10 Common Mistakes That Will Cause You To Fail On LinkedIn (Part 1).

LinkedIn has provided millions of people in the workplace with a personal advertising channel which has multiple options and features. Though many LinkedIn users have benefited from this free showcase, fundamental mistakes are being made by some users that could seriously damage their professional prospects. All of these errors are avoidable. Fortunately they are also reversible and usually based on a lack of understanding of what the LinkedIn platform can or should do.


1. Amateur, Incomplete or Duplicate Profiles.
2. You have too many Recommendations.
3. Only connecting with people you know.
4. You’re Anonymous or Semi-Anonymous.
5. Send a boilerplate invitation.
6. No or few Groups.
7. Job hunting & broadcasting it.
8. Don’t know how to use Settings.
9. Spamming Groups without realizing it.
10. You don’t know how to Search.


1. Amateur, Incomplete or Duplicate Profiles.

What do I mean by an ‘Amateur’ Profile? Take a look at this one:










Now look at this one:












Which person would you be more inclined to connect with? The Summary of a Profile is THE most important section of your LinkedIn presence, it presents a concentrated version of everything you do professionally. It’s the section that gets most eyeballs, period. Recruiters who routinely scan hundreds of profiles every day, spend over 90% of that time looking at Summaries. It is the literal equivalent of your ‘elevator speech’, make it good, make it count. Here are 3 ‘Stunningly Good’ Summary Examples.


There are numerous errors in the first example. But I’m going to focus on the 2 major ones. First, when I see character bullets on a LinkedIn Profile, it screams ‘Amateur’. Crazy symbols are an unnecessary embellishment, you are standing out for all the wrong reasons. You don’t see these symbols on business cards, resumés or email signatures, why would you present yourself any differently on a professional Social Media platform? Second, when someone on LinkedIn advertises their indiscriminate approach to networking, it makes me less likely to connect. I think that the person saying that they “never turn down connection requests” is someone who collects connections merely for the sake of having lots of connections. I’m more interested in having fewer, high quality connections than dealing with a mass of random people. Experience tells me that it’s impossible to be truly engaged with a network numbering in the thousands. I also know what ‘Connection Magpies’ apparently don’t – that smart use of LinkedIn Groups and search tools provides me with unlimited and unfettered access to the LinkedIn population.


People are busy. I get that. But do you really want to tell the rest of the World that you can’t be bothered to fill out your LinkedIn Profile? Would it be unfair for me to jump to the conclusion that you are not a detail person? That you leave tasks incomplete? That you simply don’t care? Unfortunately, when you fail to complete your LinkedIn Profile, that’s the implicit message that gets sent. Perhaps it’s unfair or inaccurate but what you do (or don’t do) online defines you. So take 40 minutes and fill out your Profile so that it is 100% complete. Even if you have to come back at a later date to fill out or amend some of the sections. Just get it done, no excuses.


Duplicate Profiles on LinkedIn are fairly common but they also send a signal. They say that you don’t know what you’re doing, that you’re technically challenged. Unfortunately the usual procedure for dealing with duplicates is a manual chore which takes time. You need to tell all of your connections on the Duplicate to re-connect with the Profile you wish to keep (embarrassing) and then you have to put in a request to LinkedIn to close the account you don’t want. This can take months. Very few LinkedIn users realize that there is also a second option, which is innovative, powerful and turns a negative into an advantage. You also don’t have to wait for LinkedIn customer service.


I run 2 LinkedIn accounts and have done for many years. I decided early on that there were significant advantages for taking this dual presence approach:











Account #1 is for those people I know and have met in the real world, advantages:

  • I can keep below the 500 Connection threshold
  • This is a trusted circle of connections
  • I can move connections to Account #2
  • The value of this network is quality










Account #2 is my version of the ‘telephone book’, advantages:

  • I don’t need to worry about exceeding the 500 Connection threshold
  • This is my ‘stranger networking’ vehicle
  • I can move connections to Account #1
  • The value of this network is quantity


Running two accounts definitely pays dividends for me. I can experiment with different networking strategies on my 2nd Account without affecting or putting my other Account at risk. I double my Group membership allowance (I now have access to 100 instead of 50). I can run 20 Groups (instead of 10). When people have two Profiles by accident on LinkedIn, one of the duplicate Profiles is usually dormant and it’s obvious which one is not being used (incomplete Profile, very few Connections). People who browse both of my Profiles can therefore tell that both of my Accounts are fully functioning. So, before you take steps to close that dormant 2nd Account, consider whether my strategy would work for you. Sometimes 2 is better than 1.


