Ultimate Guide to the LinkedIn Experience Section
I recently conducted an experiment. I asked 30 people (five job seekers and 25 business owners) how they view LinkedIn profiles. I didn’t use eye-tracking software, so not the most robust test, I’ll admit. But the results were so decisive that I thought I’d share them with you.
Twenty-six of the 30 people I asked look at a LinkedIn profile in this order:
- The person’s face
Like it or not, people are judgemental. After scanning over the visual elements of your profile and your short-and-sweet headline, they jump ahead to the Experience section. They are searching for a box, a squeaky-clean category to put you in. It’s another example of the human mind using short-cuts to make sense of the world.
The problem is, many LinkedIn users underutilise their Experience section. Sometimes, it’s empty. Other times, it’s packed full of irrelevant or inappropriate information. Very, very often, there’s little to no explanation of what they actually did in their position. As Bob McIntosh says, “they’re robbing readers, namely recruiters, of valuable information.”
Whether you’re looking for a new job, clients, investors, or top talent, your Experience section is your opportunity to define the box you’re put into. Your About (everything you need to know writing a LinkedIn About section here) communicates who you are and why you do what you do. But it’s your Experience section that highlights what you bring to the table, your value proposition, and how you can help your target audience get where they want to go.
Here’s what you need to know about curating a high-impact Experience section.
Link to the right companies
Every company listed in your LinkedIn Experience section should be accompanied by a logo. No logo means no credibility. And that’s not good for job seekers, business owners, or anyone else using LinkedIn.
Only companies with a LinkedIn company page will give you a logo in your Experience section, and company pages only came into the fold in 2018. So, go back through your work history and link each role with the company’s LinkedIn page.
Tip: Type the company’s name really, really slowly. It can take a little while for the company page with the logo to pop up.
Linking your Experience to the right company page also helps boost your personal profile’s ranking – i.e., whether your face appears on page 1 or page 100 of the search results. No one knows the magic formula that determines each of our rankings, but we can be pretty confident that you’ll show up higher for colleagues in search results if you’re both linked to the same company.
Help! I work for myself. I don’t have a company page with a logo. It’s time to make one. They are super easy to set up and don’t cost a dollar. Navigate to the Work tab, scroll to the bottom of the menu, and click Create a Company Page +. (If you’re still not convinced on the value of a company page, read this or listen to my sparring partner Michelle J Raymond being interviewed by the world’s undisputed best LinkedIn trainer Mark Williams).
Help! I worked for a company that changed its name. If your old stomping ground changed its name or was bought by another company, link your Experience section to whichever name has a company page. In the body of your Experience, make a note that the company was called something different when you worked there.
Help! I know my company has a LinkedIn page, but I can’t find it. This is a really common problem. It’s actually why I was recently engaged by O&M Halyard Asia Pac, previously Halyard Health. All the employees were linked to the old Halyard Health page. My advice is to type super slowly and try variations of your company name in the search bar (click Companies) to see how the company name, or acronym, the business is listed. You could also look at your colleagues’ LinkedIn profiles to see if they’ve managed to link their Experience section to the right company page.
Help! I run a side hustle that doesn’t (yet) warrant a company page. Absolutely include it in your Experience section (more on this below) and use LinkedIn’s Self-Employed feature. Just type ‘Self-Employed’ into the company name field. LinkedIn will give you a few logos to choose from. A disadvantage of this approach is that you won’t have anything at the very top of your profile where a company logo typically shows up.
Make every word count
The hard part: writing. Let’s break it down.
In a few words, a title gives your profile visitors an idea of what you do, your expertise, and your career level. Business owners can get creative if they want, but job seekers should stick to the script. Use common or standard titles by, again, typing slowly and picking the default option. Your titles inform LinkedIn’s search function.
Don’t copy and paste from your resume. Job seekers, I’m talking to you. You don’t want to give everything away. Give your profile visitors a taste of your value, tease your expertise. Use your Experience to highlight key points only, and not the key points that matter to you, but the key points that matter to your target audience.
