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12 LinkedIn Mistakes That Can Cost You the Job

In today’s tech-savvy world, your LinkedIn profile needs to be sharp, crisp, and impressive to both potential employers and colleagues. Avoid the profile pitfalls that could easily sink your job prospects.

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LinkedIn tip: Don’t skip the profile pic

“Your photo is your virtual handshake, so upload a photo that aligns with your role as a professional but also makes you seem approachable,” says Catherine Fisher, a San Francisco-based LinkedIn career expert. “Professionals who include a profile photo receive up to 21 times more profile views.” And remember to keep it professional, Fisher adds. Unless you’re a veterinarian, a photo with your cat is probably not the best choice. Here’s how to take a LinkedIn photo that makes you look as trustworthy as possible.

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LinkedIn tip: Don’t skimp on work history

Your LinkedIn profile will be viewed up to 29 times more often if you list more than one prior position, and visual aids can really help. “Illustrate your unique professional story and achievements by adding visuals like pictures, compelling videos, and innovative presentations to your experience section,” Fisher says. “Show, don’t tell!” Make sure you’re aware of these common LinkedIn scams.

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LinkedIn tip: Don’t hide your skills

When writing about your past jobs, passion projects, volunteer gigs, and schooling, consider every experience in terms of the skills you gained, not just your position title. “Be sure to highlight these skills on your profile,” Fisher says. “Having at least five relevant skills will help people connect you with opportunities.” Obviously you shouldn’t fib about your experiences or schooling—besides that it’s unethical, you could easily get busted or end up in a position that’s not a good match. Check out the invisible job skills you might not realize you have.

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LinkedIn tip: Don’t forget to brand yourself

To land that dream job in today’s world, you’ve got to sell yourself, especially in your digital profile. That means having a customized public profile URL. “When you created your LinkedIn profile, it probably had some ugly combination of letters, numbers, and backslashes that had no value for your personal branding,” says Larry Kim, a business contributor to Inc.com. You don’t still have this, right? If you do, go in right now and update it to reflect your name. “LinkedIn makes it simple to keep your profile consistent with your other social profiles,” Kim adds.

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LinkedIn tip: Don’t neglect keywords in your summary

Adding a summary of 40 words or more makes your LinkedIn profile more likely to turn up in a future employer’s search. “A good tip is to ensure your summary includes keywords and skills featured in desirable job descriptions for your field,” Kim says. Using strong keywords is especially important in the IT world. “Your value increases when you come across as up-to-date with the latest and greatest technologies and methodologies that all of the top organizations are implementing and migrating toward,” adds Amanda Neiser, a Long Island-based recruiter and founder of Plum Placements, Inc. “Just like you might use keywords to find a job, a recruiter does the same to find you.”

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LinkedIn tip: Don’t ignore your profile

“A strong, regularly updated LinkedIn profile can be your ticket to a variety of professional opportunities, from jobs and mentors to new business and volunteering,” Fisher says. “You never know where it will lead.” And if you don’t already have a summary section, add one today to really sell yourself to potential connections. “The summary should expand on what appears in your headline, highlighting your specialties, career experience, noteworthy accolades, and thought leadership,” Kim says. “It doesn’t really matter if its written in first-person or third-person narrative as long as you keep it consistent.” Also, check your grammar. Ask friends, family members, or former co-workers to proofread your writing to catch any careless errors. Make sure you’re not making these common mistakes of first-time job hunters.

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LinkedIn tip: Don’t forget to add location

More than 30 percent of recruiters conduct advanced searches based on location, so the more details you have about where you live, the more likely it is that you’ll be found and connected to your next opportunity. “Also, former colleagues may want to reconnect if they’ve recently relocated or are traveling for work,” Fisher says.

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LinkedIn tip: Don’t post anything political or controversial

This may seem obvious, but Neiser has seen many LinkedIn users take a political position on their page. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I too value the freedom of speech; however, there is a time and place for everything,” she says. “LinkedIn is not the place to voice your political opinions or share personal pictures and/or videos.” It’s also not a dating site, so if you’re looking for love, head to eHarmony or match.com. Avoid these other social media mistakes that could hurt your career.

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LinkedIn tip: Don’t forget where and when you met someone

In the cyber world as in real life, it’s hard to remember names and faces. Once you’ve grown your LinkedIn network, it can be a bit daunting to remember every single person you’ve connected with via the site. Luckily, LinkedIn can help you recall the people in your network. In the Relationship section, in addition to telling you the date when you connected, LinkedIn allows you to write notes about your contact, including how you met, or to set reminders to “check in” at various intervals, Kim advises. These notes and reminders are only visible to you so the contact won’t be able to see them.

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LinkedIn tip: Don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations

If you don’t have any recommendations, yet, don’t be shy about asking colleagues for them. “LinkedIn makes is super easy, providing an ‘Ask to be recommended’ link, where you can specify what you want to be recommended for, who you want to recommend you, and even write a personal message,” Kim says. “Pick specific people. Don’t just randomly ask all your contacts if they can recommend you.” Write them a fabulous recommendation in return.

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LinkedIn tip: Don’t upload your whole resume

Wait…what? Isn’t LinkedIn a networking site? Yes, but don’t include your full resume with your profile, especially if it lists your phone number. “There are too many untrustworthy people and staffing firms out there that will download your resume, add it to their databases and even submit to their clients without your permission,” says Neiser, who runs a relationship-based business. “I’d suggest using your LinkedIn profile as a detailed overview that will generate enough interest to spark direct communication.” Only then, after building rapport and learning more about the person, the opportunity, and the company, should you pass along your detailed credentials. Another reason to never attach your resume: If it’s outdated, recruiters may pass it up because the relevant skills that they’re looking for aren’t included. Learn the other resume mistakes that could cost you the job.

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LinkedIn tip: Don’t neglect this handy networking tip

Remember to occasionally download your connections. After you’ve gone to all the trouble of building a large professional network, you don’t want to risk losing everyone’s contact info—they may know about an excellent opportunity for you, or you may know of a career opportunity for them. Or, they may work at company you’re considering applying to and you’d like to contact them to learn more about their employer. To do this, click on Connections, then Settings (the gear icon), and on the next page, under Advanced Settings, you’ll see a link to export your LinkedIn connections as a .CSV file. “Now you have a file containing your contacts’ first and last names, email addresses, job titles, and companies,” says Kim.

Rachel Sokol
Rachel Sokol is a longtime contributor to Reader's Digest, tackling mostly cleaning and health round-ups. A journalism graduate of Emerson College, she's a former education writer, beauty editor, and entertainment columnist.