How to Draft The Perfect LinkedIn Profile Summary

With 93% of recruiters using LinkedIn to discover new talent and 89% saying they have hired an applicant through LinkedIn, you cannot afford having a profile that does not deliver results. A few changes can mean the difference between being “in the stack” of profiles searched and at the “top of the pile.” Your LinkedIn profile Summary is just the place to start.

Human Psychology Demands a Digestible Summary: What Do You Do?

The first thing most people ask you at a party is “what do you do?”

They are not looking for your elevator pitch, executive summary and certainly not your life story. Rather they are submitting to a basic psychological need to process and understand information as a whole before delving into it’s detailed parts

How to Draft The Perfect LinkedIn Profile Summary image 300px Gestalt similarityThe Geschtalt school of psychology, developed in Germany in the early 20th Century, says that “the brain is holistic, parallel, and analog, with self-organizing tendencies,” and that “the human eye sees objects in their entirety before perceiving their individual parts.”

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This means that people need to quickly categorize you. By understanding quickly “what you do” people then remember you as Mike the lawyer/blogger, rather than trying to hang onto all the other details you gave them.

You need to do this and more on LinkedIn.

You’ve heard the expression, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”? Well, you LinkedIn profile Summary is your chance to make a first impression to anyone viewing your profile.

You don’t just want them to “get” what you do. You want to make a connection and get the lead to a new opportunity.

Think Simple: A 3-Step Approach to Get Results From Your LinkedIn Profile Summary

You get 200 to 300 words to make a recruiter on LinkedIn put you to the top of the stack.

A simple list of your qualifications, positions held or accomplishments are not what makes a summary effective. Rather you need to make an impact on the person viewing your profile, something that makes them to want to learn more.

How to Draft The Perfect LinkedIn Profile Summary image linkedinsuperman 300x225Until very recently, many people picked careers based on circumstance. They worked in a job for a number of years, climbed the attainable rungs on the ladder and retired with a comfortable pension and savings to live out their “Golden Years” with grace.

All that has changed.

There are two reasons people are no longer trudging such a traditional trajectory: (1) the economy and (2) the Internet. The economy has swallowed up savings, extended working life well past 65 and forced many to reconsider their career choices. The Internet has opened up vast amounts of knowledge and opportunity, obliterating many of the traditional gate keepers in both information and commerce, giving many people a flexible option to get creative.

Whether you are a digital pioneer, lifelong corporate man or something entirely different, taking the time to inventory your marketable experience, map out the paths in front of you, and clearly articulate what you want out of your career is well worth the investment. This is life changing stuff so we’ll go slow, okay.

Step 1 : Inventory Your Marketable Experience

The first step to writing a great summary and feeling good about it is to take an honest look at where you have been and why that matters.

Answer the following questions to highlight the best points from your work experience (I’ll do it with you after each bolded question):

  • Forget about the money – what was the best job you ever had and what skills and key lessons did you take away from it? I loved working as a waiter at Mexicali Rose in college. Sure, the freedom of youth and the job being one big party gives it a warm place in my heart, but I developed important skills serving others: creating a culture of raving customers, how to improvise and make things work while keeping people happy, and how to sell. I took away a couple of key lessons: (a) a customers’ experience is worth more than any item on your menu, (b) the customer is not always right, but you should care about their satisfaction anyway (this creates loyalty) and (c) customers never have the right to abuse your staff – if they do you reserve the right to kick that customer to the curb.
  • Forget about impressing people – what is one professional accomplishment that are proud of and how did you make it happen? When I worked as the Community Manager for Martindale.com Connected we started producing a monthly theme for the community. By working directly with members, we would develop subject matter content on the topic of the month, producing guest blog posts, webinar, podcasts, videos and even eBooks. It took a lot of coordination between marketing, the social media team and featured members to make it happen, but we produced over 20 of these events attracting thousands of views per month and providing some really unique content to our customers.
  • It’s your 100th birthday – you made it (mazel tov). The guests are asking you to tell an inspiring story from your former career – what do you say? Nothing will open doors like helping others with no expectation of getting something in return. When I was planning to move from the US to Israel, I contacted someone at an organization that helps new immigrants make the move by arranging a flight, paperwork and job opportunities. At the time, the online professional network LinkedIn was starting to catch on, but the organisation had no LinkedIn presence. I offered to help her take this innovative step forward and start the group for her and discuss ideas of how to use it with her team. Within a few years, the group grew to thousands of members with hundreds of posts daily. That woman I helped became one of my strongest advocates in Israel, helping me land many opportunities.

