LinkedIn Profile Tips: The 10 Mistakes You Want to Avoid and Why

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LinkedIn Profile Tips.  A lot of people tell you what you should be doing, but what about what you shouldn’t be doing?

LinkedIn is the place to not only find others but also to be found.  And that is why you need a profile that not only helps you get found but also will entice people to contact you once they view your profile.  I see many people making fundamental mistakes that actually work against them in this aspect.  If you’re going to spend time putting together a profile, I assume you want to maximize your chances of being contacted by the right people, right?

With that in mind, I have created an easy-to-understand list of a few things to check for with my reasoning.  If it sounds like an exercise in search engine optimization, you are on the right path.  Just like any website owner, you want to stick out and be found!

1. Not Displaying Your Personal Photo

I wrote an entire blog post about why you should include your photo in your LinkedIn profile, but it all comes down to having social media credibility or not.  There are too many fake profiles on LinkedIn, so you want to show that you are real.  If you have taken the time to complete your online presence on the social networking platform, why wouldn’t you display your photo?  It just raises too many potential questions.  And company logos or photos of pets obviously have no value here

2. Headline is Not Branded Enough

See that space underneath your name?  That is your “Professional” or Profile Headline.  It will appear in search results next to your name, as well as next to any questions you ask or answer.  It is, in essence, your elevator speech in a few words.  Are you just putting your title and company name here?  Don’t!  This is the place where you need to appeal to anyone who finds you in a search result to reach out and look at who you are.  Your Profile Headline is the single most important piece of real estate you have, and you need to brand it as such.

3. Status Update is Not Appealing

This is that “What are you working on?” box that I refer to as a “Status Update.”  Assuming someone finds you and looks at your profile, chances are they are going to be looking at what you write here simply because that it appears just underneath your Headline.  What do you write here?  Many people in transition note that they are looking for a job here, and here is my LinkedIn Status Update Advice for the Unemployed.  What do you use your LinkedIn Status Update for?  It is part of your branding exercise, and it should be something appealing that will both inform the reader of your latest activities as well as hopefully add to, not subtract from, your Brand.

4. Don’t List Enough Companies You Worked At Or Schools Attended

One of the ways you are found is through searches on company names or schools.  If you are only listing your current company and/or not even displaying your college, you are missing out on potentially being found.  Check this out: I did my Junior year of college abroad in Beijing nearly 20 years ago.  I had been out of touch with all of the 15 or so Americans that were there that year.  Two of those 15 have found me on LinkedIn!  And another high school friend who I lost touch with found me this week.  They would not have found me had I not listed my Junior year abroad school and high school name on my profile.  Companies are even more important in that there are potentially more colleagues that may be trying to find you or recruiters trying to network with you!  You may be missing out!

5. Not Having Three Recommendations

This is the same as not displaying your personal photo.  Why?  When you sign up for LinkedIn and first fill out your profile, LinkedIn recommends that you write three LinkedIn Recommendations.  You need to do this in order to get your Profile to 100% Completion.  Job postings on LinkedIn similarly require three recommendations.  These recommendations can only work in your favor, so why don’t you have at least three of them?

6. Too Few Connections

This is a topic for debate, but too many people have too few connections on their profile, and thus are not getting found.  The idea is simple: when you do a search you will see results from your network.  And vice-versa.  So the more connections you have the more search results you will appear in pure and simple.  Combining this is the fact that Windmill Networking is about finding value in online networking with people that you don’t know.  So what are you waiting for?  If you don’t know who to invite, here are 15 Ways to Grow Your LinkedIn Network as well as 10 LinkedIn LIONs & Super Connectors You Must Connect With!  Better yet, why don’t you join my Windmill Networking LinkedIn Group and consider connecting with some of the group members?

7. Not Listing Three Websites

LinkedIn gives you the ability to list three websites on your profile.  Are you taking advantage of it?  Do you have a Twitter profile or other social networking profile that you want to advertise?  Company website?  A blog that you enjoy reading?  Anything that you would want associated with yourself should be listed here.  You will be adding to the search engine optimization of your own websites just by the fact that you list them here!

8. Not Claiming Your Personal URL

When you sign up to LinkedIn you are provided a public URL which you can then include on your email signature or wherever else you want to lead people to your profile from.  You can customize this when you edit your profile.  Claiming your name here is one of the first things you should have done on LinkedIn.  For instance, I can memorize my LinkedIn Profile URL, which is, because I customized the last text to “nealschaffer.”  If you have a common name, make sure you claim your URL before others do!

9. No Branded Summary Rich with Keywords

Assuming that someone finds you in a search result, likes your Profile Headline, and isn’t scared away by your Status Update, the next most important part of your profile will be your Summary.  This is the chance to fully brand yourself and ensure that any keywords that you want associated with yourself are found here.  You also want to write something compelling, just as you would in the Executive Summary of your resume.  This is your stage to tell the world who you are and what you can do!  Utilize it to your fullest advantage!

