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Things You Should Never Do on LinkedIn: The Complete Guide

Things You Should Never Do on LinkedIn: The Complete Guide

What Should You NOT Do on LinkedIn: The Complete Guide

"The worst thing you can do on LinkedIn is not have a profile at all!"

Gone are the days when LinkedIn was merely a placeholder CV or a platform to spam people with sales pitches in direct messages. Today, LinkedIn is an indispensable tool for job seekers, consultants, marketers, founders, salespeople, and anyone who values their professional network.

In this guide, we'll cover 25 things you should avoid doing on LinkedIn to stand out and get the most out of the platform. We'll walk through the various aspects of profile optimization, connections, interactions like messaging, groups, commenting, sales pitching, and content creation.

Let's get to work polishing your LinkedIn presence to the highest professional standards!

What Should You Not Do On Your LinkedIn Profile

Your profile is your starting point and your finish line on LinkedIn. It has to be strong if you want your content to be taken seriously. It has to match the expectations set by your content if you want your audience to convert into customers, business partners, or stakeholders in any other sense. That's why the first part of this guide is dedicated to the A-Z Don'ts of a top-notch LinkedIn profile.

1. Don't have an unprofessional profile picture

LinkedIn might have sometimes seemed ridiculously relaxed, but remember that it is still a professional platform first and foremost. Your presence needs to reflect that. Don't fall into the trap of using an excessively casual profile picture, especially if you're a young professional just establishing yourself.

Remember that your LinkedIn profile picture is the first impression you give to other professionals, including colleagues, recruiters, potential employers, prospective partners, etc. Make yourself look as polished as possible, and make a point of using a high-quality image.

Stay away from group photos, vacation snaps, and obvious home environments, and definitely don't use a selfie. Get a friend to take a good picture of you against a neutral background like a wall or a minimalist office space. If you don't have anyone who can help you, set your camera or phone on a tripod or other suitable stand and set a timer so you can take a proper pic remotely.

2. Don't have an impersonal background image

Your LinkedIn profile will come with a default background image when you create it. Get rid of that. Keeping the default image conveys that you don't care or that you're inattentive or unimaginative - none of which is good for your presence on the platform.

Even more importantly, don't leave your background image space empty! A blank background makes your profile look incomplete and terribly unprofessional. Take the time to choose an appropriate custom image to use as a LinkedIn background. Just keep in mind that the picture shouldn't represent you as a private individual but as a professional entity. It has to accurately convey your industry and match your personal brand.

3. Don't keep the default URL

LinkedIn will assign you a public profile URL that directly points to your presence on the platform, but it isn't actually all that convenient. The default links are, naturally, generic and unspecific. Don't leave it that way. Take a moment to customize your public profile URL to something more memorable.

It's an appealing business detail and also makes it easier for others to find and connect with you. This can be especially important if you have a common name, work in a well-saturated industry, are not highly specialized, or otherwise if there's anything about your profile that might overlap with anybody else's.

While you're there, go through your settings and unlock your profile. While it's normal to be concerned about your privacy, and it's all well and good to take measures against spammers and scammers, you have to balance that with availability. A locked-down profile is practically invisible to recruiters. Don't be that.

4. Don't format your name in weird ways

Formatting on LinkedIn is extremely important, but it extends to beyond the content you produce. It applies to your profile information as well, especially to your name. It might be tempting to use all caps or some other unconventional, attention-grabbing variation, but nip that in the bud. Your LinkedIn profile name is not the place to indulge your sense of aesthetics.

Remember, it's included in the first impression you make, along with your profile picture, background image, etc. Keep it simple and sleek. Use a standard, clean, easy-to-read, web-friendly, and mobile-friendly font in its default formatting - no unnecessary bolding, italicizing, etc. Stick to proper capitalization in compliance with the rules of English or your native language.

Refrain from including your nicknames, any titles, and honorifics that are not directly linked to your professional position and industry status, as well as any hypocoristics (diminutives, endearments, and short forms of place names, personal names, and other nouns). You want to be professional and effective, not warm and whimsical.

5. Don't misuse the pronoun space

The gender pronoun space on your LinkedIn profile is exactly what it says on the tin - anything else is considered bad form and against the etiquette of the platform. Use it solely for your preferred pronouns if you feel inclined to specify them. If not, then feel free to forgo that field entirely.

However, whatever you do, don't use the LinkedIn pronoun space for unrelated purposes. This includes product promotions and announcements, sales pitches, service offers, additional off-platform contact information, plugging third parties, announcing that you're on a job hunt, announcing that you're looking for talent, etc. It will likely make you come across as tone-deaf at best and desperate at worst.

6. Don't neglect your headline

The headline in your LInkedIn profile is where you make up for the titles and honorifics you have to leave out of your name and pronoun spaces. Use it to convey your industry, current position, and level of expertise. A good headline will give the visitors to your profile a sense of your value proposition as well as your authority.

