The 3 Things That Matter Most on Your LinkedIn Profile if You Don’t Want Recruiters to “Swipe Left”​

How to Make a Good First Impression on LinkedIn

Ok, before every recruiter and pundit jumps on board debating the subject; yes, I will concede that there are many important components to an effective LinkedIn profile. For example, we can debate the application and structure of “key word” seeding or the simple question of how much is “too much” [info] to include. But by now, there is a cornucopia of books, blogs, videos, and consultants slicing and dicing the endless use cases to support a variety of perspectives.

However, as a recruiter – and, more important, as an ordinary person who likes to do online research – we tend to draw quick conclusions based on small visual pieces of information. When you look at thousands of LinkedIn profiles a week, your psychological impression machine moves into ever higher – and quicker – gear.

So here are my Top 3 Things that make the most immediate impact on your LinkedIn profile. These are universal things – those flashes of neon light – that form first impressions and both consciously and subconsciously can influence whether a viewer keeps on reading or makes that proverbial swipe left. These will be in the order in which most people visually read a profile (upper left hand corner downward). The goal is to get the reader to keep reading, and any disruption in the sequence can end the process immediately.

1. Have an Engaging Photo.  I once joked that if a “picture is worth a thousand words” and the average LI profile has 500, then how important is that darn photo? Like it or not, we make initial judgments based on appearance.  We get a vibe from a photo. If you’re looking for a job, then you want engagement. You want to make it easy for people to call you, to inquire more, to read on.  If you look intimidating, or overtly important (you know, speaking to thousands while wearing a 5-pound headset and standing in front of 4 white boards), you may actually turn away would-be inquirers. Or maybe the recruiter will only reach out once, but not diligently follow-up thereafter. Recruiting is very much a sales or “producer” vocation. I can tell you from personal experience that I’ve often prioritized my activities around reaching out to people that I felt would give me a warm reception. When I see a nice smile and sense of friendliness and humility, it’s just natural to want to make an extra effort to connect . . . risk aversion is lower. So for most folks, a nice professional LinkedIn headshot, with a smile that says “I’d love to speak with you” is the basic goal.  Just make it EASY for someone to want to reach out and connect with you.

2. Put a Description in Your Title.  Rather than just say VP of this and Director of that (which says nothing about what you actually do), add a sentence that describes why people want to work with you. What is it that you do specifically that the viewer can “quickly comprehend” and frame an opinion? Or better yet, maybe describe how you are different than others, or your competitors.

3. Tell Your STORY in the “About Section.”  I already have a good feeling about you (from that great headshot photo), and now I know specifically what you do and why people want to know you (from your title description).  Now, as the last step, you need to let me know why I need to know you! And this is where your story comes in to play. Your story is not all of the skills that you have as a CFO or Sales VP.  The reality is that everyone doing a similar job over a long period of time probably has most of those same attributes to varying degrees. Your story is not the nuts and bolts of what your company does or what your daily job function is.  Nor is it a list of all of the verticals and industries you have worked in or all of your certificates, programming languages, and knowledge of operational tools. Your story is about your achievements – the WHAT you have accomplished that is truly meaningful, and whether I – the reader/recruiter/or future hiring manager – should even care.  Your story is also about the WHY – why you do this work, why you chose this profession, why you get up excited each morning to make a dent in the universe.  This is your opportunity to fish for connections that share similar values, appreciate similar cultural environments, and are in alignment around leadership characteristics and traits.

As noted earlier, there are all sorts of other important strategies and tactics when creating a LinkedIn profile to achieve your objectives.  But if you can create an emotional impact with these basic three (which will be power viewed in literally 20-30 seconds), then a swipe right and deeper dive into your qualifications becomes a much more likely scenario.