What should your LinkedIn headline say when you’re looking for a job?
That’s a good question.
The answer requires job seekers to think like recruiters because those are the people who use LinkedIn to fill jobs.
This post will help you do that and also give you some LinkedIn headline examples.
Read on to learn about 10 ways to help recruiters find you via your headline and/or be delighted enough by it to click through to read your profile.
1. Start with the Job Title You Want
First, remember that LinkedIn is a database.
Then, know that your headline has more SEO power than any other field on your profile. Beyond that, the first words in your headline have more SEO power than subsequent words.
BTW, if you’re wondering, “What is LinkedIn SEO?” after reading the paragraph above, let me paraphrase Search Engine Land’s excellent description of SEO here:
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” In simple terms, it means the process of improving your LinkedIn profile to increase its visibility for recruiters’ searches.
The better visibility your profile has in recruiters’ search results, the more likely you are to garner attention and inspire them to contact you.
Now, think like a recruiter. If you’re looking for an Accounting Manager, you’re going to search LinkedIn for the term “Accounting Manager.”
Thus, it makes sense to start your headline with the job title you want.
Here are a few more job title examples:
- Manufacturing Vice President
- Supply Chain Director
- Marketing Manager
- Financial Analyst
The majority of LinkedIn’s members don’t understand how headline SEO works. So, if you lead with the job title you want, you’re much more likely to get found for those opportunities than the people who haven’t thought like recruiters.
2. Showcase Your Expertise
Next, showcase your in-demand expertise.
That can take many forms.
Here are some examples of additional job titles and expertise these people might have:
- Non-Executive Director / SaaS Start-Ups
- Chief Financial Officer / SEC Companies
- Clinical Trials Director / Digital Transformation
- Scrum Master / SAFe Agile Certified
- Human Resources Business Partner (HRBP) / Talent Acquisition
Again, think like a recruiter. If you’re looking for an HRBP who can also lead a talent acquisition center of excellence, you’re likely to search on “HRBP” and “talent acquisition.”
Thus, if you have those keywords in your headline, LinkedIn’s algorithm will push your profile up in recruiters’ search results over people who bury that information deeper in their profiles.
3. Add Clickbait to Your Headline
Next, add some clickbait to your headline to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
How do you find clickbait?
Go to job postings that interest you and look at what the deliverables are. Well-written job postings make deliverables explicit. Others leave it up to you to try to figure it out.
Here are some full examples of LinkedIn headlines for job seekers (title + in-demand expertise + clickbait):
- Chief Revenue Officer / FinTech / Hypergrowth
- E-Commerce Vice President / Merchandising / Amazon & Alibaba
- Director, Pharmaceuticals / Vaccine Product Portfolio / P&L Owner / Double-Digit Growth
- Project Manager/ PMP / 95%+ On-Time & Within Budget
- Biochemist / Food Industry / 12 Patents
What is the Character Limit for LinkedIn Headlines?
You might have noticed I don’t try to use all 220 characters LinkedIn allows for headlines.
This post explains that recruiters often look at pages of condensed search results that truncate headlines to about 70 characters. Thus, be sure your headline says something right away that makes them want to read your profile and talk with you.
Plus, Google also frequently truncates your public profile’s headline in its search results.
Rather than writing past 70 characters, I try to hit keywords I know recruiters will search for and then dangle some irresistible catnip for them, all within a character string I’m confident they’ll actually see.
Also, I don’t like how 220 characters render on a profile; it’s a headline, not a paragraph.
4. Customize Your LinkedIn Headline
Next, I just looked at 100 LinkedIn search results. None of the headlines went beyond showing the people’s job titles and employers. None. Boring.
And an incredible opportunity for the job seeker who uses these tips to make their profile more compelling to recruiters than that!
5. Use Correct Spelling
Now, let’s look at avoiding some common profile turn-offs.
First, proofread your headline. Nothing says “don’t click through” to a recruiter more than misspelled words.
I lied. Misspelled names are worse. Ask Bbob.
6. Capitalize Appropriately
Again, proofread your headline. Weird capitalizations make recruiters worry that the person wears stripes with plaids.
Would you click through to a profile with this headline:
instructional designer at Washington University
7. Avoid Mysterious Acronyms
It’s OK to say, “Corporate Counsel, IBM,” followed by some irresistible clickbait.
It’s not OK to say, “Corporate Counsel, CDR.”
Because CDR isn’t a recognizable brand, the acronym implies that the writer doesn’t think about their audience when they communicate. That’s not a good signal for someone to send via their LinkedIn headline.
8. Banish the Word “Experienced” from Your LinkedIn Headline
When I recruited, I wanted to find candidates who could say something more compelling about themselves than “Experienced.”
While “experienced” is the least meaningful word that anyone who has been working for more than a few years can add to their headline, I have a list of several other baddies here.
9. Should I Put “Open to Work” in My Linked Headline?
While people used to mention their availability in their headlines, you don’t have to use valuable headline real estate for that anymore.
If you want to make recruiters immediately aware that you’re looking, use the Open to Work feature LinkedIn launched in 2020.
Here’s a great little video about it:
As you saw, you can flag yourself to recruiters as “looking.” If they’re willing to interview unemployed candidates, it will help you get found.
If they aren’t, it might affect your position in search engine results. To prevent that, be sure you show yourself as currently employed on your profile.
You can learn more about how the LinkedIn search algorithm favors the employed here.
10. Do a Personal Brand Check
Finally, look at your headline and ask yourself, “Is this a good summary of my personal brand?”
If you say “yes,” your work is done.
If not, study the LinkedIn headline examples, think about your brand, ask yourself what’s missing, and do some wordsmithing. However, be careful to retain your SEO optimization.
Sharing is Caring
Do you have any best or worst practice LinkedIn headline examples for job seekers? If so, I hope you will share them in the comments below.
LinkedIn Headline Pro Tip
Finally, after you land your new job and you’re adding it to your profile, be aware that LinkedIn automatically updates your headline to your new job title unless you uncheck the box noted below:
So, when you enter your new job, scroll down the “Add experience” section until you find “Update my headline” and uncheck it.
Most people aren’t aware of this. That’s why we see so many headlines that are just people’s job titles.
That “helpful” auto-update is one reason I strongly recommend always taking 2 seconds to capture a .pdf file of your profile before making any changes to it.
That way, if you forget to uncheck the box, you have a record of what your headline looked like before you added your new job, and it’s easy to restore.
Let’s Connect on LinkedIn
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Updated October 2021
© 2015 – 2021, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.
Donna Svei, an executive resume writer and former C-level executive, retained search consultant, and CPA, authors all of AvidCareerist’s posts. She has written for and been quoted by 100+ business and general media outlets, including Forbes, Mashable, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur, CNBC, the New York Times, USA Today, Time, CBS, the BBC, Lifehacker, Social Media Today, IT World, SmartBrief, and Business News Daily.
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