Like your resume, crafting the perfect LinkedIn profile is a constant work in progress. There’s one bit that you might not have even known you could, or should, change: your LinkedIn headline. Ladders spoke with Biron Clark, who was named one of the Top Voices in Job Search & Careers in 2019 by LinkedIn, to find out exactly what to include (and what not to include) to make your LinkedIn headline stand out amongst the crowd.
What is a LinkedIn headline?
Let’s start with the basics. You might not even know what a LinkedIn headline is, but that’s okay. Your LinkedIn headline is the text that appears under your name on your profile page. This space gives you 120 characters to describe to the LinkedIn world who you are and what you do.
Why is your LinkedIn headline important?
Many professionals are unaware that they can even change their LinkedIn headline because the platform automatically populates the field with your job title. Even if you did know about it, did you know that you actually should change this field to include important key elements about your job title?
Why? Because this 120 character space is actually some of the most prime real estate on your LinkedIn profile.
First of all, your headline is one of the few things that recruiters and hiring managers (or anyone on LinkedIn for that matter) can see before they click on your profile. If you comment on a post, share a post, or apply for a job through LinkedIn, your headline will be the first description that person reads of you. Never forget, first impressions can make or break your job search.
Additionally, when a recruiter performs a search looking for a specific role in a specific area, LinkedIn will deliver them a list of 10 people per page. On that page, the recruiter will see your photo, location, as well as a few connections- in addition to your LinkedIn headline.
As the only description of who you are, your LinkedIn headline is the main deciding factor on whether or not someone decides to visit your profile.
You want to make your LinkedIn headline POP, so you should make it personable, original, and persuasive. Instead of simply sharing your job title, you should consider highlighting notable recognition or your key expertise.
“Half the battle is just getting clicked and then after that they obviously see a lot more information,” Clark said. “Just getting clicked you have very little to make your case and grab attention and your LinkedIn headline is one of those pieces.”
Clark advises giving the headline the time and attention that it deserves to work on getting it right. Though the headline might only be 10 words, Clark emphasizes that it’s worth spending at least 20 to 30 minutes crafting the perfect description.
According to Clark, there’s a saying in online marketing that you should spend at least 50% of your time on the headline when writing an article.
“The article might be 1,000 words, and the headline might only be nine words, but you should spend at least 50% on just that headline because that’s what will determine if people click and keep reading,” Clark said. “Don’t let the low word count fool you into thinking that it’s something to only spend 10 seconds on. That would be a big mistake.”
What do you put in a LinkedIn headline?
When it comes to the content of your headline, keywords are extremely important to include if you want to be found by recruiters.
“I like to put one or two keywords that do show what your core work or skill is,” Clark said. “I don’t like getting too cute or too odd with it…I like to keep it pretty indicative of what you do.”
So how do you find these relevant keywords that should be in your headline?
Some professionals suggest using free online keyword research tools, but Clark’s favorite method is actually by analyzing the job postings of roles that you’re interested in or positions that would be the next step up in terms of your career. Clark also recommends finding people in your industry who are where you’d like to be in your career in one or two years and checking out which keywords and skills they are using.
“I always recommend that job seekers pretend they’re a recruiter and run a keyword search just to see what does pop up in the search results and then see what stands out to them among the 10 profiles that LinkedIn decided to show them for that search and then they’ll see the other side of the process and they’ll know how to optimize their own profile,” Clark said.
Additionally, don’t feel obligated to include the title that your current company gave to your role. While your title might be “Happiness Manager”, you won’t show up in a search if a recruiter is looking for a human resources coordinator.
“The more clear you are the better and that’s why I don’t suggest getting too creative or making it too confusing or different,” Clark said.
Just like when creating your resume, including metrics is also an extremely useful way to catch someones eye using your headline.
Examples of headline’s with metrics:
- Public Relations expert serving 23 Fortune 500 clients in the past four years
- B2B sales rep | $2.4 million generated in 2019
- I help coaches and consultants generate an additional $10,000-20,000 per month via video ads
LinkedIn headlines if you’re unemployed
While job seekers might be tempted to make it known that they are actively looking for employment, Clark recommends not including that bit of information in your LinkedIn headline.
“You want to seem in-demand,” Clark said. “The headline is precious real estate and using that precious real estate to just say ‘hey, I’m job searching’, it doesn’t really imply that you’re in high demand.”
Phrases like “actively seeking” and “open to start immediately” let employers know that you’re desperate for work, not that you are a sought-after candidate.
“The bottom line is that employers are looking for people who can fill a need or who can contribute to what the company is doing or working on, so the more you can make the headline about what you can do for them, the better,” Clark said. “Employers are not looking for people who are unemployed…they’re not looking for people who are job searching right now…they are looking for people with certain skills.”
Examples of headlines to use if you are unemployed:
- Enthusiastic sales representative with 3 years professional experience
- Highly skilled data journalist with 5+ years experience at national publications
LinkedIn headlines for students or recent graduates
While most of Clark’s advice remains the same for unemployed professionals looking for a new role, he does advice that students or recent graduates can change their headline to fit their internship or job search.
Although students and recent graduates might not have years of experience or impressive metrics to promote, they can still jazz up their LinkedIn headline in order to draw others to their page.
Students and recent grads should include any internship or extra curricular activities in their headline as well as other relevant experience.
While Clark does not advise unemployed professionals to let on about their current situation, he does not think it’s a bad idea for recent graduates to convey their status.
“That’s the only time I would recommend implying that you’re actively seeking jobs,” Clark said. “When you’re a recent graduate, I think it’s okay to say ‘Hey, I just graduated…haven’t found a job yet, but here is what I do and what I’m looking to do.'”
Examples of student and recent graduate headlines:
- Student with semester-long internship experience at national media brand
- Recent finance graduate with a focus in economics and marketing
Bonus tip: The “skills” section is actually a great place to pack a lot of keywords into your profile because you can put 50 skills on your LinkedIn profile and it doesn’t look spammy or inorganic to fill it out with all 50, whereas if you put 50 keywords somewhere else on your profile it would look pretty odd and unorganized.