How To

6 LinkedIn mistakes screwing up your job search

Grace Sweeney


A LinkedIn profile sometimes seems like this thing we have to have, if only for show.


Many of us are guilty of it ourselves. We sign up for a LinkedIn profile and assume it’s a “set and forget it” solution.

You put up that one photo of yourself looking semi-professional and bam — you’re ready to make some sweet connections with thought leaders and go-getters. But you might be making some mistakes that are wrecking your job prospects. Read on, dear job seeker.

6 LinkedIn mistakes screwing up your job search

1. No picture or unprofessional picture

Oh, man. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is failing to put up a decent picture. Opting out of uploading a photo makes you seem like a weirdo, a faker, or someone who just doesn’t care.

An unprofessional profile pic is just cringe-y. By all means, avoid from including your boyfriend, cat, or baby in your LinkedIn pic — it’s all about you.

Don’t overthink the picture. The biggest thing is, you’re wearing clothing that looks clean — at least somewhat professional — i.e., no superhero shirts or bikini tops.

Employers want to see that you look alert — eyes open, standing up straight — and smiling. Your picture serves as a way to communicate that you look well, normal.

A couple of examples that are LinkedIn-approved:

example profile pic

profile picture for linkedin

Additionally, a profile picture comes in handy when you meet people in person or other corners of the web.

People tend to look you up after that networking event or after you’ve sent an email. A bad pic or no pic makes it harder to find you, and could lead to a missed connection.

2. Your recommendations suck

Recommendations are the easiest way to demonstrate credibility — and allow you to squeeze in a few brags without tooting your own horn.

You don’t need a ton of recommendations to make a positive impression. Quality over quantity cannot be emphasized enough here. Still, recruiters might think something is wrong with you if there aren’t any recommendations at all.

But, this area is all about quality. Someone looking at your profile might see a boring recommendation that says “easy to work with, team player.” But that could be about anyone.

By contrast, something like “Sarah has a real knack for rallying people together and getting them to share ideas. She doesn’t hesitate to help others and always has some out-of-the-box solution on hand.”

If you don’t have any recommendations, offer to trade with a few trusted colleagues (or former colleagues) who can describe in detail what you bring to the table.

It’s uncomfortable to ask people for recommendations. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to receive one without calling in a favor, but mostly, you have to ask nicely.

3. Boring descriptions are getting in the way

LinkedIn is like a dating profile for jobs. You want to put your best self forward, but that “best self” should still resemble who you are when you’re out in the world.

So, get those stale, meaningless buzzwords out of your head. You know, “detail-oriented,” “multitasker” (we all know that’s a lie), “hard worker” — highlight unique areas where you excel.

The experience section should offer more information than just the company you’ve worked for and your job title.

Job titles mean different things at different companies. For instance, a marketing manager at one company might be a generalist with few responsibilities whereas someone with the same title elsewhere might oversee a whole department and have a highly sought-after skill set.

Now, we’re not saying you should spit out every duty related to your job. LinkedIn offers limited space, after all. Instead, focus on a few bullet points that demonstrate your capabilities. Leave “proficient in Microsoft Office” out of the mix.

4. You have a terrible headline

Many people don’t know that you can change your headline with minimal effort. Generally, if you leave it alone, LinkedIn defaults to whatever you have listed as your current position.

Your LinkedIn headline (right under your name) is the lead-in to your brand. It’s less about sharing your job title verbatim, more about giving recruiters the short answer to “what you’re all about.”

We’ve all seen those people in our feeds with weird, vague descriptions  —  either a mishmash of industry jargon or an overly long sentence.

Be specific — tell people exactly what you do. Industry focus, what you’re known for — i.e., Marketing Professional: Social Media Specialist and Content Expert.

LinkedIn good headline examples

5. You’re not using keywords

Keywords aren’t limited to optimizing blog posts. They’re a handy tool for making sure that recruiters can find you — and more importantly — that they’ve got an “in” with the types of jobs you’re looking for.

With keywords, you’re at the mercy of the algorithm — however, you still need to make sure that people can read your profile. Using a bunch of buzzy terms like “design thinking,” “marketing/sales/etc. guru/wizard/sorceress” gives the reader a word salad they didn’t ask for.

What’s more, Google and LinkedIn’s algorithms might punish you if they feel you’re engaging in keyword stuffing — or trying to game the system with too many keywords.

Still, you should use industry terms that correspond with your skills, experience, and location.

LinkedIn published a keyword guide that can help you kickstart the research process if you’re unsure where to begin.

6. You’re lurking around the platform

Sharing a status update might not seem like an important part of your online strategy. But it’s vital for helping you appear engaged and active.

This is where you can share your accomplishments — promotions, published articles, new business ventures. It’s also a great place for users to let their network know that they’re seeking new opportunities as well.

You don’t have to post your status every day, just a few times a month so that people can see you — and keep you top of mind.

The second part of this is — don’t lurk. LinkedIn is great for joining groups relevant to your industry. Participating in these conversations — in an authentic way — allows you to connect with a network of other people in entertainment, finance, startups, and may pave the way for job openings down the road.

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