The Psychology of a Resume vs a LinkedIn Profile

resume-linkedinLike it or not, your resume and LinkedIn profile are a direct reflection of you. Beyond the words, what do they say about you? They are two distinct documents that must be written with two different frames of mind. Take time to understand the difference because that is a major key to standing out from your competition, and to persuading readers to reach out for an interview.

When working with executives on their job search, two of  the biggest barriers are:

  1. Their LinkedIn profile is a copy and paste from the resume. During the early days of LinkedIn, it was acceptable for your LinkedIn profile to be a carbon copy of your resume. Heck – you were considered hip and cutting edge for even having an account! Fast forward almost two decades and everything has changed. If someone is curious about you, they want to check you out before engaging you in a way that maintains their anonymity. So, they will research you via Google, LinkedIn and Facebook.
  2. They don’t believe in social media. Today LinkedIn boasts well over 400 million users and is THE #1 site used by recruiters to find talent before asking for a resume and to learn as much as possible about someone after seeing a resume. You may not believe in it or be on it, but the companies looking to hire are online, and so is your competition. You do the math.

How Are the Two Different?

Your LinkedIn profile indeed communicates much of the same type of information found on your resume—Experience, skills, education, certifications, associations, etc. And the resume and LinkedIn profile should both communicate the same well-defined executive brand, as well as other marketing collateral such as your cover letter or executive bio. However, creating a carbon copy of your resume demonstrates a very narrow understanding of the multifaceted tool that LinkedIn is.

LinkedIn is critical for conducting an effective job search, and it is a powerful networking tool—your LinkedIn profile should be crafted with this important difference in mind.

And guess what? Your resume will probably NOT be your first introduction to recruiters and hiring managers. Studies show that in this day and age, the vast majority of them social recruit. This means that they source and assess candidates through LinkedIn, Google search, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media before even considering seeing your resume.

If you don’t have a strong and novel online presence providing them with sufficient on-brand information supporting your value proposition, you will most likely face a prolonged job search. The same is true if your online footprint is negative or distasteful. All things being equal – experience, skills, certifications, qualifications, education, etc. – those executives with a strong online presence are the ones who are noticed and chosen over those who don’t.

Understanding how a resume differs from your LinkedIn profile, and the psychology behind it, is key to differentiating yourself from a sea of prospects:

Difference #1: A resume, done properly, captures the breadth of your experience in two to three pages, but a LinkedIn profile is much more professionally permissive. 

The problem with a resume is that this is very restricting for those, especially with expansive experience. As such, when they write it on their own, they tend to list everything to where it’s all over the place, difficult to read, and wordy which quickly loses a reader’s attention. A good rule of thumb, the drier and more painful it is to read, the less likely it will be.

On the other hand, the modularity of LinkedIn allows you to feature more expansive and more dynamic content such as detailed descriptions of projects, recommendations from others, blog posts, a profession video bio, or SlideShare presentations that demonstrate your expertise. These are features that only LinkedIn provides that you should use to your advantage.

The modularity allows you to personalize yourself in unique and novel ways. The brain reacts to novelty by releasing dopamine. New stimuli give you a little rush of motivation to explore because it makes you anticipate a reward. The more novel your profile, the more motivated people are to explore more of you in hopes of finding the right fit.

Difference #2: Your resume is and should be formal, but LinkedIn is first and foremost a social platform. 

Let’s face it, most resumes are conservative, fact-based documents written such that the “I” pronoun is omitted, which makes it impersonal to some extent. The language should be clean, crisp, clear and brief. Your LinkedIn profile should be written in a more informal and conversational tone and share a different dimension to your story that a resume can’t reflect.

LinkedIn, like Facebook is a SOCIAL platform. However, unlike on Facebook where your audience might be young adults, on LinkedIn, your audience will be partner organizations, companies, and professionals. How you speak to these audiences will, therefore, differ on each platform. In this example, your tone of voice on Facebook might be warm, friendly and informal. On LinkedIn might be more formal, but warmer. So, your LinkedIn should fall somewhere between being professional like a resume, but somewhat conversational like Facebook. Think of your LinkedIn summary as the chance to chat with your readers. Therefore, write the way you’d speak! Your LinkedIn profile can be written from a first-person narrative. It not only allows your personality to show through but also enhances an employer’s understanding of who you are rather than wasting their time with copy and pasted content. The problem is, most job-seeking executives have a story but don’t know how to tell it in a compelling way that communicates the value they bring to the table.

Difference #3: Your resume is intended for a specific audience, while your LinkedIn audience is much more diverse. 

A resume is distributed and reviewed by recruiters, hiring managers and interviewers for specific employment opportunities. But, a LinkedIn profile may be read by everyone within your professional realm (and beyond) such as current and former colleagues, potential employers up and down the chain of command, vendors, current and potential clients, suppliers you may be negotiating with, attendees of a talk you’ve given, or readers of one of your publications. Therefore, you want to be very purposeful with the message you are communicating and who will be receiving that message.

The problem is, most job seekers are still gainfully employed. They don’t know how to craft a discrete message that invites a job opportunity conversation but also doesn’t alert your current employer, clients or vendors of your intentions. Furthermore, if you’re dissatisfied, anxious, distressed, burnt out, etc, your language, even written, has distinct markers that could convey the undertones of your emotions. Just like how body language, regardless of how subtle, affects our communication. If you’re feeling any sort of negativity in your writing, regardless of how subtle, you could unknowingly be turning people off. It’s best to get a professional second opinion to ensure this isn’t happening.

Difference #4: Your headline in your resume serves a different function in your LinkedIn profile. 

In your resume, your headline is your brand statement. This should showcase from a 30,000 ft. level the problem you solve and how you solve it. It can be industry-specific or industry-agnostic. Harness the power of novelty here as well!

On your LinkedIn profile, your headline should be keyword searchable. The problem is, most executives struggle with crafting a succinct and strong brand statement. Furthermore, on LinkedIn, most people check the box that makes your headline default to your current job title, include the name of their company, and/or don’t maximize the allotted space. Instead, incorporate keywords that will optimize you to be found by the right hiring manager or recruiter in the right industry, location, position, etc who would be searching for someone like you.

Difference #5: Your resume summary section should be short and sweet, but your LinkedIn About section should be maximized to the fullest. 

In your resume, keep the summary section short and sweet. It should be a succinct, three or four-line paragraph that gives the reader an idea of what the story is about and compels them to read more. It should also tie into your headline mentioned earlier. This section should consist of your top three, most compelling value propositions or your competitive differentiators that you are counting on to win. The problem is, most people don’t know what their value propositions are. More often than not, their strongest value proposition ends up being themes and patterns that link back to their childhood. These value propositions are completely out of their awareness because they’ve never done a deep dive into the totality of their life. Nor can they in an unbiased and objective way. Furthermore, when done properly with someone who is objective, there’s much more to you than three and they don’t know how to position it into a concise story and brand.

Lucky for us, LinkedIn is much more expansive. The About section offers 2000-characters to work with. I recommend maximizing this to the fullest extent! A great LinkedIn profile summary is written like a conversation gives the reader a sense of who you are, and how and why you’re an ideal fit. You also have the luxury to include richer examples of accomplishments, career highlights, a brief list of ideal skills, and on-target, industry keywords.

The key is having a strong story and narrative about yourself that engages the brain. Well written stories hook a reader’s attention with tension. This engages the brain through the release of cortisol. Well written stories also gain empathy, and they create relatability and an emotional bond that releases Oxytocin. Great narratives that harness these neurochemicals will influence your reader’s brain long after they’ve seen your profile. 

In sum, your resume and LinkedIn profile are two distinct documents. While neither will guarantee that you find a job, having a professional and well-written resume and LinkedIn profile will at least put you in a position to win when the right opportunity comes up.  

Taking time to ensure your headline, summary, tone, and message of your LinkedIn profile is different from your resume is key to standing out from your competition, and to persuading readers to reach out for an interview! Your resume is a more concise and relatively confidential job-search tool, while your LinkedIn profile is a highly public networking tool. It allows for more expansive content, and if optimized correctly, the platform rewards you for it. And perhaps most important, it gives potential employers something new to learn about you when they visit your profile—something that will add to the strength of your candidacy.

Jade Goodhue

Jade Goodhue

Jade Goodhue has served in the United States Marine Corp as a company commander, a logistics officer, and a black belt martial arts instructor, as well as completed two combat tours to Iraq. In 2008, she earned her Six Sigma green belt while running Battalion-level Logistics in Iraq. After transitioning from the Marine Corps, she gained a myriad of financial sector experience. She worked her way up from a trader to the director of operations at a financial trading and education firm. During that time, she specialized in trading psychology. She now coaches on leadership development, as well as changing, developing, and sustaining an organizational culture. Jade holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and a Minor in Japanese from the United States Naval Academy. She is also earning her Master of Liberal Arts in Organizational Psychology from Harvard Extension School.

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