The 5 second rule doesn’t just apply to food dropped on the floor! If people are looking for you or your expertise or just checking you out on LinkedIn, you have at most 5 seconds to make an impression. Don’t waste it. This is your professional brand.
LinkedIn changed its default awhile back and for a time when you filled in your job title under “Experience” it automatically put that same title in your headline. LI trainers from LinkedIn itself recommend putting in something more descriptive but they don’t seem to talk with their engineers who like to automate everything. And even those people who’ve “fixed” their headlines in the past forget to uncheck the little box that says to change your headline when they’ve added a new position. I see a lot of job titles in the headline field from that time. “Principal at XYZ Consulting”, “Assistant at ABC Company.” FIX IT! If someone is looking for your expertise – to hire you as a consultant or a recruiter looking for job candidates those types of bland titles are not going to help at all. Even if it’s simply that someone you’ve met is looking to connect to you on LinkedIn, a few more hints as to which is the “John Smith” they actually want to reach out to – give them a few clues please! There are times when the title may stand alone – If you’re at the VP level at a major company, you probably don’t need anything else!
LinkedIn gives an example when you’re editing your headline “Experienced Transportation Executive, Web Designer and Information Architect, Visionary Entrepreneur and Investor.” It also offers you the chance to see what others in your industry are using though I found it gave me an odd assortment. At least have a look.
There are a number of approaches to take for what you choose for your title depending on what results you want – a job, build your business or simply serve as an identifying business card but the basics still hold.
- Use key words (if someone was looking for someone with your skills, what would they put in the search bar?)
- Use the “5 second rule” (i.e. in 5 seconds of looking at your headline, can people easily know what you do/what you offer)
- Only use all 120 characters if it really helps with rule #2 (otherwise it’s distracting/too busy)
- Don’t waste space with “filler” words – “an, and, the, experienced, hard-working, etc.)
If you have a business – use the headline productively. “Owner and CEO of Black Consulting” tells me nothing useful. If you must have your title in your headline for your profile, at least add something descriptive, e.g. “Owner and CEO of Black Consulting: Generating increased revenue for small businesses through SEO”
If you’re a job seeker, put the name of the job you’re looking for – e.g. “Mobile App Sales Representative & Account Manager Professional.” In general I don’t recommend putting in that you’re looking for a job in your headline. If you decide to, do so subtly- perhaps something like “Open to new opportunities”
If you want to merely use your LI profile as an extended business card I would still refer you back to “make it easy for people to find you” and besides – who knows if some recruiter for a great opportunity might come knocking at your door with an offer you can’t refuse if they know what you do.
Your headline is not a lifetime commitment. If you don’t like your headline or think of something better, you can always change it.