Michael Cheuk LinkedIn profile screenshot

On LinkedIn? How to Create a Great First Impression

First impressions matter.

The impact of a first impression can positively or negatively influence how others relate to us in subsequent encounters.

In a pandemic world that discourages face-to-face interactions, a great first impression in this virtual age becomes even more important.

Back in March, personal business guru William Arruda gave an impactful presentation on “Social Branding” at the International Coaching Federation’s Business Development Series.

As someone who does not have a big social media presence, Arruda challenged me to revisit all my social media accounts, especially LinkedIn. 

Why LinkedIn?

Arruda encouraged participants to focus their energies on LinkedIn because he found the site to be the most helpful in expanding one’s professional impact on social media. LinkedIn is no longer just a job search and recruiting tool. It has become a place where people go to learn about you in a professional capacity, and where professionals gather to learn, grow, and create community. According to Arruda, LinkedIn is the single most valuable digital branding tool you have – besides yourself, of course.

This article reflects the lessons I’m learning from his presentation and his recently published book, Digital You: Real Person Branding in the Virtual Age, and how I’m applying those lessons to make a better first impression on my LinkedIn profile.

Your LinkedIn Profile as Your First Impression Online

Arruda challenged me to stop thinking about my LinkedIn profile as an online resume, and start seeing it as a career portfolio that highlights my credibility and likeability.

Credibility is reflected in the quality of my writing, the recommendations and endorsements from other leaders, and the helpfulness of blog posts, media and other items that demonstrate my skills.

Likeability is reflected in my approachability, authenticity, and empathy that go beyond a list of facts, accomplishments, and credentials. How I engage others in interesting and generous ways encourages them to see me as a unique contributor rather than an undifferentiated commodity.  

Arruda created a “LinkedIn Profile Type Indicator” to help his readers assess whether they are “Anemic,” “Accomplished,” “Affable,” or “Admired” in their profiles. (p. 84)

(Photo credit: https://careerblast.tv/)

You can take a free online assessment of your LinkedIn profile type here.

He then offers three big ways to move one’s LinkedIn profile towards being “Admired.”

Pro tip: Before you start making changes to your LinkedIn profile, Arruda recommends that you change your privacy options so that you don’t share every profile edit that you make. After completing all the changes to your profile, you can then toggle back your privacy option to share your profile updates to all your connections.

Make a Great First Impression with your Headshot

The first thing people see in your profile is your headshot. A credible headshot will be professionally taken and fills the frame. A likeable headshot looks straight forward and includes a smile.

Make a Great First Impression with Your Headline

After posting a credible and likeable headshot, it’s time to focus on your headline. Don’t think of your headline as just your job title. A credible and likeable headline tells people whom you serve and entices them to read more about you. Use all 120 characters in your headline to tell readers what you can do for them. Focus on what you are currently doing, not the opportunities that you’re open to pursue.

Here’s a formula that Arruda shares for an admired headline:

Be relevant + Be loyal + Be found + Be interesting + Job title + Company + Keywords + Zing.

For example, Arruda’s LinkedIn headline is “Motivational Speaker, Bestselling Author, Personal Branding Pioneer, CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer) at Reach. Cofounder of CareerBlast.TV. Helping professionals succeed by being themselves.”

Applying Arruda’s advice, I changed my LinkedIn headline to “Coach, Speaker, Community Organizer, and Facilitator. Helping faith leaders bring their best selves to bless others.”

Make a Great First Impression with your Summary

The “Summary” rounds out the “Big Three” of the most impactful elements of your LinkedIn profile. This element gives you the opportunity to make a great first impression by telling your story in the most interesting way to highlight what you are passionate about, how you deliver value, and why you do what you do.

Since people only see the first three lines of your summary in your profile (before having to click a link to read more), make those few lines compelling, intriguing and revealing of who you are.

Arruda identifies six ways that you can begin your summary to make it authentic, differentiated, and compelling.

1.     Purpose – that clarifies your mission, vision, and values

2.     Promise – that articulates the value and outcomes you bring to those working with you

3.     Punctuated List – that identifies the qualities that make you stand out from others

4.     Point in Time – a brief timeline of the highlights of your professional journey

5.     Passion – how your fervor and enthusiasm in a topic or activity translate into ways to help others succeed

6.     Provocative Phrase – that surprises and intrigues a reader to learn more about you

Pro tip: Arruda advises that you save some of your 2,000 words in your summary to include these two elements:

AKA/Common Misspellings

Include your previous names, nicknames, and all the ways people currently misspell your name at the end of your summary. This is one way for people to find your LinkedIn profile even if they have misspelled your name in their Google search.


Include keywords that describe your areas of expertise, your “superpowers,” and the keywords that you want to be associated with your profile. Arruda also suggests adding aspirational keywords related to where you want to be next.


Addressing these “Big Three” on your LinkedIn profile is an impactful first step in creating a great first impression. I’m now working on consistently creating content to post on LinkedIn, and Arruda’s book also has helpful tips in creating content —  especially video content – and building your online network and thought leadership.

How can you improve your first impression on LinkedIn?

If this article has been useful to you, please consider signing up for my periodic e-newsletter.

The International Coaching Federation is currently hosting its Business Development Series to teach coaches how to build their brand, tools, business, and platform with webinars and on-demand content released throughout 2020. You can still register for the BDS 2020 OnDemand Series here.

As part of the BDS Series, read my post on Connie Kadansky’s presentation on monetizing your coaching expertise.

William Arruda is a motivational speaker, bestselling author, personal branding pioneer, CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer) at Reach. Cofounder of CareerBlast.TV. He helps professionals succeed by being themselves. Find him at williamarruda.com.

About Michael K Cheuk

I love engaging in life-giving conversations with people and churches to make a positive difference in their lives and communities. I’m a nerdy former pastor who loves to learn, to listen, to build relationships and connections, and to inspire others to move toward their desired futures.

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