What headhunters look for in your LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn Headhunting
Get yourself a great profile


LinkedIn is the most dominant networking tool for professionals, offering a range of useful resources, including courses, networking opportunities, and helpful content from other professionals.

We tend to use it as a secondary resource, to confirm what we have already found from the market. But it won’t be a surprise to know that it is a primary tool for some recruiters. Many use it as their first port of call to identify potential candidates, and match them against the role they are working on.

Given the challenging market conditions at the moment, we thought it might be useful to lay out what recruiters find useful – in other words, the best way of getting your profile noticed.

Generally speaking, the strongest presences on LinkedIn are often marketing professionals. The skills needed to create a strong LinkedIn profile are the same needed in a digital marketing career. It can feel uncomfortable to ‘market’ oneself, but there are ways to do so without sacrificing personality or professionalism. In many ways, it’s just about knowing what to prioritise on your profile.

Job title and industry front and centre in your headline
Like any headline, this needs to draw your audience in. Your headline needs to communicate your skillset and experience clearly from a list of potentially hundreds of LinkedIn search results.

A really common trend is to replace your headline with ‘Looking for work,’ however, this may work against you depending on how a headhunter has found your profile. If your profile and headline have come up in a specific and refined Boolean search, ‘Looking for work’ can be compelling. However, in wider searches, or if your profile is suggested organically through any of LinkedIn’s algorithms, there is much less chance of clicking on to your profile.

My compromise suggestion is to keep your most recent title and company or industry, plus ‘looking for work’. The most important takeaway here is that the headline simply needs to be enough to get someone to click through to your profile.

Business-like photo
Although there are ways to show off personality on your profile, your photo should really reflect you in a professional capacity. Keep your informal pictures for other social media.

Recent updates
A clear indication on your LinkedIn profile of your most recent role and skills is key in understanding your profile, but also in determining how you can be contacted. If it look like you don’t update your profile regularly, people may assume that you won’t receive messages that are sent to you there either.

Summaries and keywords for previous positions
When a recruiter finds your page, the next step is to determine if you’re the right fit. When your profile lacks explanations about your responsibilities, recruiters have to use much cruder stats, like years of experience or number of roles, to guess at your level of experience. If you clearly lay out – or show off, whichever you like – your skills, especially in combination with years of experience, you can communicate much more about yourself, like your drive, ambition, and success.

Management responsibilities
It is amazing how many people fail to give a sense of their team management responsibilities in their profiles. Headhunters are often briefed to find people with, let’s say, ‘a minimum of five years’ experience running teams of ten people’. “Head of” or even “Director” does not tell the recruiter anything about your team management experience.

On top of being important statistics to know off the top of your head about yourself, it’s really helpful to have them laid out on your page. Of course, ultimately, management skills come down to more than just numbers, but consistent management experience is always a good sign.

Completed skills section
Much of the reason to fill out your profile is that it means you will get fewer calls about roles which are not suited for you at all. The skills section is a really efficient filter to show off skills, qualifications, and courses that deserve especial emphasis. Knowing immediately that a candidate has X programming language or Y project management qualification is a very fast way to determine suitability.

On this section, people tend to go one of two ways: neither entirely neglected, nor over-stuffed skill sections are especially helpful. An ideal skills section will comprise perhaps 10 to 15 core skills that colleagues and managers can vouch for. A balance of hard, technical, usually industry-specific skills and broader soft skills is ideal.

Personal email, or non-work monitored email
This tip circumvents the awkward step of trying to contact you through a work email or switchboard. Being able to immediately contact you with a clear idea of the role and the freedom to speak honestly is a real time saver both for the recruiter and the potential candidate.

This step has some risks, obviously, since anyone will be able to reach you. I would recommend possibly having a dedicated job hunt focused email, ideally as an off-shoot of your main email, so that it’s easy to access, but recruitment messages won’t get lost or clog up your inbox.

Your LinkedIn profile, it must be stressed, is not your CV, and they are not interchangeable. LinkedIn has many more openings to showcase a lot more about yourself. CVs should be tailored to the position being applied for. LinkedIn is the place for the full picture, and a handy tool for documenting your entire timeline, instead of the snippets selected for certain roles. For this reason, it is an incredibly useful resource for recruiters to learn about you and your potential fit to a role. However, should you be asked for a CV, it’s crucial that you then tailor your CV to the position.

Ultimately, LinkedIn won’t make or break any hiring decisions at the crucial final stages, but if you can market yourself well on the platform, you may find many more opportunities coming your way.

Good luck!

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Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work across the media, video games, informationtechnologycommunications and entertainment sectors, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog.