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

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.

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