The 5 most common LinkedIn mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Recruiters spend a LOT of time on LinkedIn. It comes with the territory. But for many professionals, it simply isn’t a priority. This is especially true if you’re not actively looking for new job opportunities. Building strong LinkedIn habits, though, can help you tremendously when the time is right (or, even when you’re not expecting it).

Here’s the thing about LinkedIn, though — it has quickly emerged as a powerful career tool. Far more than an “online resume,” this platform is providing professionals with amazing opportunities. And with more than 660 million users, the chances are pretty good you can connect with the right people.

Are you making these LinkedIn mistakes?

The opportunities available on LinkedIn are pretty robust, but you’ll need to build the right habits — and avoid these common LinkedIn mistakes:

1. Treating your profile like a resume.

When LinkedIn first launched, well over a decade ago, most people considered it an “online resume” — a way to showcase your skills and help recruiters find you online. That’s still sort of true. Yes, it’s an excellent way for people to find you and learn about your background.

But it’s also so much more.

Instead of viewing LinkedIn as your resume, view it as an online networking event. You know, when you meet someone new, you give a little introduction? That often includes your job, maybe even your biggest goal or dream. And it often includes insights into your family, hobbies and other elements that make you distinctly you

Your LinkedIn profile should do the same. 

In your “About” section (formally labeled “summary”), don’t just paste your company’s boilerplate description. Tell us who you are, why you’re unique and what you love about your job. For your experience, go into detail on your current role and highlight accomplishments, but for your past positions, tell a little story about how that job prepared you for what you’re doing (or want to do) right now. 

Think of your profile as an opportunity to tell your story, not just list off a bunch of bullet points!

2. Writing in the third person.

To go a bit deeper on the previous point, avoid writing your LinkedIn profile in the third person. Let’s say, for example, your name is Bob. Here’s what NOT to do:

Bob has worked for XX company for 10 years. He has served as the lead developer for XX iOS and Android applications. 

This approach comes off as cold and distant — the exact opposite of “social” networking! 

Always use first person across your profile. Here’s an alternative to the previous statement:

I have spent the last 10 years with XX company, expanding my skill set while serving as lead developer for XX iOS and Android applications. 

See the difference? 

3. Setting it and forgetting it. 

Once you’ve crafted a profile that effectively tells your story, you may be tempted to forget about your profile until you have new experience or skills to add. 

This is a huge mistake. 

To build your personal brand and potentially open the door to career opportunities down the road, LinkedIn should ideally be a daily (well, week day) habit. We are all spending plenty of time on Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok and other social platforms. Carving out 10 minutes a day to spend on LinkedIn is extremely doable!

Of course, you should be adding any new experience (professional or volunteer), skills, certifications and other professional details as soon as you can. 

But you should also be posting whenever possible. Things like relevant articles for your industry. Blog posts you may have written. Ask questions. Or share insights into something that demonstrates your expertise. 

At a minimum, scroll through your feed and add thoughtful comments to other people’s content. Adding reactions is good, but comments and conversation can help you demonstrate your expertise and build your brand. 

And if you haven’t already, be sure to add a nice, cropped picture (it doesn’t have to be a professional headshot; just a clean, cropped headshot without other people in it will work). A background photo (or header) also adds a professional touch. Your company may have a standard one it offers employees. Or you can find a royalty-free image that aligns with your profession or goals and use that — just avoid the standard blue box that LinkedIn includes. Use that space to help tell your story. You can update as often as you’d like to keep things fresh. 

4. Not expanding your network.

The purpose of LinkedIn is to network, right? Yet, many people do not actively expand their network. Some have the antiquated notion in mind that you should know everyone in your network personally. It’s very hard to expand your network if you only include people you already know!

Consider accepting requests to connect, especially if they have a personal note with them. In many cases, the only requests you should be sure to avoid are those from profiles that are obviously spammers (their profile pictures look like stock photos, and their profiles are often incomplete or have obviously false information). LinkedIn does a pretty good job of weeding out the fake profiles, though, so that issue is becoming less and less common. 

In addition to accepting connection requests; however, you should also actively send them yourself. If someone adds a thoughtful comment to one of your posts, or you engage in a comment discussion on someone else’s post, send that person (or people) a request to connect! You’ve already found common ground and have provided value, why not add that person to your network? You never know what opportunities may come from that connection.

If you are at professional events (networking, company-sponsored, or otherwise), try to add people you meet within one business day. Send a personal note (always) and suggest you connect online as well. This can help you stay top of mind with that person and further make a positive impression. 

5. Not asking for recommendations.

When you make a purchase (large or small), you probably search online for reviews first, right? Potential employers are doing the same thing! Yet, many people neglect the “recommendations” section of their profiles. This is one of the most common, and critical, LinkedIn mistakes.

In all likelihood, asking for a recommendation on LinkedIn will result in a “yes.” You simply have to ask. I know it’s a little awkward, but once you start doing it regularly, it really won’t feel like such a big deal anymore. 

You can ask for them throughout the year, or — this makes it especially easy — you can set a reminder in your calendar once or twice a year. Then, you can ask colleagues, bosses or clients on those days. Here are a few tips:

  • Send requests via email so they’re not as easy to forget — everyone is busy, and these requests can fall by the wayside.
  • Be specific in what you hope people will include in your recommendations. Something like, “Hey Stacey, I really enjoyed working on the XX project with you. I would greatly appreciate if you would consider writing me a LinkedIn recommendation based on our experience working together. Specifically, it would be great if you could mention my attention to detail and ability to stay on deadline and under budget.” 
  • Always be sure to say thank you, and mention that you know recipients are busy — politeness goes a long way. 
  • Assure the individual that you completely understand if they would rather not write a review, but that you appreciate it if they do! 
  • Consider sending a link with instructions on how to write a LinkedIn recommendation, since many people are unfamiliar with how and where to submit them. 

Once you’ve sent the request, chances are that all of the recipients will be happy to write a recommendation. But remember, people are busy. You may want to send one follow up if you haven’t heard back (I’d wait around 2 or 3 days). If you still haven’t heard back, or someone who promised to write one hasn’t gotten around to it yet, try not to bombard that person with messages. Instead, you may want to casually mention it again if you are on the phone or in a meeting. Otherwise, you may want to ask again in the future.  

Strong LinkedIn habits can advance your career.

Avoiding these LinkedIn mistakes and focusing on the right habits can help you get tremendous value from this powerful social platform. And if you’re looking for a new job right now, we are here to help! Take a look at our current job openings or contact us to talk about your career goals.

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