Would you pick up a book if its cover didn’t appeal to you?

Of course not. The cover —by the pictures, the title or both — attracts you to the book, beckoning you to open it and explore more.

With a LinkedIn profile, your “book cover” is your LinkedIn headline, the line at the top immediately below your name.  If the headline doesn’t attract a hiring manager or recruiter, s/he likely won’t read any more.

LinkedIn headlines searchSince the LinkedIn headline automatically defaults to your current position and organization unless you change it, (see the LinkedIn headline for Randi Grohe Lathrop in the picture on the right), professionals simply leave it alone. But you’re not most professionals, right? Read on for the five “B”s of creating a compelling LinkedIn headline.

1. Be Honest. You want to emphasize your strengths, while avoiding exaggeration.   Try to authentically describe the value you bring to a prospective employer.

The word “authenticity” is key. It won’t pay to lie on your LinkedIn headline, after your credibility to future employers is shot and you’re unable to back up any lofty claims you make. Similarly, it’s wise to avoid boasting (“marketing genius!”). Instead, describe specifically what you did and the impact you had.

creativity at work2. Be Creative. You have 120 characters to stand out from everyone else who does the same things you do. Use active, punchy text that catches the reader’s eye. Below is an example of an eye-catching LinkedIn headline:

Sherryln Thompson

Event Planner | Meeting Planner | Conference Planner Whatever The Occasion, Embracing The Details So You Don’t Have To       

3. Be clear and specific. The headline should sum up exactly what you do, and avoid introducing additional questions that could confuse the reader. Be sure to proofread for any careless typos.

Also, include what makes you a credible candidate, if you can do it succinctly – whether it’s a degree, certification, or unique skill.

Below are two good examples of specific LinkedIn headlines; the first is from a professional who runs a leadership development company:

Julie Young
I help bio-tech/pharm organizations develop their first-time managers

And the second:

Teresa Thomas
Catalyst for energizing win/win business connections | Networking facilitator, presenter, strategist and author

keywords fr4. Be SEO-savvy. Experts know that the LinkedIn headlines are the most important spots on profiles for search engine optimization (SEO), so include keywords that hiring managers or recruiters in your field might use to search profiles. You may even want to learn more about your target positions and companies so you’ll know which keywords to include — assuming, of course, you have actual experience with the skill (see #1).

In the above example, we know that Teresa’s expertise includes presentation skills, which a prospective employer could search for as a keyword.

For SEO purposes, it also pays to proofread well, since if you’ve misspelled crucial keywords, a search by a hiring manager won’t bring up your profile.

5. Be Targeted. You want to speak directly to your target market, (the hiring manager or recruiter), use their lingo and think about how your LinkedIn headline might attract them. Also, showcase what you can offer —whether than be a series 7 license or strong Excel skills.

So, follow the five “B”s of writing LinkedIn headlines, and you’ll be sure to attract the eyes you want to your LinkedIn headline — and ultimately your profile.