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LinkedIn Etiquette Fails: 7 Mistakes That Will Make You Look Unprofessional

How aware are you of bad LinkedIn etiquette? These LinkedIn mistakes might be making you look unprofessional—on the most professional network.

Todd Clarke October 10, 2019
Illustration of a man looking at a laptop with a LinkedIn icon and an exclamation mark in a speech bubble above his head

Your LinkedIn page and profile is your online billboard. It’s your chance to show and share your personal brand.

That is, if you do things right—not wrong.

Because too many people make too many mistakes when it comes to self-promoting on LinkedIn.

You want to show up as your very best on LinkedIn—the most ‘professional’ of all networks. So you can look like a pro. Get hired as a pro. Maybe even find business as a pro.

Here’s a list of seven common (and not-so-common) LinkedIn mistakes that make citizens of this social network look unprofessional.

Consider them to avoid getting fired before getting hired.

Yes, many of these are common sense. And yes, many people still commit these LinkedIn offences.

But not you. Not anymore.

No more hurting your credibility. No more being unclear about your expertise. No more making it hard for others to connect with you.

Let’s start from the top, literally.

Bonus: Download a free guide that shows the 11 tactics Hootsuite’s social media team used to grow their LinkedIn audience from 0 to 278,000 followers.

1. No header image

Why it’s a problem

You’re wasting a free opportunity to differentiate yourself.

The header/background image is the first thing people see, even if it’s the boring default image. Use this to your advantage to create interest.

What to do about it

Think about some images that could enhance the look of your profile. Also, consider adding some text to the image to ‘start your story.’ Here’s some editing tools to help.

Not sure where to get some photos, for free? Here’s some sites I use often:

How do you decide on which images to use? Bright or dark? Busy or calm? Testy or agreeable?

“Find your adjectives” (and other tips for identifying your online voice and vibe).

Don’t worry about getting it perfect. Almost anything is better than what you get out of the box for LinkedIn.

Click the ‘Edit’ button on your profile to add the new pic to the header section. It’s that easy.

2. Weak profile picture

Why it’s a problem

You’re making a poor first impression.

People may find you, then leave just as fast. Because you’re turning people (i.e., recruiters) off with a bad photo, even worse with no photo. Are you lazy? Are you even a real person? These are the questions people will ask themselves when they can’t look you in the eye. They won’t take you seriously.

Plus, minds process images 1,000’s and 1,000’s of times faster than text.

What to do about it

Take a great photo. Then add it as your profile picture.

No need to go professional (unless you want to). But do take some head-and-shoulder shots. Pick the ones you like best. Have a friend help you choose. Or run a Twitter poll to get advice from your fans.

No faceless outline. No logo. No pictures of your dog. No repurposing a photo that includes others.

Just a simple photo… with your smiling face… in plain and clear view.

3. Weak headline

Why it’s a problem

You’re underselling yourself.

You’re wasting a chance to guide the conversation, from the very start. Or, missing out on informing readers know how you can help them.

(By “headline” I mean the first sentence of your LinkedIn profile.)

The author's LinkedIn headline: "A consultant who writers—to move your readers to 'yes'"

What to do about it

Don’t restate your current job title and company. Text is precious. Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t repeat yourself.

Instead, describe what you’re good at. Or explain what the reader will get from what you do. So readers will stay and scroll versus stop and leave.

In other words, think of your headline as the opening for your story. In 120 characters or less.

And avoid the hyperbola. Sensational adverbs, trite expressions, baseless claims… all boring and useless.

4. Weak (or no) summary

Why it’s a problem

You’re wasting an opportunity to ‘continue your story’ that you started with your headline.

Just. Write. It.

It’s often the only part of your profile visitors will read (after your headline). Think of this section as your elevator pitch.

What to do about it

You’re more than just the summation of your job experience.

As such, don’t force your viewers to connect your work experience sections into a tidy story about you. That part is on you.

Some elements to consider for your concise story:

  • Who, what, why, when, and how
  • Core skills (commit to the few, versus the many)
  • Why you do what you do
  • What big problems you solve
  • Show any numbers

Write in the first person, because this is personal. Writing in 3rd person sounds pompous, and not personal. I mean it.

And of course, speak like a human, not a bot. Ditch the jargon, cliches, and baseless claims.

Remember the mantra… clear over clever. And 7 other tips for writing clearly.

