There are no two ways about it: filling in a LinkedIn profile is a tricky business.
Somehow it feels even harder than writing a CV, because all this show-offy stuff is going to be read by your friends and colleagues, not just recruiters. Add to that the fact that in a swamped job market it’s more important than ever to sound like an interesting person (to stand out from the many other intelligent/skilled people looking for work) and you might be tempted not to bother setting up a profile at all – which would be a huge mistake.
BUT believe it or not, you don’t have to sound like a douche or a personality-less robot. Team EWO have scoured our LinkedIn connections and we can report that the key to an impressive and engaging profile – one that makes people think they’d like to hire/work with you – is simply to sound human.
Even though most of the good profiles we found were – perhaps unsurprisingly – those of writers, the striking thing was that they weren’t impressive because their content was so eloquent or mind-bogglingly clever that we were reaching for our dictionaries. It wasn’t even because of their huge breadth of experience and/or qualifications. The impressiveness lay in the fact that they all stood out from the many jargon-infested, stiff-sounding profiles on the site by using simple, clear language that made them seem friendly and approachable.
And you don’t have to be an amazing wordsmith to put together a profile like that. Learn by example: here are our top tips, gleaned from a detailed study of the fabulous profile of our writer friend, Roshni Goyate.
- Write how you would usually write – don’t let yourself get into an ‘I’m writing a formal, professional document’ mode and don’t pepper it with long words and jargon to try to sound clever. Maybe don’t write in the way you would if you were Facebook-messaging a friend, but do try to channel the style and tone you’d use if you were emailing your aunt, or a family friend. Be natural.
Roshni example (Roshnample): “This was initially meant to be a two-month internship but I ended up sticking around well beyond six months. I did research, called up journalists, interviewed stakeholders, helped write reports, dabbled in web content management systems, put together presentations and sometimes had fights with the temperamental coffee machine in the swanky kitchen.”
- Don’t write in the third person. There have been loads of online debates about this but Undercover Recruiter and various other reputable sources have concluded that the first person is the only tense for a good LinkedIn profile, and we at Eyes Wide Opened totally agree.
(We hope you don’t need an example of what this looks like.)
- Give a brief intro to or bit of background on key companies you’ve worked for/with. Don’t expect people to bother looking it up by themselves. And try not to just copy and paste it from the ‘About’ page of the company website – it’ll be obvious. Describe it in your own words, so people can get a feel for how you view the organisation and why you decided to work there. If you were there a while, explain the progression – how did you start out, why were you promoted etc.
Roshnample: “For years, Cottrell House was left as a disused car showroom. Now, thanks to The Coming Soon Club, it’s home to a public cafe, a hot-desking area, which doubles as a conference/meeting area, six fixed desk spaces and a studio space. I rent one of those fixed desks as a freelance writer.”
- A LinkedIn profile is not the place for modesty but do give credit where it’s due. This (in moderation) ensures that you sound like the good egg you are. In the example below, Roshni lets people know she has natural ability but also makes it clear that she’s aware and appreciative of the help she received. This tells the reader she’s a nice, generous person with enough confidence in her own abilities to give others credit. It also keeps her in her former colleagues’ good books, which is always a good thing.
Roshnample: “I started as a junior writer and quickly upgraded to full-on writer by showing my ability to answer a brief – and learning from some of the cleverest people in the industry.”
- Don’t be afraid to use the odd bit of light humour, where appropriate. Obviously there’s a fine line to be trodden here, but there’s no reason why your profile should be dry as the Sahara. Show some personality (after all, likeability is the main deciding factor in whether someone’s hired or not) and give people a reason to keep reading.
Roshnample: [on being a Sales Consultant at Ann Summers] “Shall we talk about this one? Okay let’s talk about this one. It was a part-time job while I finished up my last year of uni. Upstairs I sold lingerie – which included becoming a bra-measuring expert, and charming the pants right off the hangers with my sales tekkers. Downstairs, I had to pick up more specialised knowledge. Some of it was actually rather scientific.”
- Don’t shy away from revealing a bit of humanity/emotion by slipping in the odd mini-story. It brings the experience to life, makes you memorable, and provides real, tangible examples of what you did and the effect you had on the company/clients you worked for.
Roshnample: “Within my first six months I actually brought a client close to (happy) tears by nailing their tone of voice (which is a shorthand way of saying I captured the spirit of their brand through words. Just words).”
- Be honest about your responsibilities. Yes, big up the important, exciting stuff you did but don’t neglect to mention some of the dull, admin-ish, mundane things too. Everyone starts somewhere, and people will respect you more if you’re honest about your role than if you try to suggest you were the indispensable right-hand man to the CEO from the word go.
Roshnample: [on being an admin assistant] “The regular admin stuff – data entry, dealing with the post and phone calls, making amazing cups of tea. But also, because it’s a housing association, I quickly got my head around their housing management software and dealt with residents’ repair and maintenance issues.”
- Be concise. People aren’t going to wade through loads of jargon and decorative language to try to uncover what you actually did in the position. They want to be able to see – and understand – it quickly and easily.
(Check out Roshni’s profile to see what we mean.)
- Get someone else to read it before it goes live. Typos look SO bad. When scouring the site we saw a typo in someone’s (not Roshni’s!) job title. Terrible.
(No example needed. Hopefully.)
- Figure out a way to clearly talk about bitty experiences/phases of your career (e.g. freelancing, or a period where you did lots of short work experience stints). This is possible even within the structure of a LinkedIn profile: just give a summary and/or list the projects/experiences in a few bullet points.
Roshnample: [on being a freelancer] “I’ve written snappy 30-word blurbs. I’ve edited epic 30,000-word annual reports. I’ve made employee letters easier to read. I’ve created intros for portfolios of some of the world’s best-known high-end spirits. I could go on, but here’s a summary […]”
So there you have it. You CAN sound like (a great version of) yourself on LinkedIn.
But we can’t end this without adding a note about profile pictures. Come on guys. Pretty much every single article about creating a great LinkedIn profile lists the common sense guidelines to choosing your photo, but when we were looking for good profiles we came across SO many rubbish/inappropriate ones. So here’s a recap of the (quite obvious) rules:
- Make sure your picture is appropriate for the industry you’re in/looking to get into (ie it can be a bit less formal if you’re in or looking to go into something creative)
- No selfies and no pouting. Choose a professional-looking photo (we came across a male graduate with a TOPLESS profile photo, and a female in a low-cut top). LinkedIn is NOT Facebook!
- Make sure people can actually see your face – ie don’t use a shot that’s so blurry, close up or far away that people would have no idea what you actually look like
- DO include a photo. People like putting faces to names and will often just skip over your profile if you don’t have one
Like the cut of our jib and fancy some face-to-face career-clarifying help from Eyes Wide Opened? Register for one of our upcoming public courses.