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Top 5 Things to Avoid in Your LinkedIn Profile

Posted On10/09/2018

ContributorNelson Jobs

Today’s guest post was written by Geoff Coon, Founder of RP Career, a high-touch resume writing and career services firm.

We’ve all seen it. You’re venturing out into the digital world of LinkedIn, hoping to expand your network or look for a connection at a target company. Or perhaps you’re just browsing, getting pulled down the rabbit hole of going from profile to profile. Then you see it: someone has something in their LinkedIn profile that makes you pause, tilt your head like a confused puppy, and ask yourself… “What were they thinking?”

With LinkedIn, there are a lot of grey areas relating to “best practices” for building out your profile. At the same time, there are some universal do’s and don’ts that should be followed all times. Below are some of the top things that you should never do on LinkedIn:

Don’t Use an Inappropriate Profile Picture

Don’t get me wrong – you looked fabulous in your wedding dress and/or the tuxedo you wore as a groomsman that one time. Happy hour was a blast for all involved, and that group photo you took would be great for Facebook. And that flattering photo of you plus the random arm (with the rest of the body cut out) resting on your shoulder is also a winner….You get the idea. The point is: none of those should be in your LinkedIn profile.

One of the most immediately noticeable parts of a LinkedIn profile is your picture, so you want it to be as professional as possible. Now, I am in no way saying you need to head down to Sears (if you can still find one) and have a stiff-looking photo taken in front of a clichéd grey backdrop. But we do need to find a happy medium between those two sides of the spectrum.

Photos that look great are ones that seem natural, not forced, and that “pop” on a screen. If you can find a location that has a nice background, such as a tree or something outdoors (see my profile picture), you can take a photo that not only looks professional, but is also engaging and warm.

Depending on how invested you are in LinkedIn –whether you’re utilizing it for B2B sales or committed to making it the cornerstone of your networking strategy — it may be worth it to hire a professional photographer to take the lead on this aspect of your profile.

Don’t Copy and Paste Your Resume

This is probably the most common mistake that I see on LinkedIn. Your LinkedIn profile should never be a point blank copy and paste of your resume — for a few reasons.

First, you may have already noticed that certain items, such as pre-formatted bullets in Word, don’t copy over to LinkedIn. So instead of having a nice presentation of your work history, you will have a list of Wingdings and odd symbols that leave the reader with the impression that you either didn’t care enough to edit these after the fact or, worse, didn’t notice.

The second reason to avoid a copy/paste of your resume into your LinkedIn profile is because it is a major missed opportunity. Whereas your resume is very much straightforward: responsibility, achievement, result, result, etc., on LinkedIn, you have the chance to elaborate on your experience in a more relatable way. You could present that information as… “Over my career, I have….” and “In 2013, I was recruited to XYZ company to…”

Yes, your numbers are your numbers and your results are your results, so there will be some carryover. But, your LinkedIn profile is a place where you can be more personable and show a bit of who you are as a candidate. Take advantage of this opportunity.

Don’t Exaggerate Your Experience

This closely aligns with one of my own cardinal rules of both resumes and LinkedIn, as well as just business in general: never lie. You never want to lie or exaggerate on a resume, and it is even worse on LinkedIn, because your LinkedIn profile is broadcast to the entire world, where it can be fact checked.

On your resume, you might be able to get away with saying “led a team that delivered a $3.5M savings…” because that won’t be circulated internally. But what if a fellow team member sees this and knows it isn’t true? Maybe the appropriate way to relay that information is “key member of a team that delivered a $3.5M savings…”. I always tell clients they need to take ownership of their accomplishments, even if they just had a contributing role; however, and at the same time, you should never take credit for something that you didn’t do.

As a point of comic relief, a few years ago someone added me as a connection, and in their profile it said: “Time Magazine Person of the Year, 2006”. Intrigued, I Googled, and the 2006 Person of the Year was “You”, with a mirror on the cover. That would be great copy from a creative or marketing standpoint, but the individual was 100% serious. Don’t be that guy.

Don’t Leave Your Profile Unfinished or Skip Making Connections

I talk with my clients a lot about personal branding, and you have to think of your brand the same way you think of Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, or any other company. If you go to a company’s website and it looks incomplete, then that will immediately alter how you think of that brand. The same thinking applies to your LinkedIn profile – if you add someone as a connection and have an incomplete profile or virtually no connections, they might think your profile is spam. Or, they might feel that you aren’t committed to your professional visibility. Neither option is good.

Focus on building your connections. If you are just getting started on LinkedIn, or if you are just committing to growing your network, begin by adding some close personal connections, i.e. friends and family. Next, add former colleagues. Once they accept your connection, look through their connections to see if there are any additional former colleagues that you may be able to add. If you do this at a minimum, you will be headed in the right direction. 

I am a huge fan of the phrase “It isn’t who you know, it is who they know.” One of the core purposes of LinkedIn is to connect with others and expand your network. If you only have a handful of connections, it deflates the potential value you bring to the relationship.

Don’t Blur Personal and Professional Lines

The cardinal sin. There is no quicker way to be unfollowed, blocked, or deleted from someone else’s network than to share personal information on LinkedIn.

Personal photos? Political opinions? 1,000 Likes = Daddy buys us a puppy? None of those should come within a hundred miles of LinkedIn. There are countless other social networks where those would thrive, and if it is what you are into, hey, you may even end up getting that kid a puppy. But the fact of the matter is, no one wants to see that on LinkedIn – ever. People use this site for their livelihood. They are here to seek employment. Better their career. Nurture a lead. Close a sale.

Seeing anything along the lines of what is listed above will cause nothing but frustration, aggravation, and annoyance.

So, after reading each of the above scenarios, are you guilty of any of them? Chances are, you or someone you know is, so take this as the opportunity to get your LinkedIn profile headed in the right direction. Don’t know where to start? I provide coaching on LinkedIn optimization, networking, and a host of other career topics, in addition to resume writing and personal branding. Feel free to follow me on LinkedIn or send me a message. I’m happy to connect.

Geoff Coon, a resume writer and linkedin profile expertGeoff Coon is the founder of RP Career, a high-touch resume writing and career services firm focused on quality. An expert in the career services industry, Geoff is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), has been quoted on Forbes multiple times, and has worked with thousands of clients to better position them in their careers. 
To learn more about Geoff, visit rpcareer.com or connect with him on LinkedIn
Looking for more tips on LinkedIn? Check out more blog posts from Nelson!