A LinkedIn makeover on a profile.

How to tell if you need a LinkedIn profile makeover

You would not believe how many adult professionals leave their LinkedIn profile incomplete. It gets in the way of being recruited, building a personal brand, and earning freelance inquiries. Your connections won’t say it outright, but those incomplete and poorly made profiles look unprofessional—it’s the digital equivalent showing up to work in sweatpants.

Always know when it’s time for a LinkedIn profile makeover. Here are the signs.


You don’t show up in searches

Attracting viewers is one of the main functions of your profile. You don’t even need to do much to appear in recruiter searches. On a slow week I show up in around 15 searches. On a good week I show up in 30-45 searches.

Here’s how to find that number quickly from your notifications screen, pictured below:


Screenshot of how many times you appeared in LinkedIn recruiter searches in a week.


You can dig deeper into that data to see who’s looking for you right now. Click on that notification and you’ll be taken to a new screen that shows you some valuable information:

  • How many times your profile appeared in searches the previous week.
  • The companies where those searchers work.
  • The overall breakdown of the searchers’ roles.
  • Keywords searchers used to find you.


Checking up on your profile’s search visibility this way is just one of several best practices worth following on LinkedIn. It’s incredibly valuable to know that people find me through the “content consultant” keywords, because that’s the kind of relationship I want at the moment (as of writing). If I needed to take up a new job search then I might want to pursue “content writer” and “SEO specialist” keywords, but this is good for now.


The keyword section of LinkedIn's weekly search stats.


Recruiters don’t reach out to you

Once or twice per month, a recruiter will reach out to me with some kind of offer to apply for a new role. Most of them aren’t a good fit for where I am in my career, but that’s okay—they would have been perfect for me even just a few years earlier, when I actually needed those offers.

That’s ideal early in your career or soon after leaving academia. Getting semi-regular outreach messages is a sign that your profile is working, even if you aren’t really on the hunt or actively engaging on the network.


Screenshot of a LinkedIn inbox with four out of six messages coming from recruiters.


This won’t make or break your job search, but it’s a solid way to assess if your LinkedIn profile is getting impressions with the right people. You might even get an offer that you like, too. My current role came to me through a recruiter who hustled to reach me just a few months after I gave myself a LinkedIn profile makeover, so it pays to put in the work now.


You wonder if your photo is professional enough

Professional headshots are relatively easy to obtain, but you’d be surprised at how many people just don’t have one. I didn’t upload a photo for a long time because I was afraid of how I’d look with a low-quality photo.

The facts changed my mind, though: profiles with photos earn between 14-21 times the views compared to profiles without them. That comes from LinkedIn directly.

Now look at the photo below. Most profiles don’t have any photo in this screenshot, but even the three that do aren’t really good enough. They look like amateur selfies taken on a $50 phone. One of them even contains an historic plaque that gets more real estate than the person’s face.


Three examples of weak profile pictures on LinkedIn.


Honestly, it wouldn’t be hard to give those LinkedIn profiles a makeover with a semi-professional headshot. Even a selfie taken with steady hands and good lighting would be better than what’s pictured above.

The truth is that recruiters and hiring managers judge you based on the quality of your profile, and that’s not unreasonable. If you won’t put in the effort to make yourself presentable, then how confident will they feel about your effort for their company or their client?


You have no headline or summary

Your headline is one of the most important aspects of your profile because it’s one of 2 things recruiters see before they can view the whole thing. After getting a new photo the next step in your LinkedIn profile makeover should be to update your headline.

If your headline says any of these things then you need to go over it with a new coat of paint:

  • “Seeking new opportunities”
  • “Unemployed”
  • “Recent graduate”
  • “Hard worker”
  • “Results-oriented”


Screenshot of an anonymous student LinkedIn headline that needs work.


None of those messages speak to experience, achievement, internal drive, or the role that you want. Your headline should convey several of those things—and with confidence.

The good news is that you can find the best strategies and examples here.


Your work history is sparse

This is more of a resume-writing exercise than anything else, but it’s incredibly important for LinkedIn as well. Your work history makes up the bread and butter of your profile, and recruiters absolutely look at it. In fact, if you asked a LinkedIn consultant, they’d tell you that more than 85% of them look at your LinkedIn profile even if you already submitted a resume.

This section provides two obvious signs that you need a LinkedIn profile makeover:

  1. Your job history lists tasks with little or no context.
  2. Your job history lists nothing.

Pretty simple to avoid, right? Yet plenty of engaged professionals do this—and make no mistake: they are missing out.

Look at this very real work history in the screenshot below. Only one of the three positions has any kind of description, and it barely says anything. Never leave your work history like this.


Screenshot of a LinkedIn Experience section that needs a makeover.


Next up we have a decent work history, but it has plenty of room for improvement. This person has had a solid career so far, and we can see that because the positions are listed clearly and we can understand their scope.


The problem is that almost everything listed is just a task. With the exception of one bullet point out of 18, nothing is quantified or tied to the success of the business.


Screenshot of an average Experience section on a LinkedIn profile.


Now look at this next example of a properly written work history. It’s for a senior technology and media executive.


Screenshot of an excellent experience section on a LinkedIn profile, with quantified achievements highlighted in green.


Notice the difference? This person has a quantified work history, whereas the other two profiles didn’t. This person framed his experience through the lens of results, and in many cases he tied it directly to the success of the companies where he worked.

You don’t need to be a fancy executive to make your work history shine the same way. It’s just that so few people present their work experience effectively until they reach their late career. That makes a quantified work history one of your biggest advantages in your early career. Don’t skip it!


No skills or recommendations listed

Every profile needs some connections to chime in and say “yep, this person is legit.” It’s called social proof, and marketers use it all the time to convince people like you and me to buy whatever they’re selling. Here’s a quick rundown on the concept:

“Social proof is based on the idea of normative social influence, which states that people will conform in order to be liked by, similar to, or accepted by the influencer (or society).”

Shanelle Mullin, Conversion XL

The same principle works in promoting your personal brand. Every LinkedIn profile needs recommendations and endorsements in order to look legitimate, just as every product page needs reviews from real people to show customers that the product is worth buying.


Screenshot of 3 LinkedIn recommendations on a profile.


If you don’t have any of these, then it’s probably time for a LinkedIn profile makeover. You need them so that hiring managers can hear about your value from somebody with less internal bias than you, after all.

You also need some skill endorsements. They’re not quite as important as recommendations, but the LinkedIn algorithm does use them to calculate how relevant you are in recruiter searches.


Do any of those signs make you think about improving your own profile? Don’t leave it limping along at half capacity for months—update it now and reap the rewards for years to come.

Andrew Webb

Andrew Webb

Andrew Webb is on a mission to show liberal arts graduates how to land jobs and build careers. He turned a history degree into a fulfilling career in digital marketing and UX, then founded Employed Historian to show others how to do it for themselves, too.

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