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How to Write LinkedIn Headlines That Work (and Don’t Sound Icky)


Written by Louise Fletcher

Today the Personal Branding Blog covers the need to write a compelling LinkedIn headline.

I agree with the premise. Your headline is one of the most important things about your profile. You could spend hours writing great content but the headline is what most people will see when they search. They’ll scan it quickly and then they’ll decide whether to read the rest of your profile, or just move on to someone else.

But I disagree with the advice given on exactly how to write a strong headline because I think it fundamentally misunderstands the target audience for your profile and how to impress them.

Remember, professional recruiters surf LinkedIn looking for candidates. When they do this, they have very specific positions in mind, and they usually have very clear criteria. In order to grab their attention, your headline needs to tell them exactly what they need to know and yet Personal Branding Blog singles out this headline as being particularly strong:

  • Visionary Results-Driven Senior Sales Executive


To me that just sounds cheesy and overly self-promotional. I don’t think that experienced recruiters or senior hiring executives are interested in this kind of ‘resume speak.’ I think they want to know who you are and what you’ve done. They’ll decide whether they think you’re a visionary after they’ve spoken to you – you’re never going to convince them of it on LinkedIn!

When I write LinkedIn headlines for my clients, I focus on summarizing their story clearly and succinctly. So for a sales executive in the entertainment industry (the profession discussed in the post) I’d prefer to see something like this:

  • Sales executive with 15+ years in the entertainment industry | ABC, NBC, Sony Music & Warner Bros | MBA, Wharton

This headline tells a recruiter all he needs to know to click through and learn more … and it does it without being icky and boastful.

As you build your LinkedIn profile, remember that recruiters don’t give two hoots about your “personal brand.” They only care about whether you fit the criteria for the position they are currently trying to fill. Use the headline to make sure they know that you do!

PS: If you are ready to really get the most out of LinkedIn, check out The Blue Sky Guide to LinkedIn. This downloadable e-book takes you step-by-step through the site, with detailed instructions and screenshots on everything from setting up an effective profile through making connections all the way to understanding the many additional benefits the site has to offer. Once you learn how to use LinkedIn properly, you’ll never leave.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andy Robinson, Spring Search Group. Spring Search Group said: RT @AndyInNaples: How to Write LinkedIn Headlines That Work (and Don’t Sound Icky) #CareerSuccess […]

  2. Wil says:

    Great blog Louise – makes such common sense!

  3. Dawn Bugni says:

    Louise –

    You’re spot on with this. I wouldn’t use the words “Visionary Results-Driven Senior Sales Executive” on a resume. Why would they be a good idea for a LI profile? I find those that have to TELL me they’re visionary usually aren’t. Clear, succinct headlines, shored up by solid a demonstration of visionary prowess wins hands down over fluffy, over-used adjectives.


    • @Will, Thanks. I like the summary on the page you linked to. Simple, direct and straightforward. Good job!

      @Dawn Bugni, thanks for stopping by. I agree with you on resume language too. I’m pushing myself more and more these days to focus on hard facts and evidence, even in the resume introduction.

  4. As with so many things in the realm of career-hunting: directness and honesty trump self-agrandisement and floweriness.

    I find that clients often fear that if they sound “ordinary”, they won’t stand out from the crowd. I have to remind them that they don’t want to stand out for being something they’re *not*, so they should just stick to explaining – clearly and concisely – who they really are.

  5. Matthew says:

    I disagree with the idea of putting “15+” in the headline. There is no need to emphasize that this person might be older than someone a few years out of school. That number is not doing anything for you. When was the last time you saw this in a job listing.

    • Matthew, I couldn’t disagree more. This person is a senior executive. Those postings do include years of experience and those recruiters do look for that. Someone a few years out of school wouldn’t be in the running for this level of position. I absolutely used to look for years of experience when hiring at this level and so do others.

  6. […] You sound like a cliche. When you incorporate these types of terms into your resume to make you sound unique, you actually sound like you don’t have an original thought in your head. Hiring managers read thousands of resumes with these same claims every year. If it wasn’t that interesting the first time around, it certainly won’t be interesting after the 1,000th resume. The same is true for LinkedIn profiles. You can read colleague Louise Fletcher’s post about this here. […]

  7. Sandy says:

    Great post, Louise.
    I believe honesty trumps arrogance any day!


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Louise co-founded Blue Sky in 2002 after a career as an HR executive. Her industry experience includes music, video games, fashion and advertising. She lived and worked in the US for many years, but moved back to her native UK in 2012, where she now lives in the Yorkshire countryside. In addition to her full-time role with Blue Sky, she's a professional artist, so you can imagine why she couldn't answer the 'what do you do with your free time' question! Contact Louise by email.

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