Expert job search advice.

LinkedIn Best Practices

Key Insights and Strategies from Comprehensive User Polls

Table of Contents

LinkedIn stands as a critical tool for career advancement and business growth. What are the best practices for using LinkedIn in the ever-evolving digital landscape of professional networking? To unlock its full potential, it is imperative to understand the most effective strategies for profile optimization and platform engagement.

Key Findings

  • Briefcase Coach’s poll of engaged LinkedIn users shows that 80% of respondents prefer profiles written in the first person.
  • 85% of people read at least the first sentence of a LinkedIn ‘About’ section, while 32% admit to always reading the whole thing.
  • 56% of LinkedIn users like reading fun facts or personal details when reading profiles.
  • 65% of people have reached out to someone they didn’t know because of something they read on their LinkedIn profile.

Expert tips for effectively using LinkedIn with input from over 5,000 LinkedIn users

Briefcase Coach gathered insights by analyzing responses to their polls and surveys from over 5,000 LinkedIn users. Based on their findings, this article explores best practices for improving your online presence. From crafting a keyword-rich headline that captures the essence of your professional persona to the art of writing your ‘About’ section with a compelling first-person narrative, we will guide you through the subtleties of shaping your profile to resonate with your targeted career goals. Furthermore, we analyze the importance of profile optimization, a technique derived from scrutinizing targeted job descriptions, and provide steps for making your LinkedIn experience more fruitful and influential.

What does engagement look like on LinkedIn? It’s when people post new content, share someone else’s content on their page, or comment, like, and interact with other users. As LinkedIn continues to grow, more professionals are engaging on the platform than ever before.

Over the past few years, the platform has seen rising trends of personal content sharing and the emergence of grassroots influencers on the platform that was once mainly centered on job searching. But why is LinkedIn suddenly called “cool” by Bloomberg, Slate, and others? The pandemic certainly had an influence. When offices were closed, and remote work took off, LinkedIn became a forum for the casual conversations with colleagues that used to happen in the office and at meetings, conferences, and networking events.LinkedIn engagement is soaring even in the post-pandemic world as people trickle back into the office. LinkedIn said the platform saw a 22% increase in engagement in 2022. And those numbers continue to climb. Bloomberg’s Big Tech Editor, Sarah Frier, noted that LinkedIn users shared 41% more content on the network during spring 2023 than in the same period in 2021.

LinkedIn: More than a Resume

A LinkedIn profile transcends the conventional boundaries of a traditional resume. It is the digital representation of your professional narrative and your personal brand. LinkedIn is a useful platform for job seekers and recruiters and has evolved into a critical hub for networking, dissemination of thought leadership, continuous learning, and promoting organizational endeavors or individual advocacies.

A LinkedIn profile is complementary to but different from one’s resume. A well-written resume is a result-rich document. LinkedIn is your digital first impression of the world. It’s much more personal and should harness a human element. Since Microsoft acquired LinkedIn in 2016, it has moved from an online database to a robust social networking platform. We’ve seen an evolution in profiles–while they were once stodgy and full of buzzwords, it is now a best practice to use first-person narrative and more accessible language. Not only are recruiters searching for your profile, but also your clients, employees, and job seekers interested in working for you. Due to this shift, LinkedIn profiles should be written differently than traditional resumes.

Even as LinkedIn has evolved, many LinkedIn users still approach their profiles as static resumes rather than as vibrant, living documents of their career trajectory. To make the most of LinkedIn and all it has to offer, one needs a strong profile that catches the eye of their target audience and invites others to engage. Make sure your page shows off your skills, sets you apart from others, and clearly states what you’re best at. But many people haven’t caught on yet—they treat their LinkedIn as a place to put their resume online.

LinkedIn search results show a user’s profile picture and headline, the text that appears just below the user’s name on their profile. When recruiters, hiring managers, clients, and customers search LinkedIn, a headline is their first impression. A user’s headline is also visible in posts, comments, LinkedIn job applications, and connection requests. If a custom headline is not created by the user, LinkedIn will default the headline to be the user’s most current (or most recently listed) job title.

