A LinkedIn headline is the 220 characters you use to help people understand who you are professionally. It’s seen in combination with your profile picture. The question is how can your LinkedIn headline get noticed in so few words?

The advice on what makes great headlines changes depending on what you use LinkedIn for. In this article, I’m interested in how a job seeker could use their headline to get noticed while job-searching. 

 

Three options for your LinkedIn headline when you’re employed and looking for work

A concern of many employed job seekers is how to write a LinkedIn headline to get noticed without tipping off your boss that you are looking for a new job. You can get around that by sharing your current role in your headline and the skills you are hoping to use in the next role. Often the skills you share are keywords. (Watch this video starting at 44:44 for how to find industry keywords). Or you might add in a descriptive sentence of what you do. 

 

1. When your current job title matches the job you are going for

If you are looking to work for a different company, but want the same job title, you’re in a great situation. Use a combination of your current job title and an “I help” statement or a skills statement. It could look like this:

Project Manager | I help projects, people, and processes stay on track in the gaming industry

Project Manager | Strategic Goal Planning | Collaboration | Insight Provider

This headline allows you to show your current title (your boss isn’t concerned), and it shares you have the skills that recruiters are likely looking for. It can be tempting to make your title sound edgier than it is, but it’s more powerful to keep the title. If a recruiter is looking for a project manager, you’ll show up higher in the search results with the title in your headline. You can change this when you are no longer looking for work. 

 

2. When your current job title is unrelated to the job you want

Sometimes you are in a role, but applying for work that is at a different level or in a different industry. It could be a warehouse manager looking for an analyst role. Or an actor looking to work in social media consulting.  I did a poll on LinkedIn in early February 2021 asking if hiring people disliked when a person’s LinkedIn headline did not match what they wanted to be hired for. 17% of people polled said they disliked it.

You have a few options where you don’t share your current title, instead, you share your career branding statement.

You can lead with an “I help ____ to ______” statement. 

I help companies streamline their processes.

I help accounting firms offer incredible client experiences to their members.

I help small companies grow their brand through social media.

You can add relevant keywords or your current job title to the end. Like this:

I help companies streamline their processes. Accountant at ZYX Inc.

I help accounting firms offer incredible client experiences to their members. Client Services Lead at Lamppyklip

I help small companies grow their brand through social media | SEO | Data-led Marketing Strategy | 

 

3. Let your manager know what you’re doing.

Another option is letting your boss or manager know what you’re sharing on social media isn’t related to your day job.

In my last job as a Program Officer for the government, my boss knew that I used to be a career coach. A few of our clients followed me on LinkedIn. When I started to share career advice on LinkedIn I told him, “I don’t know if you follow me on LinkedIn, but my focus there is on career advice. I wanted you to know in case it came up at a client meeting.” He appreciated being informed and I didn’t have to hide anything.

If you’re doing this your headline could be in the new subject area or a combination. My headline was

I help people use their stories to land ideal work. Stories & Strategy.

This strategy depends on how open you are with your manager about looking for new work. If you know they would be threatened by it, or you could lose employment, go with option one.

 

What catches people’s attention?

Once you know which headline style you’re going to use, you can be strategic about how to catch someone’s attention. 

It’s worth knowing how recruiters and hiring people use LinkedIn to find people. Hiring people are either going to have a basic LinkedIn account where they use the regular search function. Or they’ll be using LinkedIn Recruiter. 

Either way, the hiring person is looking for certain words associated with a role.

Let’s play pretend.

If I tasked you to help me hire a full-time copywriter for my company using LinkedIn. Your first move would be to onto LinkedIn and search “copywriter” in the search function. 

 

The people who use the word copywriter in their headline show up first in the search results.

As a hiring person, you could quickly know that copywriting is what they do. The next result grouping is people who have the headline, “Writer. Editor” or “Freelance Writer” as their headline. Somewhere in their LinkedIn profile, they use the word copywriter, but it’s not in their headline. This shows you that using the job title makes it easier for hiring people to find you. Of course, you need to know what job title they’re searching for this to work.

Recruiters can do more advanced searches and do Boolean searches to narrow the results to other skills, locations, or former job titles. So, you can still be found without using the word in your headline, but you’ll show up closer to the top if you do use the title.

 

Try this:

Go onto LinkedIn and search for people who have the job title you want. What results come up first for you?

Are there any profiles you want to click on? How come? What you’ll likely notice is that a job title is not enough to grab your attention. 

