How to Write a Great LinkedIn Headline
The LinkedIn Headline section is essentially the strapline for your own personal brand.
In up to 120 characters, you need to describe what it is you do. This isn’t limited to your current position, such as ‘Sales Manager’; it can be whatever you want. Often it will be your position, plus a short value statement about what you offer or specialise in.
‘Junior Developer creating beautiful and intuitive websites for businesses.’
Freelancers or contract workers might use it to give an indication of their current situation. For instance:
‘Experienced copywriter looking for new opportunities in advertising.’
The simplest way to come up with a great headline is to think of it as the very first thing – and often the only thing – people will read about you. What are the most essential things a potential contact, partner or employer might need to know?
Why the Headline Is an Important Part of Your LinkedIn Profile
Unfortunately, recruiters who are scrolling through hundreds of profiles don’t always have time to delve into your profile to get to know you. They need to be able to easily access the key information that tells them whether or not you’re someone worth contacting or looking into further.
That’s where the headline comes in, and that’s why it’s possibly the most important part of your LinkedIn profile.
Think of it like a digital first impression. Your headline frames how (and if) the other person will see the rest of your profile.
How to Communicate Your Value Via the Headline
Your value as a person and as a potential employee obviously goes well beyond 120 characters. However, you'll need to distil the most important things you want to communicate down to a short sentence.
So, what are the best things to focus on?
In general, you want to focus on what you do and what you can offer. That will usually be your current position and a bit about what you specialise in and/or what kind of roles you’re looking for.
You might also want to highlight particular achievements or awards, if you can sum them up briefly.
In communicating your value via the headline, the main thing to keep in mind is to keep it simple and cut the jargon. Begin by thinking about who your headline is for.
For instance, if you’re a developer looking for new clients, consider the following two headlines:
- Full-Stack Developer experienced in .NET, Azure and Django solutions.
- Website Developer helping you bring your ideas to life from start to finish.
Both of these headlines are fine; they are just targeted towards different audiences.
The first is more technical, stating what kind of developer the person is (full-stack) and what frameworks they are most experienced in. A headline like this is targeted towards employers within the industry. People who know what you mean and for whom that kind of information is useful.
The second headline looks outside the industry. It is aimed at people who wouldn’t know what a ‘Full-Stack Developer’ is or what ‘.NET’ is. For that audience, the technical information is useless and gives the impression that you aren’t talking to them.
The first headline might be more suited to a developer looking for opportunities within the industry, while the second could be more suited to a freelancer looking for non-technical clients needing website support.
When you write your headline, take a moment to think about who you want to read it and what you want them to get from it.
Ways to Stand Out from the Crowd
- Add something more. The first step to standing out from the LinkedIn crowd is to add something more than your current position to your headline. It’s that easy, at least to begin with.
The vast majority of LinkedIn users don’t bother to change their headline from the default, which just lists your current position, for example, ‘Sales Associate at Business, Ltd.’. So, if you’re reading a guide like this and putting effort into writing your headline, you’re already ahead.
- Figure out your audience and tailor it to them. Follow our tips from the previous section.
- Choose the language carefully. There’s a fine balance to be struck between meaningless buzzwords and useful keywords. Getting it right will result in more efficient communication of what you do, and better results for your profile in search.
Good Keywords to Use (And Ones to Avoid)
Careful use of words will go a long way. With so few words in the headline, each one you select counts for a lot.
You also need to account for the search bar. Recruiters, potential clients, contacts (or whoever you’re trying to reach) will need to type something into the search bar to find you.
If you use relevant keywords in your headline, you’ll have much better results.
So, what are some good ones to use? And which should you avoid?
- You should use keywords which are helpful, informative and clear. There are far too many to name specifically, but they should communicate what you can do and what you can offer.
- You should avoid keywords that are the opposite. What that amounts to are keywords not backed up by evidence.
So, don’t call yourself a ‘Proactive Sales Associate’ or an ‘Enthusiastic Copywriter’. Anyone can call themselves ‘proactive’.
For adjectives like these, it’s much better to show and not tell.
Show that you’re proactive by seeking out opportunities and following up. Show that you’re enthusiastic by communicating in a passionate, excited manner.
Use keywords that provide more information about you and are relevant to the industry. For instance, instead of an ‘enthusiastic copywriter’, you might be a ‘business-to-business specialist copywriter’.
Five Good Examples of LinkedIn Headlines
To get a sense of what a good LinkedIn headline looks like, let’s go straight to the source. Here are a few examples of good LinkedIn headlines and why they’re good:
Straightforward and concise, this headline delivers the keywords that will let searchers know the areas that individual is interested and experienced in.
A more descriptive headline, this one is geared towards clients. It begins by saying what the person can offer, and ends with their position and experience.
This headline follows a set formula. It reveals their position, what they offer, a relevant achievement and finally an acronym. The acronym at the end is a discreet way to add in some industry-specific credentials without it cluttering up the rest of the headline.
A straightforward headline, here the individual briefly shows what they do and what they can offer. They also add the industries they are involved with or interested in, helping searchers to narrow things down.
Beginning with their role, this person then uses most of the headline to list key achievements, metrics and qualifications. This approach can be particularly useful if your role sounds generic. Note also how all of the achievements are concrete, backed up by facts.
To sum up, you’ll make a great LinkedIn headline if you bear just a few important principles in mind:
- Think of your headline as your first impression to potential clients, employers and contacts. What do you want the first thing they know about you to be?
- Be concrete and cut out fluff words that you can’t back up. When it comes to adjectives like ‘passionate’ or ‘energetic’, show don’t tell.
- Tailor your headline to your audience. Ask yourself who you want to read it and what they will want to know about you. This might mean using technical terms to get across your core competencies, or it might mean cutting the jargon entirely. It might mean focusing on your achievements and qualifications, or it might mean mentioning which industries you have experience in.
- Make your headline search-friendly by using keywords. Put yourself in the shoes of someone searching for someone like you. What might they type in to find the person they’re looking for?