Many LinkedIn users don’t update their headlines even though most users claim it to be the most important part of someone’s profile. Only 20% of LinkedIn users have updated their headlines from LinkedIn’s default. In a user survey, LinkedIn expert and Top Voice Bob McIntosh found that 46% of respondents felt the headline was more important than the Experience section (30%) and the ‘About’ section (24%).

LinkedIn Headline = Limited Real Estate

A LinkedIn headline is limited to 220 characters. According to LinkedIn, a user’s headline is also a key factor in how that user ranks in search results for their targeted industry, skills, or keyword searches. Maximizing the character allotment with a concise, compelling, keyword-optimized narrative is important.

A strong headline will increase one’s chances of being found on LinkedIn and, therefore, more likely to be considered for opportunities. LinkedIn users should make the most of this small – but critically important – preview of themselves.

The best LinkedIn headlines make it easy for anyone visiting a user’s profile to immediately understand who the person is, what they do, and what they have to offer their target. Give the viewer a reason to want to read further.

What should be included in a perfect headline? While the answer differs for everyone and even for one person depending on the season – your headline while searching for a job will probably be very different from your headline when using LinkedIn with a more marketing focus – there are some general dos and don’ts that should be adhered to.

LinkedIn Best Practices Headline DOs:

  • Highlight the value you bring through past achievements or results
  • Show what makes you different from everyone else.
  • Include keywords relating to your skills
  • Indicate your industry or the types of people you work with
  • Share hobbies or community involvement that add to your value proposition
  • Establish your authority on a relevant topic

Examples of Winning Headlines

Mary’s headline:
✓ Highlights relevant achievements in the targeted field of work
✓ Uses keywords from target job descriptions to help attract hiring managers
✓ Uses keywords from target job descriptions to help attract hiring managers
✓ Showcases her value proposition with quantifiable metrics

John’s headline:
✓ Uses pipe or bar character (|) to divide sections for easy reading
✓ Personalized his headline with a passionate activity or hobby
✓ Uses keywords from target job descriptions to help attract hiring managers
✓ Showcases his value proposition

LinkedIn Best Practices Headline DON’Ts:

  • Throw too many emojis in the headline – limit to one or two emojis.
  • Stuff your headline with buzzwords and keywords – keep it to 2-3 relevant keywords.
  • Use abbreviations unless they are widespread in your industry
  • Run everything together. Use periods or breaks such as “|” “,” and “-” to split things up
  • Settle for the default headline provided by LinkedIn

Professionals, recent graduates, and established workers benefit greatly from a strong LinkedIn profile, regardless of their goal: seeking new jobs, making connections, or becoming recognized thought leaders. A well-crafted profile plays a key role in catching the attention of the people you want to reach. The Briefcase Coach poll suggests that your profile’s ‘About’ section doesn’t go unnoticed, making it essential for communicating who you are.

Results of a LinkedIn user poll  suggests that your profile's 'About' section doesn't go unnoticed, making it essential for communicating who you are.

The ‘About’ section is your chance to share your story and sell yourself to your target audience in your own words—think of it as your personal pitch. It’s also the place to emphasize the skills and keywords that can help you appear in searches related to jobs you’re interested in.

Yet, even with its importance, the ‘About’ section is often the least utilized space on people’s profiles—many struggle with what to say and how to say it effectively. Effective use of one’s ‘About’ section allows individuals to make their professional identity stand out on LinkedIn.

Sell Yourself: You Can Do It!

“I’m the person who can convince a bee it needs more honey!” Many feel that while they are great at selling, they are at a loss when promoting themselves. It’s a sentiment I hear from nearly everyone I work with, from CEOs to top salespeople to prolific inventors. The commonality is striking: most people find it challenging to convey their own narrative effectively.

The difficulty lies in the perspective – providing an objective self-assessment is tough. We’re often our own harshest critics, underestimating our worth and hesitant to tout our achievements for fear of being arrogant.

