (see Write a good LinkedIn summary  section), this is what Libby Calaby, a personal branding expert, calls your “showcase section.”

You need to get this section right if you’re to make the most of your profile.

If you don’t put effort into using the right LinkedIn profile photo and heading, Calaby warns that you’ll miss the chance to “be authentic and provide a picture of what you would be like [to hire].”

First impressions could make the difference between a potential employer taking notice or passing you by.

Create an effective LinkedIn heading

The LinkedIn heading is a short description of what you do and who you are. Most people opt to use the LinkedIn default for this space, which is to state their current role – i.e. X position at Y company.

But experts say this misses a very effective trick:

“If you want one tip to transform your profile in less than 5 minutes, my advice would be to re-write that headline to best get across who you are,” advises Calaby.

This could be the difference between a potential employer clicking on your profile or looking at someone else. Personal branding consultant Joanna Murchie emphasises the importance of being clear and informative in your LinkedIn heading:

“I often use the ‘cheap red shoes’ analogy”, explains Murchie. “if I want cheap red shoes, I will type ‘cheap red shoes’ in a search engine. One result might show a website claiming ‘we sell shoes for all budgets, for every taste’. In this case, I’d have to do some further research – as I’m not sure they even offer what I’m looking for.”

“But if another result comes up for that clearly states it specialises in cheap red shoes, I’m going to go for that straightaway. Similarly, you need to make it as easy as possible for a potential employer to click on your profile.”

Avoid terms that are too specific, such as acronyms and terminology only used at your firm.

Equally, avoid using too general a description such as “finance professional”. General terms don’t tell potential employers what you offer. Something more targeted like “Chartered Accountant” is much more useful.

Calaby advises to do your homework by looking for common terms used by employers in your area: “totaljobs is brilliant for this. You can research job titles by looking at [listings for] different roles in your desired industry.”

By using the right terminology, you’ll increase your chances of being found on LinkedIn, while making clear to your desired employers that you fit what they are looking for.

Look smart: tips for picking the best LinkedIn profile picture

Your LinkedIn profile picture is an opportunity to provide a great first impression to potential employers. Unfortunately, this is an area where people make a lot of mistakes.

Adding a profile picture is an easy process: you click on the camera icon in the circle above your name and upload your chosen image.

Yet one of the biggest errors is not having a picture at all. LinkedIn reports that you’re 14 times more likely to be searched for if you have a profile picture – so make sure that you have one!

Another frequent pitfall is failing to make the right impression in your LinkedIn profile picture. You can avoid this by following these expert tips:

Be appropriate to your industry

As Calaby states, “if you’re a graphic designer, you may not need to be suited and booted in your picture, whereas if your industry is more formal, you may need to [wear a suit].”

Leave your personal shots on Facebook

Joanna Murchie, a personal branding consultant, sees this mistake all the time. “Employers don’t want to see the typical Facebook-type photo. This means no holiday shots, photos with your children or pets, or group shots where it isn’t even clear which person you are!”

Keep it simple

As Murchie states, “Employers are not looking for anything overly arty or complicated – you just need to look approachable and professional.”

A straightforward head-and-shoulders shot, looking at the camera and smiling, is recommended.

Use the right profile picture size

There’s no point having a great profile picture that appears stretched or pixelated once uploaded.

The recommended dimensions of your LinkedIn profile picture is a minimum of 400 x 400 pixels, for optimal quality.

Change the resolution of your picture by using the editing function in your computer’s photo gallery. Alternatively, there are many third party websites that enable you to edit your profile picture size for free.

How to choose the best LinkedIn background photo

For a further personal touch, you have the option of adding a LinkedIn background photo to your profile page.

While not essential, the right background image will make your profile more appealing and add colour to a potential employer’s initial impression of you.

Upload a LinkedIn background photo by clicking on the pencil icon on your profile page. The recommended dimensions for a LinkedIn background photo is 1584 x 396 pixels.

Opt for an image that reflects your personality but is still professional. Avoid the types of personal pictures you put on Facebook.

To be most effective, it should tie back to your profile in some way. For example, if you’re a copywriter, a background image of a typewriter or a set of beautiful pens would nicely reflect your skills and chosen career.

How to get noticed on LinkedIn by optimising your profile

When it comes to increasing your chances of being found by potential employers, LinkedIn is an incredibly powerful tool.