You have 2,000 characters in total and it is best to use strong, active verbs. Keep sentences short and punchy. Conquer your reader’s attention. If you’ve written ‘key responsibilities,’ you’re not on the right track. Some active words to get you thinking include drove, collaborated, initiated, aligned, negotiated, established, and secured.
Don’t make sweeping heroic statements, but don’t undersell your awesomeness, especially if you’re a job seeker. You really don’t want to come across apologetic, indecisive, or unsure of your skills.
Use visual elements like emojis and Yaytext.com to break up big chunks of text – but use them sparingly. Less is more. Also, keep in mind that emojis and Yaytext (or Lingojam) can’t be read by people using reading options or by LinkedIn’s search function. If you’re a job seeker, don’t put emojis in your titles.
Using Yaytext.com to bold text:
Business owners, flesh out your experience as much as your About section. Leverage the Storybrand framework to take readers on a journey. Position your client as the hero, recognise and address their pain points, talk to the transformation and, finally, end with a confident call-to-action. And, please, not ‘Feel free to…’ These words don’t inspire action. I can see the nonchalant, I-don’t-care shrug from here. And probably don’t offer a free 30-minute coaching call, either. Every coach seems to be handing out 30-minute calls, and your reader knows there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Here’s my call-to-action:
And one last note, especially for job seekers: Don’t disclose dollar amounts or sensitive information if it’s confidential or not widely known.
Organise board positions, contract work, side hustles, and other unconventional roles
Quick story time. I was recently asked how much public speaking experience I had. I’ve trained large teams and spoken at membership organisations since 2014. With Liquid Learning, since 2018, so a fair bit. This question prompted me to add a new role to my experience section. I switched on notifications so everyone would see. People reached out via DM to congratulate me, and I even picked up three new gigs!
The takeaway: Make sure your Experience section covers the full breadth of your offering.
Board positions and extra-curricular work
Don’t include these roles in your Volunteer section – even if you were volunteering. In my experience as both a former recruiter and profile writer, people don’t tend to scroll down that far. Plus, you’ll rank higher in keyword searches if you list board roles in your Experience section.
More and more people are taking up side hustles – it’s become normal, even wise, to have a second business on the side. Create a company page for your business, and worry less about jeopardising your job (or job search). Any decent employer will want people who show an entrepreneurial spirit.
Gig workers and consultants
If you’ve worked across many projects over many years, I recommend grouping them all into one or two positions. Although separate sections for each role will boost your relevancy in search results, it’s important to keep your reader front and centre. It’s a whole lot easier to glance over a couple of Experience sections than 20!
Ordering your unconventional roles
You can’t change the order of all your roles – they are organised by date. But if you have side hustles or concurrent roles, you can reorganise them depending on your priorities. Click on the hamburger menu and toggle the role up or down.
An optimised LinkedIn profile isn’t a resume on steroids – it’s a sophisticated digital reputation manager. Adding media to your Experience section is a high-impact way to showcase your expertise and influence how others think about you without bragging. Australians don’t like braggarts – we want people who are with us.
You can add media – external new articles, videos, photos, website links, and SlideShare presentations – to each role in your Experience section. Think of it as evidence of previous successes. It’s showing, not telling.
Know why you’re on LinkedIn, and let that goal drive your Experience section
One of the most common questions I get is this: How far back should I go in my LinkedIn Experience section?
I say go all the way.
Why? Because it builds context and provides as many opportunities as possible to include those all-important keywords (of course, don’t compromise readability for keywords – keywords might attract someone to your profile, but it’s your writing that will inspire action and convert them). More recent roles must have lots of detail. Older roles can just be a title and one line.
If you’re a job seeker, here’s the kicker – tailor all your past roles to reflect the role you want in the future. In other words, start with a goal, and make sure every role listed in your Experience section moves you closer to that goal.
Over to you
I know that was a ton of information to process, but I really do believe that the Experience section is wildly underutilised.
Will you be changing anything about your Experience section after reading? I want to know.