Don't get too wordy with it, though. The best headlines are as concise as possible. You want to condense it into a powerful, compelling line or even just a single phrase. Take the time to come up with a few versions and see what feels the most effective. You might want to ask a few trusted friends for their insights too. If you're having trouble, consider which points are the most niche, the most relevant, and the most current. What makes you stand out right now?

7. Don't go overboard on formal language

While a profile on a business platform does entail a certain level of formality, don't take it too far, or it will become counterproductive. It's important to strike a healthy balance between the professional space and the networking, i.e. community aspects of LInkedIn. You want to be genuine enough that your potential collaborators will see you as approachable - and worth approaching.

Towards that end, don't talk about yourself in a manner that might come across as too rigid. For example, use common terms instead of scientific or industrial jargon when possible. Refer to yourself in the first person ("I am a family lawyer") instead of the third ("Mr. Smith is a family lawyer"). Go for a conversational tone that still isn't too chatty and familiar. You want a nice mix of friendliness and respect.

8. Don't rely on overused words

LinkedIn lingo is a meme of its own, and, unfortunately, that's not for no reason. You've probably seen a great number of profiles and posts that include words such as "experienced," "specialize," "passionate," "strategic," "focused," "skilled," "thrilled," and so on. The platform is oversaturated with them.

Don't fill your profile with the same expressions; nobody's enthusiasm is really that wide-sweeping. Replace the generic LinkedIn vocabulary with more specific, impactful language that truly showcases your expertise. This is the one aspect of your profile where formal word choices can benefit you. Just be strategic and streamline your language into a sharp, reliable image of competence.

9. Don't introduce new information in your summary

Similarly to the gender pronouns space, the summary should be exactly what it says it is: a final recap of your professional story. Make it concise, well-written, and engaging. It should clearly highlight your unique value as a natural conclusion of all the information in your profile.

It should not introduce new information, such as your company's description, what you offer, or what you're looking for. All of those should be found in your headline, employment status, work experience, etc. Also, don't use bullets, all caps, one-liners, or other odd formatting in your summary. Keep it clean and simple.

10. Don't leave your profile incomplete

LinkedIn gives you plenty of space to tell your professional story in plenty of detail. Take advantage of that to showcase your expertise and build credibility. Don't just fill out your work history and formal education - add everything that illustrates your competencies.

Don't neglect information such as informal education, self-education, internships, volunteer experiences, community service, skills beyond your specific field or niche, the languages you speak, and even your hobbies and interests. If you're using Creator Mode, use your featured section to highlight your best work and achievements. All of that can provide insight into what you excel in, how you approach challenges, and what you're dedicated to.

Moreover, the higher your profile completeness, the higher your chances of getting noticed by a company - and keeping that attention. A profile that's incomplete or sparse on detail tends to communicate that you lack professionalism, pay no attention to detail, invest no effort in your self-marketing, and don't care about your peers' opinions. And if you don't care how they see you, why should they bother to look?

11. Don't forget to update your profile

The natural follow-up to a complete profile is one that's up-to-date on everything. Make a point of regularly reviewing your information, adding new relevant points, and potentially removing things that no longer apply (e.g. if you stop performing a certain type of work, you might want to remove associated keywords from your headline and skills).

There's no prescribed schedule for this, but you might want to make a habit of it - monthly, quarterly, or whatever works for you and the rhythm of your professional life. Just don't forget to do it eventually. An outdated profile can hinder potential networking opportunities, hurt your credibility, reduce your visibility to recruiters and clients, and negatively impact your content's reach on LinkedIn.

12. Don't have multiple or fake profiles

Finally, stick to having one profile only. If you're involved in multiple industries, don't create separate LInkedIn accounts for each. It's perfectly fine to turn your versatility into a feature. In fact, it can be a great bonus - interdisciplinary experts are a valuable resource in many fields. Your professional persona encompasses all of your career directions, so optimize your profile to get the most out of that.

Multiple online presences are ridiculously difficult to maintain with any level of effectiveness. It's an unsustainable approach that waters down your personal brand, weakens your overall impact, and confuses your existing and potential connections. Likewise, don't even think about making a fake identity on the platform. There's simply no point in the long term because LinkedIn is exactly that - interlinked. It's a community at the end of the day.

Sooner or later, the professionals you have any contact with in real life will intersect with one or more of your online circles. When it's learned that you made a false profile on a professional platform, you immediately lose people's trust, as well as your industry credibility, professional reputation in general, and any authority you may have built up in your field of expertise.

