It might be tempting to believe that the best practices being touted by LinkedIn and LinkedIn experts don’t apply to the C-suite if you look at many C-suite profiles.
It might appear as though the standard bio goes where the summary is, and that 3rd person is the best point-of-view.
It might seem as though it’s not advisable to alter the headline from the default “Position at Company” format to utilize the 120 characters and say more.
You might infer that it’s excessive to write summaries for each past position, or at least the more recent ones.
It might seem scary to divert from what seems to be the norm.
I really had a hard time finding a CEO profile that abided by all of the current LinkedIn profile optimization best practices, so I can understand how my clients flinch a bit when they see their profiles in all their branded glory. Do they dare to shine too brightly? To be so bold?
I work with them to meet them in the middle. They are the ones who have to speak to their content, though at the same time I coach them to expand their comfort zone and adopt more current practices. Best practices are based on what is being learned about how humans make decisions. It is based on eye tests, split tests, neuroscience, and crowd-sourcing.
I’ve been considered a LinkedIn expert as long as there have been LinkedIn experts, but my niche is hiring and careering using free features (not that I haven’t also used premium services). Personal, executive, and employment branding are my specialties.
Much like in 2003 when I had to do a fair amount of educating recruiters and human resources professionals on the merits of using LinkedIn, I now have to make sure that I explain to my clients that what I produce may not resemble the majority of what they see, because most profiles on the platform are still not optimized according to the best practices of LinkedIn experts and LinkedIn itself.
There are some “best practices” that are solely subjective, like whether or not to use the first person. It’s a bit jarring for my clients to see content written by me in their voice. In most cases, it will sound a lot more boastful than they are used to speaking. I always err on the bold side, and then work with them to get it to a level they feel confident backing up, while at the same time expanding their comfort zone so that they can convert profile visitors into connections who have a sense of urgency to get acquainted.
Since it’s become a job seeker’s market, and following corporate headlines of executive leaders who went down in flames for feeling as though they were “above the law” or “untouchable,” job seekers demand to know who their leaders are – authentically. And, justifiably. When most professionals you speak to have been laid off at some point or another, and that is usually traceable back to executive decisions and strategy, or lack thereof, it makes a lot of sense to hedge your bets and make sure that the company you devote your talents and time to will be around, able to employ you, and able to provide benefits and salary increases for years to come.
The market is back-lashing against “ivory tower” leaders. Stats around CEO to front-line employee salary disparities are being fed to conscious capitalists who want to see the money they spend go more to the people struggling to make ends meet, in spite of working hard, and less to executives with large estates, bonuses, and retirement funds. Modern-day employment branding is aimed to make executives appear and be more accessible to talent. An optimized profile written in the first person along with regular, personalized status updates demonstrates a willingness to be vulnerable, approachable, and relatable, depending on what you are sharing. Of course, if what you share reveals biases, greed, ego and a superiority complex, it can also have the opposite effect. You will be challenged allowing any shred of personality to come through if you write in the 3rd person.
Many profiles switch from 1st or 3rd person, using pronouns, to “résumé speak,” in which pronouns are removed. There is no clear benefit to doing this. It is a missed opportunity to tell stories in your own voice about the past experiences that have shaped who you are as a professional, how you do things, and how this enables you to do things better and differently than other professionals who may also be seeking out the kind of support you or your company provides. It’s a missed opportunity to let your passion come through and show how much you have learned, grown and developed. It may make you seem less relatable.
Whatever point-of-view you choose to write your profile in, just make sure you use a consistent voice in your summary and your experience details. It helps keep the focus on the content and your value and experience.
As for using your bio as your summary, most biographies are written to chronicle your previous education, companies, roles, volunteer experience, publications, etc. This would be redundant to the information that is already in your profile, assuming you have entered your work history, education, honors, and volunteer experience. Redundancy is great for keywords, and it will help you rise up to the top of search results, though repeating keywords without context around them is not an effective way to compel your audience to take the next step.
Speaking of showing up in search results, if you are the CEO of a prestigious company, people may be compelled to click on your profile for that reason alone. But to presume that because you are a CEO at a company people will feel compelled to click on your name and check out your profile is a bit presumptuous. Remember, there are more jobs available than there are candidates. Even if you do little hiring in your role as CEO, you are a primary employment brand representative. Give people a little more. Identify a primary value or outcome you and your company produce. What is your mission? What drives you? Who do you love to help?
You don’t have to share anything too personal to be interesting.
The basis for how I have evolved my branding and profile-writing process has solely to do with cause and effect. Will your profile content have the same effect on each person visiting your profile? No. We aren’t looking for 100% conversion here. It doesn’t exist.
Even when the audience is a company, there is still a human decision maker at the other end of the screen. What is the benefit of having a profile that is just like everyone else’s? Effective marketing requires interrupting people’s attention, and then once you have it, saying something that resonates on an emotional, visceral level, and then backing that up with data, aka measurable outcomes. You can be both credible and likable.
I literally searched LinkedIn for 3 hours looking for a good C-level profile that leveraged all of the above best practices, and this is not by any means an exhaustive list. I did find a few profiles that had bits and pieces. If you believe you’ve hit all the marks with your LinkedIn profile, comment below so we can check you out.
The following CEO profiles have strong summaries, but lack previous experience details that tell us a story about how and why they got to where they are now:
Melinda Gates is breaking down barriers in her summary, too, by presenting herself as a human being. She also has the kind of activity and experience details that humanize her – one of the wealthiest women on the planet.
Leave it to a CEO who is also a marketing expert to complete and optimize their LinkedIn profile using best practices:
Don’t follow the herd of executives under-leveraging LinkedIn and failing to complete and/or optimize their profiles according to current best practices. Lead the rest to the promise land, where people get back to inspiring each other to collaborate, engage, partner and innovate.
I’m also welcoming to other opinions on best practices, as long as the debate remains respectful and civil. Make your case.
Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a 13-year-old leadership and career development firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play.
While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales.
Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot.
She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where some of her students won the 2018 national competition, were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, and won the 2019 People’s Choice Award.