Keeping your LinkedIn profile updated is an essential part of a job search. It’s often the first resource recruiters and hiring managers turn to when they want to learn more about you.
But because they have so many candidates to look through, their attention spans don’t last long. “LinkedIn Data shows you only have five to 10 seconds to impress a potential employer online,” according to a post on LinkedIn’s official blog. As a job seeker, this means that it’s extremely important to make sure you’re not giving your profile visitors any reason to close their tabs and forget about you. Fast Company reached out to two career experts for tips on what you should cut from your LinkedIn profile.
1. OVERUSED BUZZWORDS
Every year, LinkedIn releases a new set of 10 overused “buzzwords.” This year, the following keywords made the list: specialized, leadership, passionate, strategic, experienced, focused, expert, certified, creative, and excellent.
LinkedIn consulted best-selling biographer Christopher Sanford to understand people’s rationale for using these words. Sanford listed ease of use–meaning it takes minimal effort to fill their profile with these words rather than coming up with a creative sentence–and the widely held assumption that because everyone else is doing it, “it must be the professional thing to do.”
Of course, it might be impossible to avoid banishing these keywords altogether from your profile, as resume writer Brenda Bernstein points out. So if you are going to use one of these words, make sure that you’ve got some experience to back them up. Lisa Rangel, an executive resume writer, tells Fast Company that if you’re going to tout yourself as a “thought leader,” “I better see that blog published. Maybe even speaking engagement[s].”
Rangel went on to say, “It doesn’t have to be in front of 10, 000 people,” but there has to be some hard evidence to back up your claim.
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What Skill Sets do You have to be ‘Sharpened’ ?
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Rangel also cautions LinkedIn users from including too many superlatives, words that people interpret subjectively and see differently. “The one that makes me cringe the most is ‘people person’,” she says. Instead, she suggests that candidates describe how they mentored their staff, and how many people advanced at their company. Instead of typing “innovative” in a summary profile, Rangel suggests they give an example of something they’ve created from scratch–including improving a particular process.
3. AMBIGUOUS AND VAGUE INFORMATION
For Michael Steinitz, executive director of accounting staffing agency Accountemps, one of the most common mistakes he sees on LinkedIn profiles is the use of vague and clichéd words. Examples of this, Steinitz tells Fast Company, include “experienced with, proficient with”–phrases that don’t “really speak to the level of knowledge you already have.” Steinitz also points out that sometimes, using phrases like that might give someone a reason to think that it’s a “filler” when they see your profile.
So how do you communicate that you’re a PowerPoint whiz? “Rather than saying ‘familiar with Microsoft Office,’ (highlight that you use) PowerPoint during quarterly meetings. Something that speaks to how you use it,” he says. It’s easier for recruiters to picture and understand how you’ve mastered a particular skill if they know how you apply it in your day-to-day work.
4. EXTREMELY BASIC SKILLS
Speaking of PowerPoint, you should probably leave basic skills out of your resume unless your competence is above and beyond what’s normally expected of a normal professional. “I would stay away from ‘boy scout’ or ‘girl scout’ traits. You don’t need to put that you have used Microsoft Word, you don’t need to put that you’re timely or punctual or responsible,” Rangel tells Fast Company. After all, it’s unlikely that recruiters or hiring managers will be searching for those–and they won’t be that impressed that you know how to file your emails in Outlook.
5. ANYTHING NOT RELATED TO YOUR JOB
Like Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat, LinkedIn is a social network. In the climate that we live in, it can be tempting to post stuff that’s not entirely related to our job or professional lives.
But both Rangel and Steinitz agree that it’s best practice to stay away from posting non-work-related things on LinkedIn. This includes personal comments, replies to comments, or even reposting articles, blog posts, or videos that have nothing to do with your career or your industry.
Rangel acknowledges that in certain industries, being controversial can be a good thing (for example, advertising). But she urges those who choose to go down his path to be selective and smart about it. “Don’t be controversial just for the sake of being controversial,” she urges. Think long and hard about how it relates to your industry, and avoid attacking anyone personally, regardless of your personal disagreement level. “Not that you need to be a positive ray of sunshine every day, [but] people gravitate toward positivity,” says Rangel.
Steinitz urged LinkedIn users to remember that while it’s a “social network, it is a business social network.” So that video that’s just perfect for your Instagram story? It might not be so great for LinkedIn.