Your LinkedIn profile is NOT GOOD ENOUGH (and everyone knows it!)

28 Oct

Everyone knows it’s not good enough to have a professionally written LinkedIn profile. That’s why they always tell you to do something that will make your LinkedIn profile “stand out”.  It’s the same advice they gave you when you were a kid writing your college admission essay, and again when you wrote your resume. So what does it mean to ‘stand out’, and why do people talk about it in such a mysterious way? You would think that with so many people encouraging you to make yourself stand out from the competition, they would mention what, specifically, you can do to stand out.

Well, there is a whole science to it.

I am very interested in the psychology of standing out, because it’s the only way anyone can ever achieve any goals.  My interest in the psychology of standing out is what got me interested in promoting businesses and brands.  Even if you don’t have a business to promote, you will need to brand yourself.  Your name becomes your brand name.  If you have not created a business or brand, then your NAME is your brand.

So let’s look at a LinkedIn profile and try to see it from the perspective of a recruiter who is browsing many profiles and trying to choose the best person for the job.

As you listen, it’s a good idea to be looking at a blank document so you can type some important ideas for improving your profile.  I’ll tell you one important idea right now, and you can type it so you remember to do it: It’s possible to modify the headline of your Linkedin profile.  So do it.

Sign into your LinkedIn account and select the option to edit profile.

First of all, it’s important to make sure you smile in your picture.  Remember that the recruiter who is browsing your profile is a sensitive human who wants to be able to feel comfortable with you.  Look like you are approachable, so the recruiter can feel comfortable recommending you to the hiring manger.  If you have a big, engaging smile on your face, it suggests that you have the kind of interpersonal skill that makes great teamwork and leadership possible.  Your smile shows that you have the kind of intrinsic charisma that some people have and others don’t.

You’ll see that if you have not edited the headline, the headline will automatically show your current job title.  Changing the headline is a good way to immediately catch the reader’s attention.

The best way to change your headline is to choose three or four search terms that recruiters are likely to use when searching for someone like you.  You can type these search terms right into your headline to improve your search visibility.  So, if you have experience in Project Management, Account Management, and Vendors Relations you can list these three skills in your headline.  Use your headline as a place for the search terms the recruiters you want to connect with are likely to use.   

You can search google to find out the keywords most commonly used in your industry.  For example, if you’re a teacher you can search google for: Education, linkedin, keywords.  If you’re a nurse, you can search google for: nurse, linkedin, keywords. It only takes a few minutes to find an article with the keywords used by hiring managers in your industry.

How about your profile image? Does it look professional?  People are superficial. The image is the most important part of your LinkedIn profile.  If you don’t have an image, or if you have one that doesn’t look professional, the hiring manager will take one look at it and close the tab without reading your profile at all.

Next, you move on to your summary.  The important thing to remember with your summary is that you should not waste time with empty generalizations. Don’t say you are a detail-oriented self-starter who takes initiative. Those words don’t really mean anything.  Instead, tell a story.  Use this opportunity to mention goals you achieved. If you were a project manager, mention how many people were involved with the project.  If you helped improve profit, give some statistics.

Next, let’s talk about what you can do to show people that you are the applicant they are looking for. Demonstrating to the reader that you are the applicant they are looking for is NO simple task, because most of the time the reader does not even know what she or he is looking for! It’s true.  There are all kinds of books written about what hiring managers should look for in an applicant, but the methods any hiring manager actually uses will depend on that managers intuitive decision. Even if that hiring manager follows a set of principles for choosing the best applicant, intuition will still play a big role in the decision making process.  Intuition will be what determines the extent to which the hiring manager adheres to any set of principles for selecting the right applicant.

