What Does Your LinkedIn Headline Say to Recruiters?

Anyone who’s ever crafted newspaper headlines for most of an eight hour shift realizes a lot of mediocre verbiage precedes the stronger, eye-catching ones. The first ideas are rarely the best ones.

This holds true on professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn, where individuals write their own headline showcasing their career and their talents. Writers, for example, call themselves a “digital storyteller” or a “writer-producer,” a “prolific writer” or “LinkedIn profile writer.”

These professional headlines are important, because they are one of the first things others see when they search the site. It becomes the sum-up of you and it’s smart to “make it sparkle,” said Krista Canfield, LinkedIn’s senior corporate communications manager. She uses the terms “journalist wrangler” and “constant beta” in hers.

Here are five questions to answer as you add some sparkle to your LinkedIn headline:

What Should Your Headline Accomplish?

The headline ought to “grab your attention” and help you stand out from other professionals who share your title or field, said Canfield, like a headline in a media article, “you want to draw people in and entice other professionals (whether they are potential hiring managers, business partners or clients) so that they click through to read the whole story – your full LinkedIn Profile, she said.

You also may want to give a key trait that will appeal to employers: energetic, bilingual, multimedia, design, award winning. Don’t make your headline a list though, either of your varied jobs or your skills.

How Much Creativity and Personality Will You Show? 

This depends partly on your industry and your attitude. You want to differentiate yourself from other profiles that also may show up in a recruiter’s search, Schaffer said. Plus you want to humanize yourself so you seem more approachable online, Canfield added.

Choose words creatively but make sure they support your brand, said Neal Schaffer, president of Windmills Marketing and author of two books on LinkedIn.

My current headline: “Careers and consumer writer, with a side of cherry ice” focuses on my duality: I’m a writer / journalist and an entrepreneur. It intentionally gives people a reason to look twice. They may be intrigued to learn that I co-own a small social enterprise, which sells Michigan-made all-vegan Italian ice, and gives a glimpse of my love of sweet treats.

How Are You Going to Add in Search Engine Optimization?

The SEO of your profile is not just about your headline,” Schaffer said. It comes from other parts of the profile too. Instead of just listing keywords in your headline, selectively blend them in, in a way that underscores your image. “When it comes to your professional headline, I would recommend branding first and SEO second. Use SEO to get your profile to appear more prominently in relevant searches, then use your branding to get more relevant people to click through to your profile.”

How Do I Choose the Best Headline for Me? 

Try searching LinkedIn based on the terms that people might use to locate you and see what shows up in your search results. “Try experimenting with a few different headline statements and swap them out every few weeks,” Schaffer suggests. “Look at how the headline looks next to your photo and name…..You are bound to find one that you feel most comfortable with and internalize as your own.”

Does It Pay to Mention That You’re Job Hunting? 

There’s disagreement on whether or not this works. Some say it will help individuals because it’s easier for recruiters to identify you as someone eager for a new job. Others, including Schaffer, say it smacks of desperation and should be avoided.

Canfield suggests a creative approach: “You’re much better off crafting a professional headline that is forward looking and aspirational. For example, ‘Senior marketing professional looking for new opportunities at fast moving start-up’ is better than ‘unemployed,’” she said in an email interview.

However you come down on that, and however much creativity you paint on your profile, Canfield suggests you “keep your actual title a bit more standardized. Most business partners and recruiters probably aren’t searching by titles for ‘evangelists’ or ‘gurus’ but they definitely could be searching for ‘sales associates’ or ‘chief accounting officers’,” she noted.


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About the Author: Vickie Elmer regularly contributes articles on careers and small business to the Washington Post. Her career and workplace articles also have appeared in Fortune, Parents, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, the Financial Times, the Chicago Tribune, Newsday and many more. Elmer is the mother of three children and the co-owner of Mity Nice, a start-up that employs teens to sell Italian ice and sweet treats from a shiny silver cart in Ann Arbor, Mich. An active volunteer, she encourages kindness and creativity and embracing change, and she blogs and tweets under the moniker WorkingKind. Follow Vickie on Twitter!



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