But consider this: if your LinkedIn profile is up against a hundred others with the same job title, what is it about you that will capture attention? What makes your story not just unique but memorable and valuable? Turning your ‘About’ section into a story that encapsulates ‘you’ at your best is the key. You’ll want to capture this essence and the story you’ll want to tell.

First or Third Person?

To start with, your voice on LinkedIn should be clear and consistent. As LinkedIn becomes more interactive, the trend is moving toward first-person storytelling. It feels more personal and relatable.

In an illustrative poll, I presented two versions of an ‘About’ section: one in the third person and another in the first person, containing the same keywords, work experience, and outcomes. The task for participants was simple – choose the style that appealed more to them.

an overwhelming 78% of LinkedIn users surveyed favored the first-person style in an about section of the profile.

The verdict was clear: an overwhelming 78% favored the first-person style. Readers felt that a first-person ‘About’ section came across as more genuine and engaging. As career and job search coach Rebecca Bosl observed, the third person is suitable for a bio, while the first person fits the ‘About’ section – it’s like introducing yourself at a conference.

It is important to remember that your story should be personal and concisely reflect the outcomes you’ve achieved in a manner that quickly resonates with your target audience. Wellness and work coach Moumita Paul stressed the importance of brevity and impact by stating a preference for an overview of key results, “I don’t have time to go through a lengthy story to extract the important information I need.” The key is to convey significant achievements without unnecessary length, allowing busy professionals to grasp your value proposition promptly.

What’s the Hook?

Great stories always start with a strong hook that grabs the reader’s attention. In the LinkedIn ‘About’ section, users are afforded 2,600 words, but a viewer initially sees only the first three lines. Those opening sentences must captivate the reader enough to prompt a click to see more.

Consider beginning with an intriguing question, a striking statement about a key realization, a memorable moment from an early job, or a notable professional achievement.

Authenticity in your narrative is imperative. Audiences can quickly discern when a story does seem genuine. Opening with your why—the passion that drives you in your profession—can be a powerful approach. The goal is to provide a snapshot of who you are, encouraging the reader to delve deeper into your story.

Above all, keep it real. People can tell when you’re trying to impress rather than being honest. Start with the reason you love your work, or tell a short story about a big win you had. You can talk about your life outside of work, too, so people get a sense of who you are and become interested in hearing more about you.

Once They’re Engaged, What’s Next?

Once you have succeeded in drawing people in, you’ve got around 2,000 more characters to flesh out your story in the ‘About’ section. This is where you get the chance to present your value proposition. 

Consider your elevator pitch. If someone at a professional event asked, “What do you do?” or an interviewer asked, “Tell me why you’re the best candidate for this position,” how would you respond? Here are some “get-going” questions to help you think through the story you want to tell:

  • What is it that you do?
  • Why do you do what you do? 
  • What are the specialties and skills that set you apart? 
  • What industries have you worked in?
  • Who is the target audience for what you do, and what do you do for them?
  • What do you want to do as your career progresses?

In your ‘About’ section, aim to show how your skills and experiences align with the expectations and sectors of your audience but also weave in elements of your personal journey. It’s not just about listing your job functions. Delve into the reasons behind your work – your motivations, inspirations, and the key moments that have influenced your professional path. This balance of information invites a genuine connection with your audience and gives them a fuller picture of you, professionally and personally.

Personal Anecdotes vs Professional Content

In another survey on LinkedIn, we polled users on their preference for personal anecdotes and fun facts on profiles versus strictly professional content. The response was generally positive, albeit with some reservations.

A respondent articulated that such details bring a touch of humanity to the profile, reinforcing that LinkedIn, while a professional platform, thrives on personal connections much like any networking environment.

However, ensuring that the personal touches you add are still pertinent to your professional objectives is advisable. Feedback from another commenter highlighted the desire for substance without sifting through irrelevant details. The consensus is to provide the essential facts but to do so through your lens and in a voice that’s yours.

Quick tips for a strong ‘ABOUT’ section:

◘ Provide data and share concrete examples of success to back up your results and prove your expertise.

◘ Break up large blocks of text to make the section more readable – there are some formatting options in this section that you can access using the “right click” on your mouse to help make your narrative more visually appealing.