The correct thing for you to do is almost always the same, regardless of the kind of job for which you’re applying.  I’m going to mention something that everyone knows – some experienced managers know this because they have seen the research supporting it, and others have never seen the research but they know it intuitively. A human being’s personality traits remain mostly the same. There are some things an employee can be trained to do and other things and employee can NOT be trained to do.  In the moments when a hiring manager is browsing profiles on LinkedIn, it’s a time for thinking about the things a person can NOT be trained to do. Despite a lot of human resource management literature suggesting otherwise, the truth is that personality traits like conscientiousness and industriousness cannot be improved very much with employee development programs.  Those personality traits tend to increase as a person gets older and matures, but generally speaking it is difficult for employers to train people to improve in those areas.  Similarly, there are personality traits like empathy and extroversion which can make a person a better leader or a better salesperson, or better in any role that requires finesses in dealing with other humans.  These cannot be learned! Empathy, extroversion, industriousness, and conscientiousness are all examples of personality traits that, according to empirical research by psychologists, cannot be improved very much no matter how much time is spent trying to train an employee to improve them.

So, what conclusion can we draw? What conclusion can we draw from this observation that certain personality characteristics associated with employee productivity, are mostly permanent and cannot be improved with employee development programs?  It means a hiring manager will tend to favor the job applicants who already seem to be conscientious, empathetic toward other people, and industrious.  Every employer wants employees who are driven to work hard and do a great job. Employers want to hire people who will be able to find job satisfaction by being part of a great team. Employers want to hire someone who seems to be extremely productive, one of those people who can improve the whole company with the energy of inspiration.

So, I’ll tell you how to make yourself stand out.  What you need to do is demonstrate that you are the most driven type of person. 80% of people are ordinary, and 20% of people are hyper-productive, they are extremely effective and one person like this is worth FOUR normal people.  This is not just an idea I made up. It’s an idea that comes from the famous Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who observed that, in his own garden, 80% of the healthy peas were produced by 20% of the peapods.  Then, he noticed that 20% of the land owners in Italy owned 80% of the land!  Researchers are constantly finding more examples of this pareto distribution, also called the pareto principle, or the 80-20 rule, and it seems to be almost a universal principle you can observe everywhere in nature. It is not always a ratio of 80 to 20, but everywhere you look you can find examples of situations where 80% of the results come from 20% of the causes.  80% of the best selling books are written by 20% of the people who write books. The point of observing this is to recognize that things are not equal.  It matters what you choose, because whenever you choose something there is a chance you can select the option that is 4 X as useful as all the other options.

What can we learn from the pareto distribution?  We learn that things are not distributed evenly.  People are highly un-equal. Your goal when writing a LinkedIn profile is to make it look the way it would look if you were one of those hyper-productive, hyper-conscientious 20% of people who get more work done than everyone else in the company.  If a hiring manager can correctly guess which employees will be extraordinarily productive, it make such a huge difference, the company is sure to do well and everyone’s work will be efficient.

That’s what you need to show the person who reads your LinkedIn profile.  And how do you demonstrate that you are one of those most productive, driven people?  I’ll tell you a few things you can do:

Buy a domain name and create a website based on your name, or your professional philosophy about the work you do, or about improving your local community… anything at all. What kind of website can you create that will enable you to use your talents to make the world a better place?  Go ahead and create it, because when you do, it will make you a more effective job applicant.  If you don’t know how to even begin creating a website, that’s okay.  All you need to do is email me at and tell me about your idea for a website.  I’ll take care of the rest.  We offer an 8-week program where we create a website and then promote it on social media, but you don’t have to order that whole service.  You can actually just tell me how much you want to budget for your website, and I’ll find out what we can do for that amount.  There are a lot of inexpensive ways to add a website to your LinkedIn profile.

