It's tough to reduce your skills, ambitions, and experiences into a few words in any context — and LinkedIn headlines are no exception. So it's no wonder that most users lean on the platform's default option of their current job title. But a well-crafted LinkedIn headline can help you stand out from a "sea of same" and grab prospects' and recruiters' attention.
Here, we'll review what makes an exceptional LinkedIn headline, go over how to change yours, see some particularly solid examples, and get some more insight into LinkedIn keywords.
What is a headline on LinkedIn?
A LinkedIn headline is the section at the top of a LinkedIn user's profile where they describe what they do in 120 characters or less. This brief description appears next to the user's name in search results. It should entice readers to click the profile to learn more about the user's experience and background.
If you think about it, your headline is:
The first line LinkedIn users see on your profile
An opportunity to show the world what you’re capable of and what you do
Someone’s first impression of you as they scroll through LinkedIn
Letting LinkedIn choose your headline for you is a mistake. With a customized headline, you'll instantly distinguish yourself, give prospects and recruiters a reason to view your profile, and start building the case for your product.
Coming up with an effective LinkedIn headline isn't always straightforward, Here are some tips to consider when it comes to your headline:
Show your value proposition. What are you known for or good at?
Set yourself apart from other users in the same profession. What makes you better than your peers?
Make sure your headline is accompanied by (andI cannot stress this enough) a well-lit and quality profile picture. Your LinkedIn is a digital first impression, so make sure you look legit.
What should my LinkedIn headline say?
Now that you know what a LinkedIn headline is and why a custom one is the best choice, it's time to put pen to paper. On one hand, you want to get to the meat of what you do — your headline can't be too vague or fluffy.
At the same time, you need your headline to be compelling enough to attract prospects. If yours is too dry or uninteresting, you might not command enough attention.
To make writing your headline easier, here's a simple formula:
In this formula, X represents your ideal prospect, and Y will be their ideal outcome or state of mind after using the services you're selling. Simple, right?
On its most fundamental level, a LinkedIn headline is about drawing in the right audience and showing them that you can deliver the specific, ideal outcomes they're looking for. This model can help you frame that kind of promise.
But how do you come up with the right wording for each of these elements? Read our four tips for writing the perfect headline.
How to Write a LinkedIn Headline
Tailor it to your audience. Include your value proposition. Use your prospect's language. Avoid hyperbole.
1. Tailor it to your audience.
SDR, BDR, account representative, client advisor — if you work in sales, you're probably familiar with these titles. Your prospects, on the other hand, typically have no idea that these are all code for "sales professional."
When you're prospecting on LinkedIn, using a job title that throws prospects off the sales scent is confusing at best. At worst? It'll make your prospects trust you less. After all, if you look like a sales rep, talk like a sales rep, and act like a sales rep, why are you going by "account growth manager?”
There's an easy fix — use a title your prospects will recognize. Those kinds of terms could include:
As a bonus, including "sales" in your LinkedIn headline will also make it easier for prospects to find you. People researching your product are more likely to click on your profile if they can tell you're a salesperson — rather than a random employee.
The same goes for recruiters — if they're looking for a rep in a specific industry or vertical, using the most common version of your title lets them easily track you down.
2. Include your value proposition.
Of course, simply calling yourself a salesperson would be pretty boring — plus, it doesn't communicate the value you add. Use the next part of your LinkedIn headline to describe how you improve your customers' lives.
For instance, say you sell a mobile IT solution that enables IT professionals to manage their infrastructure on the go. Your headline could be:
"Sales Representative: Helping IT professionals provide support anytime, anywhere."
Or maybe you sell automated expense tracking software. In that case, you might go with:
"Sales Director: Saving companies time and money with automated expense reports."
Not sure how to describe your value? You can usually adapt it from your company's value proposition. Alternatively, try browsing through your company's customer testimonials for inspiration.
3. Use your prospect's language.
When you're creating your headline, watch out for company, industry, or role-specific jargon your prospects won't know. It doesn't matter how compelling your description is if potential customers don't understand half the words.
To give you an idea, while researching this piece I found a rep with the headline: "Our ground-breaking PaaS integrates and abstracts underlying Hadoop technologies."
I asked a potential buyer if he had any idea what this meant, and he said no. But when I rewrote it in simpler terms — "Our software helps developers easily and quickly manage their big data apps" — he immediately said, "Oh yeah, sounds like something our team could use."
As you can see, there's a huge advantage to skipping the jargon. But thanks to the curse of knowledge, it's not always easy for you (an expert in your product or service) to gauge if buyers (often beginners) will understand the terminology in your headline.
