More and more, people are forming their first impression of you from the results of a web search on your name. When people are evaluating you in a professional capacity, they often go directly to your LinkedIn profile. But even if their research starts with Google, they’ll end up at LinkedIn because your profile will most likely be one of the top results.
So you need to be concerned about what you put in your LinkedIn profile — making sure it’s authentic, compelling to your audience and aspirational — positioning you for the future. You need to be equally focused on removing things from your profile that will get in the way of your success. You want all of the content to “wow” those who are making decisions about you.
Here are four things you should remove from your profile in order to make a positive impact on readers.
1. Wrong or irrelevant endorsements. Delete endorsements for the skills that you don’t want to be known for; they just muddy the waters. Personal branding is about being known for SOMEthing, not 10,000 things. That means you need to make your skills pure — positioning you for what’s next, not creating confusion among readers. “Is this person a marketing exec or a real-estate agent?” Make a list of all skills that are relevant to who you are and where you’re going without looking at your LinkedIn profile. Then, take a look at the skills for which you have been endorsed.
Is there a strong correlation? And make sure your top three skills perfectly reflect how you want to be known. Those are the ones that show up prominently when someone is looking at your profile. Viewers need to click “view more” to see the rest of your skills. And don’t worry about offending anyone. LinkedIn will not send a note to those who endorsed you when you remove their endorsements.
2. Experience that distracts from your brand aspirations. If you started your career in retail and now you’re all about pharmaceutical research, you want to diminish the past (unless you have a really good story about how it supports what you’re doing and what you want to be doing). Of course, it’s important to show progression in your career, so you may want to group roles from the past under one category like My Proving Ground or Internships and Early Career Experience.
3. Low-quality images. I’m not just talking about your headshot. Any images you added to your profile in the summary or experience sections need to be high-quality and appropriately cropped. Nothing says “lack of attention to detail” like blurry, badly cropped, trite, or unflattering images. Of course, this is most important when it comes to your headshot. If you use a selfie, a photo where you crop out others, or a photo your mother took of you at last year’s family outing, it’s time to remove and replace. Invest in a professionally photographed headshot that projects you in the most positive and powerful light. And avoid full body shots. Let viewers see your face.
4. Third-person writing. Let’s face it, everyone knows you wrote your own LinkedIn summary and experience sections. It’s much more transparent and direct to write in the first person than to pretend that your publicist wrote your content. When you write in the first person, you create a conversation between you and the reader, and that helps you establish a more authentic relationship with them. I am seeing more and more profiles using the first person (even from CEOs – who probably do have someone writing it for them) but not everyone is there yet. It’s time for you take the third person out of your profile and get comfortable with me, myself, and I.