Write an article or an e-book.  Don’t ignore this one, even if you think you suck at writing.  It’s not about the writing.  It’s about the authority.  When someone says “I wrote the book on…” one thing or another, it’s another way of saying, “I know all about it.”  If you wrote the book on something, anything at all, it shows people that you are a hyper-productive person.  Now, I don’t know if you are a hyper-productive person or not, but it doesn’t matter because I AM A HYPER PRODUCTIVE PERSON and you can hire me to write a short e-book with useful information for people in your target audience. It’s not very expensive.  You and I can co-author an e-book, and from the perspective of a hiring manager browsing your profile it’s just as good as if you had been the only author.  We can set the ebook up for digital download somewhere online, and then we can modify your resume and your LinkedIn profile so that everyone sees an entry with the title of the book you wrote. If you had the inspiration and consistency to write a book and sell it online (or you can even give it away free), if you had the focus and drive necessary for completing a project like that, it proves you are one of those top 20% best people to hire.

Join 3 professional organizations.  There are hundreds of organizations you can join easily.  Organizations need people to join.  You can join three organizations right now, and it’s probably possible to do it by filling out an online form.  Maybe you’ll need to make a small donation or something.  And this is going to sound a little bit disingenuous, but I think you should join an organization with the coolest name. I hope you’ll also join organizations that interest you, but right now we’re trying to make your LinkedIn profile stand out so let’s join some organizations that have names you want people to see when they are comparing you to other job applicants.

  • If you are a teacher, or if you are any kind of healthcare professional, or if you work for the government, there are certain issues central to the work you do right now.
  • If you’re a teacher, you know parental involvement is one of the biggest factors determining student outcomes, so you can join an organization that works to encourage more parents to get involved in the classroom.
  • If you are a nurse, you know that community health depends on how effectively you can educate the community about preventable health risks, so you join a community health organization.
  • Even if you are already a member of several organizations I encourage you to go join 3 more right now. You’ll be glad you did. List them on your resume. When you notice how easy it is to get involved with good organizations, you might joing more and more until there is a long list on your LinkedIn profile. It’s hard not to notice when someone is a member of 12 professional organizations.  You wanted to know how to make your profile stand out. That’s how to do it.

Then, go follow some companies you’d like to work for.  Find the section of linkedin where you can follow influencers and companies, and follow the companies you want to work for.  They will notice if you’re following them.

Finally, the last topic to discuss is the endorsements section of the profile.  Choose the skills that are most likely to be searched by recruiters.  Then, be bold enough to ask people to endorse you. Connect with your friends in LinkedIn and endorse one another.  Have some friends meet up to visit and endorse each other on LinkedIn. It will be a productive way to catch up with friends and colleagues, and everyone will benefit from it.


Internships ▪ Volunteer Experience ▪ Awards or Recognition ▪ Community Activities ▪ Professional Organizations ▪ Collegiate or Athletic Clubs & Activities


Prior Job Experience ▪ Collaboration Abilities ▪ Continuous Learning  ▪ Improving the Workplace ▪ Leading Teams & Special Projects ▪ Examples of Performance Excellence


Leadership Style & Abilities ▪ Creating High-Performance Teams ▪ Peer-to-Peer Collaboration ▪ Mentoring & Coaching ▪ Strategic Planning & Implementation ▪ Engaging Employees & Staff Development

Now that you’ve listened to the ideas in this audio, you might be ready to type some keywords that are likely to be searched by recruiters, and you might be ready to think about the most important skills they will want to see on your profile. Your professionally written linkedin profile is not good enough until you have filled it with the most important keywords, search terms, and until you have taken it as an opportunity to demonstrate that you are an extraordinarily driven, productive person.  Remember that everyone intuitively knows about the pareto principle – the idea that people are not all equal, and in any industry it’s likely that 20% of employees are so productive that they are responsible for 80% of the productivity of a company. And that means recruiters will want to connect with you if you spend extra time to show that you are one of those rare people who are extraordinarily driven, inspired, and productive.  If your resume shows that you have a website, one or more publications, a long list of endorsements, and membership in several professional organizations, it will be very difficult for them to pass your profile by.  People who are extremely motivated and productive are easy to recognize because their professional profiles are full of extra things that enable them to stand out and make a stronger impression than the competition.