How NOT to Reach Out on LinkedIn

In addition to revising your profile, take a moment to revisit the way you reach out to other platform users. We'll divide this section into direct messaging in general and specifically attempting to sell something. If you're wondering what not to do when getting in touch with people via groups, comments, or your own content, feel free to skip below to those sections. Now, let's see what you need to stop doing when reaching out directly.

1. Don't forget direct messaging manners

Online chats are a slippery slope. You can't see the other person's face: photos are static props. There's rarely a guarantee of a real-time response unless you previously arrange to chat at a specific time. These factors make it easy to get lazy and forget Internet etiquette toward the person on the other side, and you really can't afford that.

Don't rely on generic messages and canned greetings. That instantly tells the other person that they're one of a thousand and that you don't actually care about what they have to contribute. Likewise, don't spam your contacts' inboxes. Give people time to respond to one thing before you send another. Maybe they aren't online for whatever reason, or maybe they want to think the matter through before they answer. Be patient and always keep your messages genuine and respectful.

2. Don't push for sales

LinkedIn messages aren't a good channel for hard selling. Don't jump directly into a pitch after connecting with someone. This can come off as intrusive, unprofessional, and overall very inappropriate. Just like generic greetings, it makes the recipient feel unappreciated (and, even worse, potentially annoyed at your brand).

Instead, take the time to build relationships and understand your connections' needs before offering your services or products. That way, you come across as more of a welcome friend who might be able to help with a problem instead of an obnoxious salesperson who wants to snag a quick profit.

How NOT to Handle Connections and Groups

Aside from messaging partners and prospects, you can have direct interactions on LInkedIn via your connections circle and by joining groups that interest you. Here, too, there are a few practices that will put you in people's bad graces.

1. Don't fake your connections

It's unrealistic to say "Don't connect with people you don't know in real life" - that would basically defeat the purpose of LInkedIn - but you definitely shouldn't send connection requests just for the sake of doing so. Artificially pumping your circles like that is spammy behavior and doesn't benefit you in the long run.

Instead, treat it like a networking event. Don't reach out to people you have no mutual connections or industry-related interactions. Always personalize your message, introduce yourself politely, and explain why you want to connect. Genuine interest in a select group will open more doors than mass outreach to random platform users.

2. Don't endorse and recommend people you don't know

Endorsements and recommendations can be very helpful - if used strategically. Avoid giving them out to people you've never collaborated with since this can hurt your credibility. You can't know whether someone works well if you haven't seen them work, so you shouldn't put your name behind them.

Along the same line of thought, don't ask for recommendations or endorsements from individuals who don't know your work. If they value their own credibility, they won't give them anyway, and they might view you negatively because of such a request. If they're willing to endorse or recommend you when they have no idea about you, they likely aren't reliable in the first place. Make sure any endorsements and recommendations you give or receive are genuine and deserved.

3. Don't drown the group

If you join a group of fellow professionals on LinkedIn, keep in mind that you're part of a balanced dynamic. Don't dominate conversations. Let other people express their thoughts and leave room for better experts than yourself to contribute, as well as for less experienced colleagues to ask honest questions. Don't ridicule people for anything.

Don't spam the group with promotions, incessant pitching, frequent discounts, and so on, especially if nobody posted specifically looking for the kind of product or service that you provide. Don't post inappropriate content in group spaces. Engage with others respectfully, provide valuable insights, and abide by the group's rules and guidelines.

What NOT to Do With Your Content and Comments

Avoid posting irrelevant or excessively promotional content. LinkedIn's algorithm has once again improved, and content that isn't original or genuinely valuable is restricted more than ever. Moreover, some aspects of content creation and publishing that used to help you could now hinder you. Here's what you need to revise or give up altogether in your LinkedIn content strategy going forward.

1. Don't post dense content

In other words, forget about sounding smart and competent at the cost of being understandable. Don't write long posts: stick to a maximum of 1200-1500 characters. Posts that are around 900 characters long tend to get the most traction. You can use a handy tool like AuthoredUp to check your character count before you publish.

Also, don't make your posts linguistically complicated. A good LinkedIn post has to be understandable to everyone. Keep an eye on your readability index (it should be around 5-6 in English or 6-7 in most other languages). Don't write massive paragraphs. Opt for shorter, more digestible chunks of text.

2. Don't rely on lazy content types

This means no frequent cross-sharing from other platforms like Facebook or Instagram. You need to create content specifically for LinkedIn. That said, not any content will do, and you might want to revise the specific don'ts of LinkedIn content creation.

For a quick recap, avoid irrelevant visuals and non-applicable stories. Selfies (especially out of context) are undesirable - go for useful things like infographics instead. Things like newsjacking, personal stories, and especially TikTok videos are penalized under the new algorithm. All of your content must have genuine value for your industry.