◘ Don’t forget to end with your contact information. Unless someone is directly connected with you, they may not be able to see contact information on your profile.

Telling your story on LinkedIn is important. It’s also best practice to optimize your LinkedIn page for your target audience: those looking for someone with your talents and background.

Being present on LinkedIn isn’t sufficient; you need to be discoverable. Recruiters, hiring managers, and often potential clients or customers utilize LinkedIn to identify promising candidates. It’s essential that your profile shows up in searches for professionals with your specific skills and experience. Moreover, when submitting a job application through LinkedIn, recruiters assess how closely your listed skills align with those required in the job description.

Consideration for search engine optimization (SEO) is not just for the wider internet—it’s important on LinkedIn, too. LinkedIn is a highly authoritative site and ranks among Google’s top five sites indexed. If someone looks up your name online, your LinkedIn profile will likely be one of the first results they see.

How to Choose the Right Keywords

Keywords are vital for helping potential employers or clients find someone with your qualifications. Sometimes, a real person might be making the connections, but often, AI is doing the work behind the scenes. That’s why incorporating the right keywords into your LinkedIn profile is crucial. Figuring out which keywords to use takes careful research and thought.

Start by examining job listings that interest you and note the recurring phrases and skills they emphasize – those are your keywords. Make sure these keywords appear in various sections of your profile, including your Headline, ‘About’ section, Experience descriptions, and the Recommendations you’ve received.

While catering to algorithms is necessary, your profile must appeal to human readers and flow naturally.

LinkedIn strategy and career development experts, such as Roy Young and Beth Granger, advise using a word cloud generator to pinpoint important keywords. Granger endorses this technique: “I love the idea of putting a job description into a word cloud to see the importance of different terms visually and then use those terms in your content.” An effective tool for this is I used a real job description on LinkedIn for a Supply Chain Director and created a word cloud on TagCrowd. See the results below.

Example Word Cloud

Keywords vs. Skills on LinkedIn

On LinkedIn, you can identify up to 50 skills in your profile, emphasizing your top ten. Connecting these skills to relevant positions in your ‘Experience’ section is beneficial. Research from LinkedIn reveals that over 45% of recruiters on the platform actively use the ‘Skills’ data when recruiting, and individuals with at least five skills listed on their profile garner 17 times more views than those with fewer.

For those with a Premium subscription, LinkedIn job postings can show how well your skills align with job requirements and which skills other candidates are listing. For insights on LinkedIn’s Skills Match, Rohan Rajiv from the LinkedIn Talent Solutions team offers useful tips.

However, don’t rely solely on skill tags. If you notice recurring skills in job postings you’re interested in, weave these keywords into your profile’s narrative, not just in the skills section, to enhance visibility and relevance.

Keyword Density

Keyword density refers to how often a certain keyword appears relative to the total number of words in a document. Enhancing your profile with strategic keyword placement can improve your visibility in job searches since these are the terms that recruiters and hiring managers look for. Featuring these keywords throughout your profile can help propel it to the top of the search results.

While the inner workings of the LinkedIn algorithm remain largely unknown, drawing parallels from blogging suggests that repeated use of a keyword can enhance ranking.

HubSpot, a reputable source in SEO instruction, advises that a keyword or phrase should be present at a rate of 1% of the total word count in a blog post. However, this approach may not translate perfectly to LinkedIn. Following this rule might mean including each keyword four to six times within the ‘About’ section alone, which could be excessive.

In crafting LinkedIn profiles, the best practice is incorporating the keyword or phrase at least nine times throughout the profile to balance optimization and readability.

The beginning of this paper highlighted LinkedIn’s presence as an online platform for social engagement, not just a spot to park your resume. To really benefit from what LinkedIn offers, you need to use it to connect with others actively.

One mistake to watch out for: people often stop using LinkedIn for networking once they’ve landed a job, treating it like a piggy bank they only break open when they need something. Networking like this is just a series of quick trades, not about building relationships that last.