10. No Job Descriptions

Even if you’ve listed positions at companies that you previously held, it means nothing if you don’t have any job descriptions.  Job descriptions provide you the perfect opportunity to pepper your profile with keywords that will help you get found.  Why aren’t you taking advantage of this?

Did I miss any that you’d like to share?  Let me know!  And if you didn’t make any of the above mistakes, congratulations!  You’re in good shape 😉

For more advice on how to leverage and maximize your presence on LinkedIn, be sure to check out my book!

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer


Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness & @socialtoolssmmt | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker
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Neal Schaffer


  1. yvettefrancino says

    Great post, Neal! The other mistake that I think people make is that they don't take advantage of Groups. Groups are a great way to find connections within your industry. Becoming active in groups helps you to continue to promote your brand and establish your online identity.

  2. says

    Thanks for the compliment Yvette. I agree that Groups that are essential to success on LinkedIn, but I couldn't fit a one-liner on them in my “Top 10″ blog post ;-( But you are bang on with what you write about LinkedIn Groups!

  3. says

    Market yourself by adding the LinkedIn ability to upload your own Powerpoint presentations using Slideshare using topics that re-enforce your branding and abilities.

  4. says

    Thanks for the comment Ted and it's great to see you here online! Yes, creating a presentation of yourself using Slideshare is one way to “brand” yourself on LinkedIn. My advice on branding is actually on keywords and positioning even before you think about a presentation. If done right, the branding should be strong even without the optional Slideshare presentation.

    – Neal

  5. says

    Thanks for stopping by Barbara, and excellent advice. I do see more people using the Status Bar in a more savvy way, and I am starting to get comments on my own Status Bar which I didn't have a few months ago. If everyone keeps using it in a savvy way, it will increase in value and thus become that much more important for all of us.

    – Neal

  6. says

    I´d like to add:

    NO affiliate application: They let us a lot about us. Blogger let us show our lattest posts. Slideshare is another good tool to show some good presentation or simply our resume in other format.

    Missppelling words: it is a clever idea to write everything in some word processor with grammatical corrector and then cut and paste in our profile. Missppelling word show us careless.

    • Cmarc231 says

      Not sure if you did it on purpose or not, and I realize this is an older comment; but  the point you make is very valid especially since the #1 most commonly misspelled word is “misspelled”…

    • says

      Great point! I completely agree with you, it will happen even to the best of us, even after triple-reading our writing that something will stay misspelled. Yes, to the grammatical corrector tools! :)

  7. says

    Ditto about the groups. Not just joining them, but taking part, driving activity and value, and, if you're ready for it and where possible, take the connections offline & in person. (GoodPeople Japan I set up specifically for this purpose – engaging my personal network in Tokyo, in person around a theme they've indicated they're interested in).

  8. says

    Being careful to not sound like a marketing broadcast, you can use free tools like Hootsuite, to pre-schedule regular updates to your LinkedIn Status Update stream. It doesn't mean you shouldn't jump in and add on the fly, topical comments too, just that a monthly or weekly update can be set and forget, maximizing your time.

  9. says

    Thanks for the comments Jason. The LinkedIn Status Update, considering that you don't need to do more than once a day, is something that you shouldn't need to even pre-schedule…tweeting several times a day day in and day out is another story… 😉

  10. says

    All useful points for success with LinkedIn. If you have a blog make sure to setup the applications section to take your blog posts and feed them into your LinkedIn profile. I find this another way to have a move complete LinkedIn profile and make it easier for others to connect

  11. says

    Thanks for the comment Dick. Yes, there are many other things that you can do with your LinkedIn profile, like what you suggest, that will make it beneficial for you. I only concentrated on those things that I thought would apply to every LinkedIn user, regardless as to whether they use any of the optional applications or not.


  12. flyn says

    I think one of the biggest mistakes is not listed here — that is not writing your profile in a way that provides value to others. People aren't interested in you until they see the value you can provide. You should start providing that value immediately with your profile.

  13. says

    Thanks Flyn…excellent advice. LinkedIn is a social networking site, and social networking is all about providing value. Showing it in your LinkedIn profile is a natural extension of that.

  14. says

    Another mistake some people make is to use the InMail function to send bulk messages to their contacts. This is makes them unpopular because it's annoying, clutters up people's inboxes and can be considered spam. If someone wants to communicate with people they should either use the Q&A function, interact in groups, or ask people to sign up to their autoresponder on their website.

  15. Cs6061 says

    How do I solicite myself for a sales job on Linkedin while working for a large financial firm doing accounting/finance without looking like I am chomping at the bit to leave my current position?

    • says

      Cs6061 – this is easy. Don’t do anything overt about wanting a job in Sales in the hope other people randomly find that & contact you (say because you posted something in your profile, an update or a group about looking for a job in sales). This is all passive anyway.

      The real value of LinkedIn comes from being able to research Industries, Companies and People and then proactively reach out to them yourself. Not 10-12 people, hundreds and hundreds of people, on an ongoing basis.

