Mistakes to Avoid on LinkedIn

By now, you know that LinkedIn is the most important resource for professionals in a job search. It’s essential in this time of social distancing, and it will again be (soon, I hope) a great way to enhance your in-person networking.  This is a good time to update and improve your LinkedIn profile so you’ll be ready for new opportunities in 2021. Here are some mistakes that can hurt your chances of connecting with leads and getting noticed by recruiters.

Mistake #1: Posting an incomplete or sparse profile.  If you are in a job search, the one resource you usually have in abundance is time.  Take the time to add details to your previous work experience and craft a tagline or headline under your picture.  It’s one of the most important parts of your profile. It’s the equivalent of your 30-second elevator speech, and it appears every time your photo does.  Speaking of photos,…

Mistake #2: Not including a photo or using one that doesn’t enhance your professional image. Profiles without photos are rare enough now that they’re always perceived as scams. A good headshot is as important as a good resume. I understand why some workers are reluctant to put their face over their credentials. They worry about privacy and discrimination. My theory is that if someone going to discriminate against you based on your age or ethnicity, let them get it out of the way early. They’ll see you in the interview anyway, and by then, you’ve invested time and energy in a company that’s not worth it.

Invest in a good headshot, one that is well lit and shows you at your relaxed best. What might work for Facebook doesn’t work on LinkedIn; leave out your kids, pets and significant other. Your photo should have a clean neutral background (no outdoor settings, please, unless you make your living there) and make sure your shot is from the shoulders up. (Cleavage is distracting.) Double check that the resolution is good and it’s cropped well.

Selfies just don’t come off as professional. Ask someone else to take the shot. Please.

Take time to choose a background photo that enhances your brand. LinkedIn Makeover says: “Rather than go with the masses, upload your own, unique LinkedIn profile background photo. When choosing your LinkedIn background photo, make sure the image matches your personal/professional brand and conveys your unique message. Choose images that inspire you or reflect what you do.”
Here are some ideas:

  • An image of the products you sell or produce
  • A photo of your office building or interior
  • A team picture
  • An illustration or photo that shows an analogy of what you do (lighthouse, magnifying glass, owl, tree, and so on)
  • A picture of you at a podium or presenting in front of an audience

Don’t forget that many people struggle with remembering names; I always take a look at the photos if I get a connection request from a contact whose name I don’t recognize.  If you have a common name, you definitely need a photo.  You want to make sure that the “Mary Smith” someone’s connecting with is really you.

Mistake #3: Inviting people you don’t know at all to join your LinkedIn network.

From a post by Kevin Cormac: “You run the risk of them clicking on the “I don’t know” button or “Report as Spam.”  As a job seeker you want to expand your network but [choose] quality over quantity.  LinkedIn says that your network should represent your real connections. One definition of networking is: “the process of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with other business people and potential clients and/or customers.” (Susan Ward, about.com.)    If you connect with people who have no interest in your connections, career or outcomes, they won’t be helpful to you.  You also can’t be very helpful to them.

Mistake #4:  Not personalizing the default invitation to connect message.

Change the “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message when you send out invitations.  Remind your potential connection of how you know each other or where you met.  Better yet, add a note about what they’re working on or what you have in common. (“I read your recent blog post on networking, and would like to keep in touch.”) 

If you’re connecting with someone you don’t know and decide not to personalize your message, your odds of just getting deleted are about 100%. You can always choose the “follow” option if there’s someone whose content you care about. I use that for authors, journalists and professionals in industries I don’t have a personal connection with.

LinkedIn provides lots of helpful advice on setting up and managing your profile. Browse their help section here.

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