Instead, it’s better to practice relational networking. That means using LinkedIn to build a network that’ll support you over the long haul. Putting in the time and effort to keep up these connections can pay off big time when you’re looking for your next opportunity. Remember, it’s not just about what you can gain today but about creating relationships that will enrich your career and personal life over time.

Here are a few ways to stay visible and make meaningful connections on LinkedIn, starting with the simplest and moving to those that take a bit more work.

Make New Connections

Consistently growing your network on LinkedIn, especially with connections relevant to your industry, increases your profile’s exposure to recruiters and industry professionals. Forbes suggests aiming for 500 connections to signal an active participation in career development and networking. A profile with few connections might give the impression of disinterest in the platform’s opportunities. Portraying yourself as well-connected conveys a proactive stance in your professional ascent and encourages more engagement from others on LinkedIn.

Follow and Share

Active engagement on LinkedIn goes beyond the occasional ‘like’ or congratulatory message for a colleague’s new job or work milestone. Taking a step further, you could follow industry influencers or join groups that align with your professional interests and goals. When these thought leaders share compelling content, re-share it on your profile, adding your own insights. Utilize the sharing tools many media sites provide to disseminate relevant content directly to your LinkedIn feed.

Such activity demonstrates your engagement with peers and cements your reputation as someone who stays abreast of the latest industry trends, topics, and discussions. Additionally, attributing credit through tags when reposting others’ materials fosters a reciprocal relationship that could lead to them sharing your content, potentially expanding your network and influence.

Even if it’s not part of your job description, sharing updates from your current organization contributes to your professional narrative. It exhibits commitment and can be viewed favorably by future employers who value a proactive and supportive approach to one’s company.

Join the Conversation

When you encounter an interesting post, don’t just share – engage in a conversation. Increase your visibility by commenting on the article, mentioning a particularly compelling point, or asking a question that keeps the discussion going. If you’re commenting on an article you have shared, tag the original author. 

Collaborate With Others

Launched earlier this year, collaborative articles are knowledge topics published by LinkedIn with insights and perspectives added by the LinkedIn community. These articles begin as AI-powered conversation starters, developed by the LinkedIn editorial team and pushed out to LinkedIn users with skills relevant to the topic. People weigh in with their thoughts and often create a vibrant discussion. Frequent participation in these new collaborations can earn you a “Top Voice” badge in the topic area, further establishing your credibility and expanding your voice. 

Create Original Content

Investing time creating and posting original content will significantly increase visibility on LinkedIn. The average LinkedIn post is 1,300-2,000 characters. This is equivalent to a single-spaced paper of 12-point text. Tools such as Grammarly can assist with editing and guard against inadvertent plagiarism.

LinkedIn has publishing tools that make creating and sharing original posts, newsletters, podcasts, and short-form videos much easier. Posting original content consistently aimed at a target audience is the best practice for increasing views.

Connect through InMail

Diving deeper into strategies for expanding professional networks on LinkedIn, it is clear that content can play a pivotal role in connecting users with potential contacts. A recent poll I conducted reveals that 65% of LinkedIn users have reached out to someone they hadn’t known based on their content on the platform. These results showcase the power of content to spark new professional acquaintances.

Adding to the conversation, career coach Anne Irene Ryan values interacting with content directly by commenting on posts to facilitate follow-up conversations through InMail. Ryan indicated that while she has reached out to others after perusing their profiles, initiating a dialogue through comments on posts often yields a better response. This suggests public engagement can lead to more effective networking than cold outreach.

Anne Winn approaches these interactions without expectations, maintaining a sense of gratitude for any responses she receives. Her experience reinforces the importance of being proactive and appreciative in the networking process on LinkedIn, linking content interaction and InMail outreach as a dual strategy that can effectively open doors and foster new professional relationships.

Want to Know More?

As a former recruiter and the founder of Briefcase Coach, I’ve seen thousands of LinkedIn pages – good and bad – and helped hundreds of professionals enhance their LinkedIn presence. If you’d like to learn more about some of the topics discussed above, here are some insights from the Briefcase Coach team:

Here are some related articles from other sources that you might find interesting:



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