If you're unsure, reread the first few emails from previous customers to see how they described their challenges and needs. Any words, phrases, or situations that show up, again and again, are fair game for your headline (not to mention the rest of your LinkedIn profile).
4. Avoid hyperbole.
Don't brag. There's nothing more off-putting (or less believable) than someone who publicly compliments themselves. For that reason, you'll want to strike these adjectives (and others like them) from your headline:
Even though these adjectives likely apply to you, they won't make prospects or recruiters more interested in you. On the contrary, you'll seem arrogant.
LinkedIn Headline Keywords
So, if you're supposed to avoid talking yourself up too much in your LinkedIn headline, how are you supposed to convey your qualifications and expertise?
Well, you can start by projecting how you help your prospects and customers. Words like "transforming," "helping," or "guiding" sound both impressive and actionable.
Another way to show off your skills is to include customer success stories in your summary and prior experience. Lines like "Helped an online bicycle retailer increase sales by 30%" or "On average, clients reduced support tickets by half" stand on their own without any commentary — and are far more impressive as a result.
Stay somewhat grounded, and "show don't tell" if you can. You want to give recruiters and prospects a quick picture of what you do that makes them want to scroll further down your profile.
How to Change Your LinkedIn Headline
Updating your LinkedIn headline is incredibly simple. To better show how it’s done, I’ll update my own.
1. Navigate to your profile.
If you’re new to LinkedIn, your personal profile is a blank canvas to be filled with everything that makes you great. Make sure your profile picture, experience, educational background, and skills are filled in before you optimize your headline.
2. Click the edit icon.
At the top of your profile, beneath your banner, you’ll find a grey pencil symbol — the edit icon. Click on it and it’ll open a window titled "Edit intro."
3. Select "Heading" and type in a new headline.
In the "Edit intro" window, after you have your name and pronouns added, you’ll find the "Headline" text box. Here, you’ll type in an attention-grabbing headline that accurately describes your title and goals.
4. Click "Save" and you’re done!
You’ll now be able to refresh your profile and see your new LinkedIn headline. Now when recruiters look at profiles in your industry and occupation, they’ll see a headline that catches their eye immediately.
Before you begin to work on your own headline, take a look at these examples for some extra inspiration.
The word "innovating" really makes this headline pop. That kind of language can pique other users' interest and increase the likelihood that someone will click through your full LinkedIn profile to learn more.
The humor in this headline captures prospects' attention without undermining the user's credibility. The headline still frames this individual as a trustworthy resource while still offering some extra oomph by showing personality.
Why do we like it? It speaks to the user's motivation.
You can get a sense of an individual’s passion and what really drives them to do their work in a headline like this. By giving a quick picture of what the user hopes to achieve through her work, she can establish herself as a dedicated, credible authority in her space.
Why do we like it? It makes effective use of the word "you."
This headline takes the focus off the individual and onto their audience by including the word "you." It's also outcome-oriented (get more clients and free up time) rather than product- or sales-oriented.
Using your headline as a way to convey the goal of your work is brilliant, this one paints a clear picture of that.
LinkedIn Keywords List
Your Specific Title
Now, this point might seem counterintuitive — given how I mentioned how your headline shouldn't be too specific earlier in this post. But just because your headline itself shouldn't be overly technical doesn't mean you shouldn't put your actual title anywhere on your profile.
You need to have your actual position listed somewhere. Recruiters probably aren't going to search for "Dedicated to Help You Get More Clients and Free Up Time With Sales Automation." They're going to search for something like "Account Executive" instead — so make sure you cover the more upfront, practical elements of what you do on your page.
In a similar vein as the previous point, you want to list skills that recruiters and prospects might search for — and that often means getting specific. If you're familiar with a certain software, list it by name on your profile.
The same goes for any methodologies or strategies you're familiar with — along with concrete skills you've developed over the course of your career. If you're job-hunting, look for the keywords that consistently pop up in the preferred qualifications for the positions you're pursuing, and incorporate them into your profile.
Certifications and Designations
This point is mostly relevant for LinkedIn users interested in attracting recruiters. In some industries, recruiters will look for candidates who have received certain certifications or designations.
For instance, if you work in HR and have received your SHRM Certified Professional credentials, you're going to want to list "SHRM-CP" somewhere on your profile — maybe even in your headline.
Recruiters often screen candidates by searching industry-specific certifications and designations. If you have one (or more) to tout, make sure you put it out there — and use the title's formal wording.
Let Your Headline Do the Talking
The upside to crafting a perfect headline? Once you're done, you'll immediately start noticing a difference in the quantity and quality of leads you generate on LinkedIn. Social selling just got easier.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in November 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Aug 16, 2021 5:00:00 PM, updated January 20 2022