“I’m passionate about transforming organizations into innovative, people-centric, businesses with a repeatable process that delights customers.”

Oh please.

“Specialized, leadership, passionate, strategic, experienced, focused, energetic, creative…”

Lose them all.

If you knew visitors would only read your summary, what do you want them to remember about you?

The author's LinkedIn summary

5. No (or few) recommendations

Why it’s a problem

Lack of recommendations = not enough trust in your skills.

You’re praising yourself on your profile, I get it. And of course, you’re biased. Same for all of us when talking about our favorite subject—ourselves.

But your readers want to hear from others:

  • What your superpowers are
  • Why you’re good at what you do
  • Who thinks this
  • How you helped them
  • How they benefited
  • Their title, company, picture, and link to their profile

What to do about it


For a couple years I scheduled 30 minutes a month to write a couple LinkedIn recommendations. I targeted people I worked with, for, and respected. I expected nothing in return. However, I started to get recs from others.


Don’t be shy about asking for a recommendation. It’s okay to ask for help.

Here’s an example…

Hi Jane, I want to add some credibility to my LinkedIn profile, so people can see the benefits I deliver. Could you please write a recommendation, based on our work together?

Here’s some thoughts to make this easier on your brain…

  • What talents, abilities, & characteristics best describe me?
  • What successes did we experience together?
  • What am I good at?
  • What can I be counted on?
  • What did I do that you most noticed?
  • What other distinguishing, refreshing, or memorable features do I possess?

Does that give you enough ammo to give me some LinkedIn love?

No? Then I must really suck.

Don’t give up on me yet. How about…

  • What was my impact on you?
  • What was my impact on the company?
  • How did I change what you do?
  • What’s one thing you get with me that you can’t get anywhere else?
  • What are five words that best describe me?

Thank you, Jane.

Okay, you can tone it down, but you get the idea. Help them help you.

What’s the worst that can happen? They might say ‘no’, or just ignore you. Fine. Ask someone else.

That being said, make sure to get endorsements from people who actually matter, i.e., people in your industry, or people who you’ve worked with before. In the same way that you wouldn’t use your father as a reference, you won’t want to have endorsements from best friends or family members on your LinkedIn profile.

6. No personal message for your invite

Do I really need to list this mistake? Guess so, because I get invites like this too often. You probably do, too.

Why it’s a problem

You sound impersonal and provide no useful reason for connecting.

Why should someone hit the ‘accept’ button when it feels like this…

Hi there.

You don’t know me. We never met. Never worked together. I live far, far away. And not sure we have anything in common.

However, why not add you (a complete stranger) to my trusted network?

You in?

What to do about it

Connect with a purpose. State that purpose in your request to connect.

A few reasons for connecting could be…

  • You read and appreciated their blog post
  • Maybe they could use your skills in the future
  • Maybe there’s a reason to partner and do business together
  • You know someone in common

You don’t need to write much, in fact, don’t. Be clear and succinct with your reason for connecting.

7. No content worth sharing (or consuming)

I’m talking about content that’s curated or created. The stuff you post to LinkedIn outside your personal profile.

Why it’s a problem

If you don’t share anything on LinkedIn you’ll go unnoticed. You’ll remain invisible.

When you have nothing to share, there’s no reason to be seen. And no one will be inspired to connect with you (unless they meet you the old-fashioned way—in person).

What to do about it

Share content you feel is valuable to your network. So you can stay on-top-of-mind of your audience. So you can be seen as an expert in your field.

Do you read articles about your industry, craft, or interests? Sure you do. Why not share them?

It’s easy. First…

  • Create an Instapaper account to save the post in your browser window, in seconds.
  • Create a Hootsuite account to schedule those posts during the week

During the week…

  • When you read something interesting and worth sharing, click the Instapaper bookmarklet to save the post in your Instapaper list

Every Monday morning for 15 minutes…

  • Open your Instapaper page
  • For each saved article, use Hootsuite to schedule the post during the week

That’s it. Here’s a complete guide for curating great content.

Whether marketing your business or yourself, you’ve got a brand. Be seen as a brand that offers useful info, tips, and advice for your LinkedIn network.

Connect with coworkers and other professionals on LinkedIn—in the most professional way—using Hootsuite to schedule your content in advance. Try it free today.

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By Todd Clarke

Todd writes long-form copy people read and scroll -versus- stop and leave. Track him down at He likes that.

Read more by Todd Clarke

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