 

A job title is not enough.

Having the job title in the LinkedIn headline will get your profile into a searcher’s results list. You’re using the same words they do. But to get someone to click on your profile and check you out, you’ll need to add more to your headline. 

A great headline needs to do two things:

1. Let the reader know what you are (usually in a job title)

2. Intrigue, delight, or make ultra-clear what makes you exceptional at this while also being a match for their search/key industry words and highlighting your skills

For this, I recommend moving away from looking at other people’s headlines and looking at sources like copywriting. And, this might mean falling in love with writing a little. And, playing with words. 

 When writing you must do whatever works for you. (Duffy, 140, The Copy Book

You can try playing around with word combinations. Think about your personality and how you usually make connections with people. Do you naturally use humor? Stats? Prestige? Helpfulness? As much as feels right, try and bring this into your headline. 

Write different versions of your headline and assess it by asking these questions:

  • Is there anything surprising or intriguing in how I describe my work?
  • Do I want to say it aloud?
  • Can people tell how I’m different or what I specialize in based on the LinkedIn headline? (Look to see if anyone else uses the exact phrases you do, if they do, change it)

 The Power of Unusual Words

Using the same words as everyone else, even if they are keywords, isn’t going to make your headline pop. Choosing even one unusual word can make a difference.

When I was promoting myself as an educator, my headline was,

“Coach & educator who has taught in universities, theatres, conferences, and even a boathouse”

What do you remember? What do people ask me about? The boathouse.

If there are words or phrases that you use, that you don’t see many people using, add them to your profile alongside the keywords. This will make sure you are picked up by the search function while grabbing their attention. Is there a single word you could add that would make your headline sound more interesting? Try writing out words and phrases you use all the time over the period of a day. Could you use any of those?

 

3 Things to Consider Avoiding in a LinkedIn headline

The last thing to consider is what you might want to avoid having in your LinkedIn headline. Always keep in mind that the best practice is what works for you and your target audience. Things that turn me off might be great for other people.

I did a survey on LinkedIn and led a conversation about it on Twitter. I asked people what their top turn-offs were when reading a social media headline. Here are the results: 

 

Top turn-offs in a LinkedIn headline

1. Listing the number of connections you have.

I’m not sure when it became popular, but a lot of people state how many connections they have on LinkedIn. The common comment I heard about this was how pointless it was to say that. A person could get thousands of connections by spending a few days requesting connections. Stating your follower numbers doesn’t give us insight into what types of relationships you have with these people. It doesn’t show what you are good at. It has little value to an employer. Leave it off.

2. Using words like a thought-leader, guru, ninja, purple squirrel, life hacks (hacker, growth hacker)

If someone else calls you these things, it’s one thing, calling yourself one is another. These words rarely show up in a job ad (okay, sometimes they do), but they turned people off, rather than impress. It probably has to do with them being overused and ill-defined. While a purple squirrel in recruiting terms means a candidate with the perfect combination of skills and experience, it changes depending on the role to be filled. 

3. Using “I help __________ to __________” without stating their title.

16% of people said that using the “I help ___” statement was a turn-off. It didn’t come up much on the Twitter chat. I asked people about this because I’ve seen an increase in these kinds of headlines and wondered if it was getting old yet. It doesn’t appear to be, but it’s something to check in on in a year.  Often an “I help” statement can add interest to your headline, it works best with the title too. Especially as a job seeker.

 

And, a headline is just one part of using LinkedIn

When you are writing your LinkedIn headline, think about how hiring people are going to use it. If you want to get picked up by the LinkedIn search function, have the right words in your headline and your LinkedIn profile.

You likely won’t get hired based on a headline. But, it might be enough to get someone to read your profile. Your LinkedIn headline is connected to everything else you are in your job search

Whatever you say in your headline is expanded in your LinkedIn profile.

Whatever you say in your LinkedIn profile is modeled in your content and interactions.

How you are in the content and comments matches who you are in the job interview.

They’re all connected. You’re telling the whole story, the headline is simply a snapshot of what you think is the most eye-catching part.

If you need help solidifying the whole career story, my book, The Career Stories Method, shows you how to do that, including, how to build a brand on LinkedIn intentionally. I also created this course to walk you through how to build an intentional presence on LinkedIn.

 

 

Have you read the Career Stories Method yet? My new book shows you how to use stories to find your ideal career and discover your awesome self in the process. Get it today.