• Hillary Hufford-Tucker

What does your LinkedIn header say about you?

We all know the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” (Andrew Grant). So, what is your LinkedIn profile telling recruiters about you? Specifically, does your profile banner - headshot, background image, and headline - tell them you’re a perfect fit for the role?

There are many critical elements to a stand-out LinkedIn profile, but according to LinkedIn, recruiters spend six seconds looking at your profile page. One of my clients spent loads of time on her experience and ‘About Me’ sections thinking that the top of her profile was “fluff.” On the contrary, if you don’t give hiring managers the quick visual and keyword cues they need in those precious moments, they’ll look elsewhere.

In my coaching practice, clients often want to express their inner selves in their LinkedIn banner. As much as I love that vacation shot from Bali, it’s not telling the right story for the audience on a professional platform. While personality is essential to cultural fit, a professional banner is the most effective way to gain recruiters’ attention quickly. In another blog post, I’ll talk about how to use LinkedIn’s ‘About Me’ section to highlight your unique skills and interests.

It’s always helpful to do some research on other ideas for LinkedIn banners. Do some competitive analysis to see what others are saying. Before starting, get truly clear about what a recruiter or hiring manager would view as a perfect profile banner for a prospective candidate.


Your headshot is the first thing people see when they access your LinkedIn profile. A welcoming smile is an ideal introduction to a recruiter or employer. As meaningful as some pictures might be to you personally, profile photos with busy backgrounds, cropped group images, or vacation settings imply a lack of business focus. While a professional headshot may not be an option for you, consider the following when developing your profile picture:

  • Be sure your face takes up only 50 to 60 percent of the frame; don’t get too close

  • Stand at a slight angle toward the camera

  • Try several smiles – big and little – to find the most appealing look

  • A suit isn’t a prerequisite, but do dress in industry-appropriate attire

  • Be mindful of the color of the background in combination with the banner

  • Size the photo to a square 400 x 400 pixels


Your profile’s background image should be a visual representation of your professional accomplishments, goals, or industry. If there are relevant figures or images in the background, be sure the headshot on the left does not obstruct them. A simple image will always be the best choice. Be sure to preview your choice on both desktop and mobile before completing your selection. Ultimately, your personal brand goals should drive the image you select, which could include professional settings, business- or industry-related images, or word maps.

  • Use copyright-free images, professional settings, or images from a photobank

  • Select images that are relevant to the hiring audience, not your personal preferences

  • Choose images with tools, settings, or concepts that tie you to a given industry

  • If nothing fits your needs, consider a simple, abstract, or textured background

  • Size the banner to 1584 x 396 pixels (Canva is a free way to access images and create banners)


There are several ways to approach making your headline stand out. You share your position title with a thousand or more people, so a title alone won’t make your profile unique. Your LinkedIn headline is more than your current job; it’s your brand offering – a blend of how you’ve solved a company’s pain point, your accomplishments, and your unique skills. As mentioned, doing a little competitive intelligence to see what others are doing may supply some guidance.

  • Consider creating a personal tagline or brand statement that highlights your offering (samples from Influencer Marketing Hub)

  • Use one- or two-word titles and position-specific keywords that connect your expertise to prospective roles; separate them with the ‘|’ symbol or a small bullet

  • Keep the length of the headline to a maximum of 120 characters

  • Use Unicode and emojis sparingly as they are usually not readable in search engines

While each part of the LinkedIn profile is vital to promoting your skills, the quick impression created by your header will determine if people continue reading. Knowing that you only have six seconds, I hope you’re feeling motivated to make the best possible first impression with recruiters and hiring managers.


Hillary Hufford-Tucker is a "Career Solutionista," a fun way of saying that she helps growth-minded professionals discover their unique worth to craft a brand, find new employment, pivot industries, or move toward cause-oriented work. She believes there's no professional dilemma that curiosity, commitment, and courage can't overcome. Hillary supports clients' career success with resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching, job search tactics, organizational strategies, and more. Hillary holds a level two certificate in wine from the industry educator, WSET. When she's not coaching amazing clients, Hillary rides bikes, enjoys adventurous travel with her family, volunteers with her Lighthouse Rotary club, and appreciates wine and food with friends.

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