2. You have too many Recommendations.

I’ve written about the limited value of Recommendations on this blog before. And since I wrote that article, I seem to have been vindicated. A couple of significant changes have taken place on LinkedIn, which support my assertion that LinkedIn Recommendations lack credibility and are not a useful criterion for measuring a person’s professional ability. The first change is that the Recommendation total which used to be prominent at the top of a user’s Recommendation section has quietly vanished and been replaced by a Recommendation count for each role nested in the Experience section, the net effect of this change is that greatly reduces the visibility of the number of Recommendations. The second change is the introduction of a new feature: Endorsements which are essentially the equivalent of Facebook ‘likes’ but applied to skills and expertise. Neither appraisal system is perfect; Recommendations are solicited, reciprocal and lack neutrality and specifics. Endorsements are being heavily promoted by LinkedIn and can’t be relied upon. My advice would be to display a maximum of 10 Recommendations and ensure that they say something about you which either (a) support your career aspirations or (b) tells the reader something important about you which is not obvious. To those folks who collect Recommendations like they’re going out of fashion (and they ARE!), please stop. No one reads them on your extended, constantly scrolling, tedious Profile. Just because you can, is not usually a good reason that you should. Next time you see a multi-Recommendation Profile, I’ll wager that they also have those crazy amateurish symbols.


3. Only connecting with people you know.

LinkedIn represents an enormous opportunity for anyone who is willing to leverage the “people who know people” principle. Example: though Bill is not someone I know, his friend Ted is someone who is ready to sign a multi-million contract with me, except I don’t know this. Someone who only connects on LinkedIn with people he/she meets in the real world cannot fully leverage the unknown opportunity universe that is LinkedIn. Not only is this person preventing him or herself from reaping a wide variety of potential professional rewards, they are also acting as a barrier to others. By not connecting with strangers, they prevent access to and from their network. LinkedIn recognized the issue of finicky real-networking users and their potential chill effect on pro-active virtual networkers some time ago and they ameliorated the situation by introducing an “Ignore” option in addition to the original “Accept” and “Report Spam” (previously “I Don’t Know This Person”) buttons. Ignoring a connection request simply archives the request, it can be accepted at any time. Clicking on “Report Spam” counts against the requestor and if several people do this, the requestor can have his capacity to issue LinkedIn connection requests, temporarily frozen. If you prefer to mix with people you know, stick with Facebook, Ning or Meetup. LinkedIn is for folks that are comfortable with joining new tribes and being adept at making new acquaintances. I covered stranger networking theory in more detail in a previous post.


4. You’re Anonymous or Semi-Anonymous.

Some LinkedIn users have great reasons to remain Anonymous on the LinkedIn platform. Journalists who must protect their sources is a prime example. As a general rule however, being Anonymous on LinkedIn makes no sense in pure networking terms. If an Anonymous person browsed my Profile, I have no way to follow up with that person. It’s a mystery to me why LinkedIn should want to include that information in my history of “Who Has Viewed Your Profile”. It’s not information that I can use. Similarly, being Semi-Anonymous on LinkedIn makes finding you a guessing game and not everyone knows the rules. See my earlier post on this topic here. My advice if you don’t fall into the category of needing to be Anonymous, is to announce yourself definitively by giving the most information via the LinkedIn Settings panel (see both of my Profiles above). The vast majority of LinkedIn users will undoubtedly benefit from being found. There are no advantages to being invisible (Anonymous) OR mysterious (Semi-Anonymous) if you’re in the business of networking on a social professional platform.


5. Send a boilerplate invitation.

If you send the standard Connection request:












Your chances of connecting have halved. Spend a few minutes personalizing and customizing the request to the recipient and you stand a much stronger chance of connecting. The connection request is not like your business card, it’s a mini proposal that needs to be tailored, specific and relevant to the person you approach. When someone sends me a standard (or boilerplate) Connection request, I often respond with “Please tell me why?”. If you reach out to a fellow LinkedIn user in this way, you have an obligation to explain the background or rationale for doing so. It’s like having an incomplete Profile, you are setting yourself up for failure. It’s interesting to note that LinkedIn encumbers ‘stranger networking’ but provides a connection template which encourages the practice, often with poor results. Perhaps that was the plan all along?


Tune in next week to Part 2 of this post.


If you liked this article, you’ll love my customized consulting service. I’ve helped many professionals to achieve their full potential on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is not somewhere you paste your resumé, sit back and wait for things to happen. It’s a complicated and nuanced website portal that requires action, insight, branding strategy and marketing know-how. What you don’t know – could hurt you. Whether it’s getting more traffic on your Profile, engaging with a stunningly good Summary or refreshing your LinkedIn presence and brand – share your goals with me and I’ll help you to achieve all of them via LinkedIn.


Contact me now: linkedinsights@gmail.com / 773.469.6600 to get started.


That’s all from me for this week. Please take a few moments to share this article with your network. I read and respond to all comments.

By Andy Foote


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21 Responses

  1. Rob Freedman says:

    Great advice Andy, these are steps anyone should take. Not just for themselves but it makes the whole site and community more useful to all.

