With change the only constant of an ever-evolving social media landscape, the concept of a ‘perfect LinkedIn profile’ can be difficult to tie down. Not only is our culture and behaviour adapting quickly to new media, but LinkedIn itself is constantly shifting the boundaries with updates in its algorithms and search criteria.
That said, there are some constants that can help make sure your LinkedIn profile summary makes the right kind of impression on the right type of people; here are the main things to think about when trying to write the all-important introduction to your profile, which is very likely the first thing your audience will read, after they’ve looked at (and made dozens of snap judgements about) your photo.
Start by understanding yourself. Or, at least, have a good idea of an ideal perceived version of you. How do your colleagues see you? Your clients, your employees, Janet from Finance? It’s a question that many people rarely ask of themselves, but it’s not only a great starting point for your CV and LinkedIn profile, it’s a fantastic tool for improving your performance at work.
The rising importance of LinkedIn has seen the advent of ‘personal branding’ professionals dedicated to helping clients work with exactly this concept, but you probably know enough already, if you give it some thought. Are you a graduate, an experienced MD? Do you work in a traditional, conservative field, or a more open, dynamic one? People person? Analytical? Numbers-oriented? Creative? Well-organised? Brainstorm with people that know you, and come up with a few words that match and define how you behave at work.
Then, think about why you’re writing the summary. What outcome are you trying to achieve? Who are you talking to? How do you want them to feel about you? What do you want them to think, and then to do? This is often a matter of priorities. Which is more important, attracting potential recruiters, impressing target line managers or making clients want to buy from you?
Having a good understanding of your target audience, and the industry and culture associated with it, is an important factor in choice of content and format. There are three main styles of profile; a traditional ‘executive bio’ description of career achievements in the third person has always been popular, but is increasingly seen as old-fashioned and a little dull. Still, it works well for senior staff in traditional fields.
People with a big bag of technical strengths who want to attract recruiter approaches will do well to create a functional list of keyword-rich skills, the more niche the better.
More effective for most people is a conversational description in the first person, engaging directly with the reader. This gives a great opportunity to talk about values, passions, talents, accolades and stories that define who you are and what you can do in a likeable, approachable way.
Finally, you need to apply your stylistic choices and personal language to the choice of content. LinkedIn is social media, it’s true, but you need to be focused on sending a professional message. Many of these personal branding experts, often US-based, place a high premium on personal content. It’s a subjective thing, and personality is great, but you still need to guard against informal over-sharing detracting from your professional image.
Make sure your summary contains your top career achievements, as well as any prestigious accolades, for example employee or academic awards; any kind of external validation will work well. Saying nice things about teams, colleagues or employers can make you seem likeable, as can personal values or passions. Try to think about your major differentiators – what do you do better than most? Ask yourself what your greatest talent is. Everyone has one; finding yours and articulating it well will really round off the profile.
Finally, every great piece of writing finishes strongly, preferably with a call to action – putting an email address in the summary is a simple step that has been shown to make a big difference in the number of recruiter approaches.