      Do it all under the banner of Business Networking, make it win-win, about them and non-self promotional, take massive action in meeting just the type of people in just the right companies & industries you want to, and you’ll have endless opportunities to bring up your interest in getting into sales, in a natural & well timed way, in a business but casual setting.

  16. Cricket2028 says

    I am a corporate recruiter/HR professional with a 5 star rating on Inmails and although rare, I have received a decline “innapropriate” when sending an Inmail to someone that has designated that they are open to career opportunities.  frustrating.  suggestions? 

  17. says

    Wow – that is very frustrating. Some people just don’t want to be bothered at certain times of their lives, and even though they said they might be open to career opportunities in their Contact Settings, they might not have updated them recently

    I always tell people that InMails truly are the “Hail Mary” of LinkedIn engagement – however, if there is no other way for you to contact that person, that is the best you could do…

  18. RRubinsonCPA says

    Neal – Great post. On number 10 I’d add that the job description field is used to find people on searchs. So leaving it blank drops your hits.

  19. Bookeditor42 says

    How do you add employment to LinkedIn without using dates? Also, I customize my resume to each position I apply for. What if my resume and LinkedIn profile do not contain the same previous employers?

  20. AmandaClare says

    I have just been made redundant and have stated this on my profile; however i have been told that this is not appropriate and that i am taking a pop at my previous employer. I have written “due to my company withdrawing from my county, i have been made redundant”. I can’t see anything wrong with this, but what is the LInkedIn etiquette with this?


  21. Chacha-chansiri says

    I’m is your new youngest sister for this second. Every thing seem perfect by following your step.  But I couldn’t find my own profile when I use search engine.  Am I forgetting some things.

    • says

      Don’t know what to tell you – it may take time to get indexed. But just make sure you use your name as your real name, make your profile completely visible to the public, AND customize your custom LinkedIn URL with your real name.

    • says

      Good advice Ben. I’m all about the branding and differentiation aspect of your headline, but depending on what your LinkedIn objective, your advice may actually be more suitable. Thanks for contributing!

  22. Josh says

    “What you shouldn’t be doing” lists are typically things not to do.  This list is the same advice I’ve seen in “What you should be doing” articles except you use double negatives.  For example, “You shouldn’t not display your personal photo,” or “You shoudn’t not claim your personal URL.”  Maybe I’m being picky, but this caused me to find your approach to the topic far less efficient than other articles I’ve read.

  23. says

    Hey Josh,

    Thanks for your criticism, which is always welcome.

    When I wrote that post, I was thinking holistically of the biggest mistakes that I could think of which people were making. The result was that blog post. Not doing something can lead to a critical mistake in terms of not being able to truly maximize the potential for the platform.

    Perhaps the headline was misleading in terms of what you were expecting – and that might have led it to it being less effective in your eyes – but I still stand by the advice.

    In the future, however, I will consider the use of double negatives when I write similarly titled posts.

    Thank you for your feedback!

  24. says

    For those who first time use Linkedin, should read this blog post. Every single point here is important to build relationship on Linkedin.

  25. Ahorn says

    I need help in stopping the endless list of linkedin names (emails) that show up about 20 every few minutes automatically.  I could have clueless clicked on some button by mistake.  Thanks. 

  26. says

    I have no idea what you are facing, but you should go to your Settings and customize so that you don’t receive emails in your Inbox and only when you log into Hope the information helps.

    • says

      Victoria, it really depends on your objective. If you want to be found, only list those things on your profile that you feel comfortable being found for! If you don’t want to be found, put the bear minimum on your profile. Hope this advice makes sense!

  27. Paul Monk says

    Hi Neal,
    That was very interesting, there is however just one thing you might add to the list, endorsements. I recently received one and then endorsed other peoples’ skills. I’d be interested to know your thoughts on the matter. I mean, should you go hunting for endorsement now?
    (links have been deleted by admin)

    • says

      Paul, this is a great point! I myself sat down and wrote about 7-8 endorsements for people I have worked with or were my clients, simply because I wanted to give them the credit for some great work and projects we completed together. Coincidentally, several of the same folks did the same for me, without me ever having to ask!! I say give endorsements and credit where credit is due, and good karma fill follow.

  28. says

    Thanks for the comment Paul. This blog post was written some time ago, and endorsements were only released recently. I plan to write a blog post on it so stay tuned – but either way, endorsements should not be one of the main things you do on LinkedIn, although it is one new form of engagement.

  29. AlexVadVer says

    Dear Neal

    Thank you for the article!

    Please, help me understand one point with my LinkedIn profile.
    LinkedIn proposes me “Improve your profile”. And suggests to fill “What’s your current position?”
    At the moment I study at DBA(Doctor of Business Administration) program. What is the best way to reflect that fact – in “current position” or in “education”?
    And what to write? “I study…” ?

    Thank you in advance,

    • says

      Hey Alex – that’s a really good question. The “current position” is what appears in search results, so whatever position you want to promote to the outside world is what you should put there. Hope that makes sense – and thanks for the comment!

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