  2. Tomasz Bruss says:

    Re 3 – that’s very controversial point of view, especially if one only keeps one profile; for me I would be fairly cautious accepting invitations from people that I do not know, especially if their profiles are incomplete or they suggest no real potential for business together;

    Re 4 – aren’t people who are not logged-in appearing as anonymous? Other than that I guess recruiters often prefer to stay unrecognized

    Re 5 – Linkedin limits the number of characters in invitations in order to promote paid accounts, that is one of the reasons why most of the invites look so standardized

    Overall – very interesting blog.

    • Andy Foote says:

      @Tomasz – being Anonymous on LinkedIn has nothing to do with whether you are logged into the site or not, it’s because of the option in your Settings Panel. You actually have more than enough space (in terms of characters) to personalize a Connection Request, there is actually no difference in this respect, between paid and basic (free) accounts. They both have the same space.

  3. @jappha says:

    10 Common Mistakes That Will Cause You To Fail On LinkedIn (Part 1). | linkedinsights http://t.co/utLDEHP9 via @linkedinsights1

  4. Have to touch mine up. Mistakes That Will Cause You To Fail On LinkedIn (Part 1). | linkedinsights http://t.co/9J9v57eL via @linkedinsights1

  5. 10 Common Mistakes That Will Cause You To Fail On LinkedIn (Part 1). | linkedinsights http://t.co/qVh2FFCb via @linkedinsights1

  6. @thegilty says:

    Thanks for the article! I just touched up my profile.

  7. Raveen Nathan says:

    Overall an interesting read but about the recommendations and endorsements, I would be cautious about giving out your version of the advice. It is simply because no one really reads them once they have reached your profile, but to get them to come to your profile the algorithm used by LinkedIn search process takes into account how many recommendations and endorsements one has after the key words are found. So imagine a situation in which someone searches for a skill set. If there are number of profiles that match the skill set then LinkedIn needs something to differentiate and present the results in a manner to the searcher that is useful. Having enough recommendations (how many? 2 is not enough and 200 is too many) and endorsements (how many? more than the next guy in line) is a must to increase the foot traffic to ones profile. What do you do with the foot traffic (the # hits) is based on all about you and your profile.

  8. On my coffee table and ready to be devoured and acted upon v soon. I have a some new skills to add to my profile for starters, so this can be the main course!

  9. @outimage says:

    Some really interesting insights on managing your LinkedIn profile! http://t.co/0kVd2J0H

  10. Jennifer Walker says:

    How do you address the awkward situation of having someone connected with someone under their secondary and totally incomplete/incorrect profile? I hate to have to send a 2nd invitation after the 1st one was accepted, but this just happened to me and I don’t even know how or why.

    • Andy Foote says:

      You must have been logged into that incomplete account, and not realized it when sending the invitation. Most people will simply accept your 2nd invitation and either (a) think nothing of it or (b) realize what happened and still think nothing of it. These things happen Jennifer, a lot of people have ‘orphan’ LinkedIn accounts, no big deal.

  11. Amber S. says:

    I have spent part of the day reading your blog on LinkedIn profiles. I wonder if the characters that I use in my profile might be seen as amatuerish. I think there is a difference between your example and what I do. As I keep it pretty consistent and ensure the profile is pleasing to look at while the example you use is difficult to follow and is not consistent. Do you think that use of special characters is always an amatuerish thing to do or can characters when used appropriately enhance reading, like bullet points on a resume?

    • Andy Foote says:

      I think “special characters” are distracting and get in the way of your objective (which is: to look professional). Why take the chance of leaving a bad impression when a round or standard bullet does the job and does not raise amy flags? It seems to me that people who use non-standard symbols as bullets are trying to grab attention but are doing it without any understanding of how they could be perceived. Ask yourself – would you put any of those symbols on your Cover Letter?

  12. Owen Lobo says:

    Hi Andy – Great article. Have a question. In your LinkedIn 2-account approach, how do you transfer a contact from your account 1 to account 2 or vice versa?

    • Andy Foote says:

      Thanks Owen. Really simple: just send an invitation request (explaining exactly what and why you’re doing it). You then have a choice of keeping them in both accounts or removing them from the original account.

  13. Russell Robertson says:

    Hi Andy. Some really great suggestions for someone who is starting to really take the LI profile and summary seriously. (I’m a little older and have come into the realization of using social media kicking and screaming … although I think it will be a while before I succumb to Facebook; just can’t go there yet!!).

    Is there the possibility that someone can create more than 2 accounts? How does one confirm active LI accounts. I’m afraid that I may have created one that I really don’t want to use when I was first starting out.

    • Andy Foote says:

      Hi Russell – anyone can create multiple LinkedIn accounts, in fact many LinkedIn users create duplicate accounts simply by changing jobs/forgetting their old login credentials (email/password) and creating a new/secondary account. It’s a very common problem which can be remedied by contacting LinkedIn (via their Help Center) and asking for the dupe account(s) to be closed.

  1. November 6, 2012

    […] & broadcasting it. I already outlined the kind of activity that could signal job-hunting in a prior post. I want to focus on the ‘broadcast’ of this activity and how to ensure that you have […]

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