These questions are designed to make you think of specific instances where your unique talents came out to play. Rather than asking you to focus on the “greatest thing you ever did” or “what you love to do most” these questions seek to bring out some of your best qualities that you can then highlight in your summary.

For example, if you go back to my answers above, you will notice I have italicised certain words and phrases. These key things about me can be translated into my “marketable qualities” by making them active (add a verb) and present tense:

  • Builds fun customer cultures
  • Solves problems with creative solutions and improvisation
  • Converts customer satisfaction into new sales
  • Creates unique, original content that attracts customer attention
  • Helps organisations take innovative steps forward

These words and phrases best describe some of my strengths that I will want to highlight later in my Summary (you should do the same to your answers).

Step 2: Choose Your Path (Future Opportunities)

At this point you have a good idea about where you have been and how that can be communicated to a prospective employer or customer. Now it’s time to think about where you would like all this to end up.

Whether you are currently on a career path you love or hate, these considerations should help you make the right adjustments to get you where you want to go quicker:

  • If you didn’t need a degree or prior experience, what job would you like to land right now? Often we defeat ourselves in making a career move because we think we are unqualified. You should discover some qualities above that can be applied to a range of jobs, and here is where you can identify what else is needed. You may be surprised that it wouldn’t take much for you to make a move now that puts you in the position you want a year from now. In my own experience, I didn’t know marketing and social media until I started blogging back in 2005. Then I landed a job in 2009 primarily doing social media – now I teach it at the college level. I majored in theater in college, not business or marketing, but found my way to this path by just doing relevant activities that would teach me as I did them. Sometimes just jumping right in and doing what you can at the moment sets you up for bigger things later.
  • How are you going to carve out extra time to try on your new career hat and experiment while making this transition? I get a lot of students that tell me they hate what they are doing, want to quit and just develop their online business now. I tell them to slow down. It’s hard to pay the bills with passion. Unless you are in a situation where you work 18-hours per day, six days per week, you can find time to make the dream happen. Most people get home at 7pm and turn on their relevant distraction (TV, video game, iPad, etc.) by 8:30pm. Chances are you can carve out a significant and consistent schedule from 9pm to 12pm to make your new career take shape. Do you need to network, learn or do more? What things will get you to the next level? Create a schedule with milestones for yourself and stick to it.
  • What does success look like for you (tell me about your “Quest”)? This is a tough one, I admit. The amazing thing is that most people do not know what this is! They are just working because that’s what people do. Not to worry: I also find myself here from time to time, because in my opinion our picture of success changes as we go along. Not all of us are as lucky as Gary Vaynerchuk who is driven by his quest to buy the New York Jets (it fuels all of his other activities). At the heart of it, this question really asks you to consider what you want out of all of this. List the achievements, (professional, personal, material, spiritual, etc.) that would mean the most to you to reach as a result of your potential path.

Once you have these three considerations written out you will know the direction you want to move in. This can be gold in the LinkedIn profile Summary because it will show drive, direction and clarity. You likely will not include any of the text from these points, but the personality of what you are aiming for will come through.

Now that we’ve done a bunch of deep exploration, looking at all the individual trees in the forrest of you (man that sounds granola!), let’s take a look at how you can package this.

Step 3: Pick a LinkedIn Profile Summary Template

There are countless forms that can work for a LinkedIn profile Summary, but we are going to hone in on five potential templates to help you write yours.

LinkedIn Profile Summary Template: The Executive Summary

Entrepreneurs pitching an investor are quite familiar with the Executive Summary. Traditionally this is a short document entrepreneurs use to get investors interested in their product. It can be done in various ways, but rarely exceeds two pages. The key feature of an executive summary style template is the focus on problem/solution.

  • Problem – what key problem do you solve with your talents?
  • Solution – how do you solve the problem?
  • Performance History – what highlights from your career prove that?
  • Super Power – what makes you special and magical?
  • Trajectory – where are you going to be in 12 months?

The summary should be preceded by a compelling subject line (not something cheesy) that both explains about you while fascinating the reader.

LinkedIn Profile Summary Template: The Elevator Pitch

Here is a perfect description of the Elevator Pitch from the Harvard Business Review Elevator Pitch Builder:

You have one minute to explain yourself, your business, your goals, and your passions. Your audience knows none of these. Are you prepared? Can you present your vision smoothly, enticing them to want to know more?

