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Avoid Reducing Your Career to a Pretentious Slogan on LinkedIn!

Dear Stephen, 

I was recently turned down for a job. I got the original interview visa-a-vie a friend of mine that works for one of the big companies. He told me about an opening they had in sales management, and I applied. I’m currently employed at another company, but I saw this as a chance to further my career with what I thought might be a better opportunity. 

I went through all the interview steps, continued to be told I was doing well, and was given the impression I was being made a soft offer and was going to receive an offer letter. The offer never came. Eventually, I was sent a standard rejection letter. 

I got so close! I just needed to get a better understanding as to why I was being turned down. Since my good friend is an executive at this company, he shared with me, off the record, that somebody in HR or somewhere along the interview chain was turned off by a phrase I have in my LinkedIn headline. My headline was, at the time, “Inspirational Coach and Mentor.” I’ve seen this on many different profiles; people describe themselves as “Design-Minded Influencers” or “Sales Driven Rainmakers,” and since I saw other people doing it, I assumed, what’s wrong with tooting your own horn? 

I thought the LinkedIn headline was a clever opportunity to approach a broader audience, but when my friend told me the HR department got the vibe that I had delusions of grandeur and came across as pretentious, I was stunned. Have you ever heard of this happening? 

It’s my understanding that LinkedIn today is even more important than your resume, so I want to make the best impression possible. What’s your advice on this specific situation? 


Offer Rescinded


Dear Noffer,

Your LinkedIn headline, the first content that appears under your name, is no place for a slogan written by yourself for yourself. It’s true; it can come across as self-aggrandizement, pretentious, even delusional… It’s like when I see a resume written in the third person. I appreciate that everyone wants to get across a positive impression of themselves to prospective employers, colleagues, and connections, but let your work experience speak for itself. 

Let’s call your headline what it is: a slogan. You’re creating a slogan that you think describes yourself. To me, that’s just ridiculous. 

While I’m at it, let me mention a second LinkedIn pet peeve of mine: while it is important to share and re-post positive articles that you may like, it is totally condescending to be constantly re-posting articles for your followers that are examples of leadership skills. Good leaders are outselling furniture – not constantly reposting on LinkedIn to help build their visibility amongst competitors. 

If you’re in human resources at one of the major manufacturers, or a senior executive from #MillerKnoll#Haworth#Steelcase or #HNI and you see a regional vice president or general manager constantly curating articles to repost to their connections, chances are they’re looking for a new job. 

They’re trying to build their own profile by constantly sending these out. It’s self-serving. The tie-in of this is these same people oftentimes have created slogans for themselves as well! 

Going to the root of your question: always let your work experience define who you are! And if you really feel the need to share an experience that is not well-revealed in your LinkedIn profile, there is an opportunity below the headline for you to include hashtags; pick four or five quality hashtags that can help diversify your background. This is always better than a self-written slogan. Keep it professional. LinkedIn is your first chance at the best impression; make it count and make it real. 



Stephen Viscusi is the CEO of, an executive search firm that specializes in the interior furnishings industry. Hires made through The Viscusi Group are guaranteed a one-year free replacement.