3. Don't spam shallow comments

The LinkedIn algorithm has taken a noticeable turn towards the quality of comments as opposed to quantity. It's not enough to respond a lot, you have to respond in-depth. That means don't use ChatGPT and similar tools to mass-write comments or comment templates. They all sound basically the same, and people will notice.

You have to contribute genuine value to the discussion, so you have to think about the topic on your own. Also, while a ton of commenting will no longer cut it, you still should strive to comment a decent amount. Think 5-10 comments per post, at least. The trick is in the distribution: you need to spread your input organically throughout the discussion, not spam out of context.

4. Don't neglect how and when you post

First of all, don't go overboard on versatility. LinkedIn now assesses the authority of the profile behind every piece of content. On the one hand, it's a great opportunity for you to prove your competence; on the other, it can greatly harm you if you branch out too far. You want people to notice and remember you for your expertise, so don't post on more than a handful of topics that you're genuinely strong in.

Next, forget about the tag floods and hashtag storms of the past. Just like mass connections, tagging people you don't know or who don't directly have some stake in your post subject will get you negative posts with the platform. The importance of hashtags is under a massive question mark now, so don't add too many of those either (think no more than 5).

Finally, revise your publishing calendar. As it turns out, the best days for new content are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Any later, and your reach will plummet. People usually aren't on LinkedIn towards the end of the week - everyone is wrapping up their tasks and looking forward to the weekend instead of seeking out new insights. That said, you can plan some weekend posts to target those hyper-dedicated industry members if you'd like.

Conversely, Mondays are begrudgingly busy in most industries, so your fellow professionals are less likely to spend their valuable time on a social platform. Don't waste your content by throwing it out there when there's no one to receive it. If you have an amazing idea at a bad moment, you can always draft it on the app and save it to post later at a more opportune time.

On a final note, let's address the fundamental reason that anyone comes to LinkedIn: job hunting. Whether you're connecting with recruiters, answering companies' job adverts, or directly pitching yourself to hiring managers, there are some bad habits you ought to look out for.

1. Don't try for everything

Don't apply for every job that comes your way without reading each description carefully. Even if a position is in your industry or generally fits your skills, the job as a whole might not be a good opportunity. Consider all the factors rather than throwing applications left and right.

Also, avoid using a generic resume and cover letter for all jobs. Tailor them to each specific role instead. Finally, refrain from being overly persistent with recruiters or hiring managers. Nobody likes a clingy, insecure candidate. Remember, professionalism is key when job searching on LinkedIn.

Don't just browse through the job postings without leveraging LinkedIn's advanced search tools. Set job alerts and use the "Easy Apply" feature. Don't ignore the "jobs you may be interested in" suggestions: that can limit your opportunities. Make the most of these tools to discover roles that align with your skills, experiences, and interests.

3. Don't apply outside your profile

Avoid applying for jobs before optimizing your LinkedIn profile to reflect the skills and experiences relevant to the role. Even if your CV is customized to the job you're applying for, the hiring manager or other relevant party will still look at your profile - make sure they see what they want. A generic profile will not stand out and could hinder your chances.

Take the time to make it complement your CV and cover letter. Make sure your headline, summary, and work experience highlight your suitability for the job you're applying for. You can always change it back to the more widely-encompassing version or re-customize it for the next specific opportunity that comes your way.

4. Don't disrespect the recruiters

The recruiters and hiring managers you get in touch with (or who get in touch with you) are dedicated professionals just like you. Don't forget to treat them that way. Don't lie about your skills and achievements on your profile - they'll check your history and references anyway. Don't insult their intelligence and waste their time by being dishonest.

Most companies are happy to invest in training a promising new employee, even one with little experience, as long as they see genuine effort.

Similarly, don't reach out to them only when you need them. People like to feel consistently appreciated, so stay in contact even when you're not job hunting. Touch base throughout the year. Establish a large circle of acquaintanceship with recruiters and hiring managers, then determine who among them is the most interesting and potentially useful for your career growth. Foster closer relationships with them so that you can prioritize quality leads when the time comes to pursue new opportunities.

To sum up

The recent changes to LinkedIn's algorithm brought in significant improvements overall, but they also rendered some past practices obsolete or downright counterproductive. For example, massive but loose connection circles, shallow commenting, complicated long-form posts, and hashtag overload are now considered unprofessional and undesirable.

On the flip side, genuine expertise, thoughtful discussions, and well-mannered, respectful interactions with both groups and individuals are very much encouraged. Likewise, you're more likely to land a job if you make a targeted effort: use LinkedIn's advanced search tools, maintain relationships with recruiters, and tailor your CV to each opportunity.

Finally, the quality of your LinkedIn profile is more important than ever. Keep it informative, rich, polished, up-to-date, and as genuine as you can. This directly affects your authority and impact on the platform, your attractiveness to recruiters and hiring managers, and the long-term effectiveness of your LinkedIn strategies.