There are four considerations that HBR offers for building the perfect elevator pitch:

  1. Describe who you are. ”What would you want the listener to most remember about you?” Take the list you generated in Step 1, whittle it down to the most intriguing and accurate points, and create a sentence or two communicating that information.
  2. What do you do? ”Here is where you state your value,” what you can offer to prospective employers or customers, “phrased as key results or impact.” HBR suggests you think of this as your tag line. Here the reader wants to know “what’s in it for me if I hire you?” Articulate the benefits they will get by working with you.
  3. Why are you unique? “Show what you do that is different or better than others.” This calls for the same techniques you would use in marketing to craft a unique sales proposition (USP): (a) list benefits, (b) list differentiators, (c) list pain points and performance gaps, (d) narrow down and develop unique qualities, and (e) seek feedback from employers or customers. Once you have all this information try to get it down to a sentence or two focusing on the most compelling points.
  4. Describe your goal. What are your immediate goals? They should be “concrete, defined, and realistic. Include a timeframe.” The reader should know exactly what you want from them. Refer to the “Future Opportunities” section of Step 1 and this post about how to define goals to guide you in describing your goals.

By using this approach you can craft an elevator pitch style summary that gets your point across fast.

Bonus Tip: imagine someone approaches you on a secluded street, puts a gun to your head, and orders you to tell them what you do in 60-seconds or they will blow your brains out. What do you say?

LinkedIn Profile Summary Template: The Infomercial

Infomercials are those late night TV ads that can run for over 1-hour for some products. They are peppered with unforgettable spokesmen and promises of “but wait! There’s more …”

While you may not think an infomercial is the right template for a LinkedIn profile Summary, think again. Infomercials sell over $4-billion in products every year. They achieve this by grabbing the audiences’ attention and then winning them over with key marketing techniques.

  1. Questions, Suggestion, Reveal the Solution - often infomercials start with a question like “don’t you hate it when you cut your pets nails too close and they bleed on the carpet?” These questions are designed to set the stage for the suggested solution. It usually goes something like, “wouldn’t it be great if you never cut their nails too close again?” This gets the audience thinking “yes – that would be great.” Then the announcer reveals the solution: “Introducing the Pet Trimmer – an electronic nail file that will never cut to close!” The audience now wants more information and is ready to receive it. While you don’t have to be as bombastic as an infomercial, the idea about setting up your solution should be implemented in your summary.
  2. Backstory – whether it’s the story about Amish craftsmanship or how the Shamwow was engineered in Germany, backstories sell products. They also help get you hired. That’s why we looked at your past above. You want to have a good backstory so that your reader can emotionally connect and feel invested in you.
  3. Product in Action – whether it’s cutting through coke cans with a knife, blending an iPad (will it blend?) or mopping up two liters of coke with a single rag, the demonstration of the products powers in an infomercial is key. With a LinkedIn profile Summery you can demonstrate your product by discussing the most exciting and relevant things you are doing now to excel in the area you want to land a job in. In drafting this you may realize that you need to take some new action to qualify for potential opportunities. For example, I am a gamer and have developed numerous gamification elements in my community management work. One of my current projects involves a deeper dive into gamification. In order to better prepare for my upcoming duties I have enrolled in an online gamification course at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. If I were looking for a new role in this area I would highlight my current educational persuits and past experience together.
  4. Testimonials - infomercials build consumer trust by showing “real testimonials” from “real people.” On LinkedIn your Recommendation section is the place to gather these testimonials, but you may want to highlight any stellar feedback in your summary. You can say something like, “Publishing industry leaders like LexisNexis and Hachette Filipacchi Media have benefitted from working with me to develop their social media strategies.” Your recommendations section should then have something echoing those sentiments.
  5. Act Now – infomercials always give customers a reason to buy the product right now. Sometimes they offer 2 for the price of 1 for a “limited time” or some other incentive with an expiration date. The key take away for you is to leave a sense of urgency in your reader. Give them a reason to call you now rather than later.

Now Write Your LinkedIn Profile Summary

At this point you have plenty of information to work with. Pick a template and start plugging things in.

Here are few tips to aid your writing process:

  • Ezra Pound once said “fundamental accuracy of statement is the one true morality of writing.” This means that choosing the perfect way to say something is as important as what you say. Find the right words using a Thesaurus or an iPad app like WordFlex. Steven King and I are both fans of Strunk and White’s Rule 17: Omit Needless Words. ‘Nuff said.
  • Think in terms of keywords that employers or customers will search on LinkedIn. Where appropriate weave these into your summary.
  • Tell a compelling story that will influence the reader to take an action. The devil is in the details, so even though you are doing a summary, find the one or two carefully crafted points that will help them decide to hire you.

What is your experience in writing a LinkedIn Summary?

Check out this workshop on How to Generate Leads and Job Offers With Your LinkedIn Profile if you want more.

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