As Libby Calaby, personal branding specialist, states: “it has made the hidden job market more searchable than ever before.” To make the most of this opportunity, you should maximise your chances of being found in a LinkedIn search.

To show you how to get noticed on LinkedIn, we’ll teach you how to tweak your LinkedIn URL and use keywords to increase the visibility of your profile.

Change your LinkedIn URL

While you may know that your LinkedIn profile URL is the web address for your particular profile, you may not be aware that you can customise your LinkedIn URL to be more streamlined and memorable.

The steps to change a LinkedIn URL are straightforward:

  1. Click on the “Edit public profile & URL” box to the right of your profile page
  2. Click on the pencil icon under “Edit URL” and enter your preferred URL in the space provided. Sometimes your chosen URL will already be taken, so you’ll need to be a little creative if this happens.

As LinkedIn is used by half a billion people, there are many users with the same name. For duplicate names, a unique number is generated for each profile to differentiate them.

By changing your LinkedIn URL, you can make it easier for you to be found. For example:

An accountant called Jane Smith is looking for a new job and sets up a LinkedIn profile. Her default LinkedIn URL looks something like this: Potential employers doing an internet search of her name will likely get lots of results for LinkedIn profiles for people called Jane Smith – and the default URL will not help them find the “correct” Jane.

But if Jane changes her URL handle from “jane-smith-1234567” to “jane-smith-charteredaccountant,” this will not only jump out when looking at a list of search results, but is also more likely to come up in a targeted search (e.g. for “Jane Smith accountant” or “Jane Smith accounting”).

Even if your name is unique, a customised URL has the additional advantage of appearing much more streamlined and professional. This is especially important now that LinkedIn URLs are commonly put on CVs, email signatures, and business cards.

When you share your LinkedIn details with potential employers, small details like a customised URL can help you stand out.

Use keywords to get found on LinkedIn

To maximise the chances of your profile being found by relevant potential employers in your industry, you should consider how you use LinkedIn keywords.

Keywords are terms or phrases that are commonly searched for and used on LinkedIn. Joanna Murchie, a personal branding consultant, advises that you should “make sure your profile is saturated with appropriate keywords,” as the more you can use the right industry terms in your profile, the better the chances of your profile being found in a relevant LinkedIn search.

Follow these steps to ensure you are correctly using LinkedIn keywords:

1. Research LinkedIn keywords

Pinpoint search terms employers would use to look for candidates in your desired field. Do this by looking at the languages employers use in job listings on totaljobs, as well as looking at the LinkedIn profiles of others in your industry.

2. Make a list of your relevant LinkedIn keywords

Once you have started researching your terms, make a list. Include different ways the terms can be used or adapted within your LinkedIn profile.

“For example,” Murchie states, “if you are a project manager, you can easily alternate using other terms like ‘project management,’ ‘managing a project,’ ‘project leader.’”

3. Update your profile to include relevant LinkedIn keywords

Once you have done your research and have a list of your relevant keywords, review your profile to add them where relevant. Replace generic descriptions with specific LinkedIn keywords.

Don’t overdo the keywords. You don’t want to spam readers of your profile by using lots of LinkedIn keywords without context or relevance. Such an overtly and tactically constructed profile could give the impression of inauthenticity.

LinkedIn profile do’s and don’ts

Do …

  • Write a LinkedIn summary that tells your career “story.”
  • Share specific examples of your skills and experience.
  • Ask for LinkedIn recommendations from others.
  • Update your profile regularly.
  • Make a good first impression with the right LinkedIn profile photo and heading.
  • Customise your LinkedIn URL to stand out from the crowd.
  • Use relevant LinkedIn keywords to maximise your profile’s visibility.

Don’t …

  • Treat your LinkedIn profile just as an online CV – use it to share more information about your values and career goals.
  • Leave your profile go “out of date” – regularly review and update your work experience.
  • Send a recommendation or connection invite without a personalised message.
  • Be shy. Expand your network by making LinkedIn connections, joining LinkedIn Groups, and commenting on LinkedIn posts.
  • Forget to upload an appropriate LinkedIn profile picture.
  • Use the default heading under your profile picture – take the time to pick a heading that shows who you are and what you can offer.