Your professional headline is the first thing prospects read on your LinkedIn profile, on job platforms, on your resume. And yet, too many professional slip on this crucial bit of micro-copy. Ready to trade the bland and boring “reliable & on time” for a compelling summary of your talents? Follow along…
Step 1: Focus on your hard skills
When scanning resumes, profiles or LinkedIn search results for freelance help, customers look for elements of differentiation. They need to understand who is the best fit for their projects, and what this person can tangibly do for them – quickly. That’s why including soft skills (or personality traits, e.g. being “reliable and on time”) in a professional headline is a waste – unless your services are heavily soft skill-based (e.g. business coaching). To increase your chances of getting noticed, focus on your hard skills – i.e. the specific, technical skills you need to excel in your work – instead.
Think of a typical working day. List the hard skills and specialised knowledge that help you address your customers’ requests. Include e.g. software tools, programming languages, methods, processes.
Step 2: Select your highlights
When the skills list is complete, it’s time to select the highlights to include in your headline. Even though length limitations might not apply, concise professional headlines resonate best with your audience. Try narrowing your list down to 4-5 elements.
Browse job platforms, and consider what companies write in their listings. What kind of expertise do they look for? Is there an emphasis on academic backgrounds? What skills are mentioned all the time?
Make sure your highlights are a match.
Step 3: Add a personal touch
The skills and features you selected are probably common to other professionals in your industry or niche. To make your professional headline stand out, you need to sprinkle some personality on top. Consider complementing your headline with your business slogan, a snappy title or other elements that make your unique self shine through. Just remember: avoid marketing-speak at all costs. When it comes to headlines, every word counts.
Brainstorm for professional headlines including 2-3 of your key highlights, and personal elements (slogan, trade name, branded terms). Let your creativity flow, and don’t be afraid to sound too bold – not yet.
Step 4: Select your top candidates
With the brainstorming session hopefully resulting in plenty of options to assess, now it’s time to wear your hyper-critical glasses. Your goal here is to shortlist 2 to 4 headlines. Remember that your finalised headline should be as unique as possible. To get started, check the headlines your direct competitors use. Knock off your list all options that look too similar to your competitors’.
Assess your headline for uniqueness, appropiateness, and clarity. Get rid of options that include:
- the obvious stuff
- extreme puns and ultra-clever word play
Step 5: Test your professional headlines
The last leg of your journey: testing your shortlist. To do so, you just need a small panel of friends, family members, colleagues or other professionals you cooperate with. To maximise results, aim for a panel that covers a mix of backgrounds.
Create a worksheet with your headlines and a ranking scheme. The panel should consider the following:
- Is the headline clear?
- Is it credible?
- Is it professional yet personal?
Drum roll: you have a winner! A professional headline that works, and holds the key to more meaningful connections with prospects and peers.