Social media faux pas can be just as embarrassing as real-life gaffs. We’ve all made ‘em and had to cringe and get over it, which is luckily not too difficult. Unless it was a major scandal like accidentally sending a nude photo of yourself to your Facebook instead of your boyfriend, an infraction of the “rules” probably won’t affect your life too much if your profile is private. LinkedIn, however, is a bit of a different story. If a potential employer sees something cringe-worthy on your profile, well, you may have just lost a job opportunity. Here are some examples of what not to include on your profile so you can avoid this situation.
1. “LOL OMG!”
Things like this may be okay for Facebook, but they’re definitely not LinkedIn-appropriate. “No ‘lol,’ and make sure that you’re spelling out all your words,” says Veronica Soto, the assistant director of career events at the University of Miami’s career center. “You don’t want to do the ‘w’ with the slash. You want to make sure that you’re writing an actual document. You want to stay away from the netspeak.”
Typing as if you’re g-chatting with your best friend is unprofessional, so stick to fully formed words and thoughts. LinkedIn really isn’t the place for LOL-worthy stories, anyway.
2. “I love my dog, the color purple, and having fun!”
The Summary section gives you 2,000 characters to play with and fill with whatever you want, so why not talk about your quirky interests, right? Only to a certain extent. “In the summary section, you really want that to be not just like a one paragraph into your resume or a generic cover letter,” says Scott Allen, social media expert and author of The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online. “Who are you, what are you about, what motivates you? Get a little bit personal. I’d definitely suggest putting at least some kind of high level personal flair to it.”
Your love of Fido might be relevant if you’re an aspiring vet, and your obsession with that perfect shade of lilac is great if you’re an artist. But keep all information professional and relevant to your career.
3. “I’m really good at Internet searches.”
“But I AM really good at Internet searches!” you protest. Yep, we know. “Everybody knows how to use the Internet,” says Soto. So keep Google out of the Skills section, capische?
However, you definitely want to include other skills. “If you’re effective or proficient in a lot of different software or you have a lot of different experience, you want to make sure you have your skills up there,” says Soto. “I think that’s something a lot of people actually miss and I don’t see that in everybody’s profile. When employers are doing those searches, it’ll help your profile pop up.”
4. “I’m a team player!”
“The job description might say you pay attention to detail, are a team player, blah blah blah – that’s all clichéd,” says Jason Alba, founder of JibberJobber.com and author of I’m on LinkedIn – Now What??? “When you see a list like that it doesn’t say anything, it doesn’t tell you anything. The eight other people I interviewed all have the same thing.”
The solution? “The LinkedIn summary gives you 2,000 characters and what I tell people to do is to use all 2,000, and I tell them to tell stories,” says Alba. “If you were to go back to your list of all the clichéd things, make it into a problem-action-result statement. Here’s the problem, here’s what I did, here’s what happened.” For example, the company was short on money and you came up with a fundraising idea that earned X amount of dollars. This way, you can tell potential employers about your skills sans cliché while simultaneously giving evidence to back it up.
5. “Name: Jane Doe (500 connections)”
“Don’t put anything in the name field other than your name,” says Allen. “Not whatever-diva, not whatever-ninja, not your number of connections. Besides not looking professional, a lot of people don’t think about the fact that businesses use LinkedIn to synchronize data with their email system. So doing this literally corrupts the data. If you get an email it might be to ‘Jim Smith Diva 1600 Connections.’”
Oh, and it’s also a violation of LinkedIn’s terms of service. So as proud of your hundreds of connections as you are, that little box for your name is for just that. Your name.
6. “I’m working on a secret project for my employer.”
This may sound like common sense, but be extremely wary of things that are confidential. “If you’re working on an undisclosed project for your company, you can’t put that,” says Allen. “There’ve been all sorts of things that come up that people say they’re working on, say, the Xbox 4 and it hasn’t even been announced by the company yet.” Ouch. Can you say fired?
7. “This didn’t go my way because my employer made a mistake.”
Stay far, far away from making excuses. Never blame your employer, past or present, or other people for something you put on your profile. “That makes me cringe,” says Allen. “Why even bring it up if you have to excuse it away?” So if you got fired because of a misunderstanding with your boss, that’s a piece of information you should keep to yourself.
On your profile, stick to things that you accomplished, not things that you could’ve accomplished had your coworker done his or her part to help you out. There’s also no reason to list why you left a job, so citing an unreasonable boss is completely unnecessary.