The most common error is a candid photo that looks like Aunt Mildred (or her grandchild) snapped it on a cellphone, but that’s not the worst. I’ve seen women in conservative professions post a profile photo that showed the kind of cleavage normally reserved for a nightclub. Similarly, some bald guys seem unaware that their pate is reflecting light, an effect that is particularly gruesome when the shiny spot is visible through the comb-over.
Fix it: Have a professional photographer shoot a roll of publicity photos and have somebody objective (not your spouse!) choose the best photo from the shoot.
2: Solicit Fawning Recommendations
Recommendations are supposed to make you MORE credible, but they have the opposite effect when comments are too effusive. Don’t kid yourself: If you’ve propped up your pals to be your personal sock puppets, somebody is going to notice, and it will probably the wrong somebody. It’s a major warning sign to the business-savvy when a recommendation is heavy on the superlatives, but light on real substance.
Fix it: Only approve the display of recommendations that describe actions that you personally took, along with the specific, quantifiable effect of those actions on the organization where you worked.
3. Link to an Overly Personal Web Page
Your LinkedIn profile encapsulates your professional life, providing a window onto who you are (or aspire to be) in the workplace. Unfortunately, some people wrongly believe that their personal life is relevant–when in fact the people you work with (or for) are not interested in your hobbies and so forth, except insofar as they provide reasons why you might hand in a project late.
It’s even worse is if your personal site is truly flaky. I know one woman whose profile links to the memorial page for a dead horse.
Fix it: Only link off to a “personal” site if it’s a professional site (like one where you run a business). As far as possible, keep your personal life invisible to the business world.
4. Provide a Trail to a Youthful Indiscretion
People who use LinkedIn to research individuals with whom they might be working are usually smart enough to do a little extra Googling, based upon the information in your LinkedIn profile. Since your profile contains your academic experience, such a search might turn up some real credibility killers–like photos from that kegger where you got half-naked.
Fix it: First, only provide information that’s relevant to where you’re taking your career. That may or may not include your academic background (and definitely should NOT include your high school info). Second, experiment with different search combinations based upon what’s in your profile. If undesirable stuff pops up, either figure out how to expunge it or change your profile. Worst case, change your name. Don’t laugh. It’s been done.
5. Any Misspellings Whatsoever
I am the world’s worst proofreader of my own stuff, so I’m willing to bet that my own LinkedIn profile has a bunch of typos in it. But then, my credibility (such as it is) comes from my professional writing, not my LinkedIn profile.
For most people, rightly or wrongly, spelling and grammatical errors in your profile are going to make people think that you’re either stupid or careless. Or both. I ran across one guy whose profile showed he worked at “Hewlitt-Packard.” True story.
Fix it: Hire a professional copy editor to go through your profile and fix any errors. For most profiles, that will probably cost you about $50 at most.
GEOFFREY JAMES writes "Sales Source on Inc.com," the world's most-read sales-oriented blog. His new book, Business Without the Bullsh*t, will be published in early 2014. To get weekly blog updates, sign up for his free "Insider" newsletter. @Sales_Source