Contractors, Beware Common LinkedIn Mistakes: Mark Amtower

Federal agencies often look to LinkedIn to find companies or people who can do specific tasks for them. Your best shot at standing out in the crowd is to tailor your LinkedIn page to those people. Mark Amtower discusses mistakes to avoid when selling yourself on a key government contracting platform.

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The most important moment for people browsing on LinkedIn is when they open a new profile. What they see or don’t see on that opening screen is a huge first impression.

There are basic omissions I see frequently on government contracting LinkedIn pages, seemingly small things that make a big difference. These include the opening screen shot, the “about” section, and the experience section.

Open With a Bang

The opening screen shot consists of three elements—the background area, the photo, and the headline. With the average attention span being well under 10 seconds, it is critical to get the attention of the person viewing your profile immediately. You need to convey what you do and who you do it for quickly, so if they are in your target market, they’ll continue reading.

The background area is perhaps the largest free real estate on your profile. That banner area behind your head can contain a graphic highlighting your company and what it brings to the market, a word cloud with all of your specialty areas, or some other graphical display indicating what it is that you bring to the market.

What I see more often than not is a blank background, which indicates to me that the person behind the profile doesn’t know how to leverage LinkedIn, or perhaps doesn’t care.

I’ve also seen background areas with Washington D.C. skylines, American flags, skylines of various cities around the country, boats and cars owned by the person on the profile, and other things that really don’t offer a message about what the person does.

Proper use of the background attracts people who are interested in what you offer.

The photo should be relatively simple: you, smiling in business attire. You should not use a meme, family shot, picture of you holding a fish, or something unrelated to business. You, smiling in business attire. Simple, right? Preferably its a professional headshot, not a selfie of you driving or having a drink with your friends.

The headline is the area underneath your name and if you don’t edit it, the default is your most current job title. Your job title is boring. LinkedIn will fill in this area if you don’t. So I suggest that you look at as many profiles as possible see what other people are doing with their headlines.

Here’s what happens if you stick to default mode. A federal manager likely won’t want to connect with a salesperson, business developer, or marketing person.

That person might want to connect with someone who offers assistance in data analytics for the Department of Energy.

You have 220 characters to create a headline that entices your profile viewer to connect or engage. Leaving your headline in the default mode radically reduces the likelihood of connection or engagement.

‘About’ You

The next big component is your “about” section. The big mistake is not using it at all. I’ve seen many profiles that just overlook it.

Another mistake is to use that section as a repository for elements of your resume. While this is better than a blank section, it’s boring unless you’re looking for a job.

The “about” section has 2,600 characters for you to create a first person narrative that can do several things. You can tell your story. How you got to where you are now? People love stories, and if your story is interesting and engaging, people will stay with your profile longer.

Alternatively, you can use the “about” section is to talk about what your company offers to specific audiences in the government and your role in that offering.

A successful “about” section will be written in first person, have a short paragraphs, and provide a narrative that encourages the viewer to read on.

Experience Counts

The next big mistake is to simply list your company and your job title, offering no details. The point of the experience section is to give some description about the various positions you’ve held in the market. If you leave them blank, the viewer can conclude that you didn’t do much at these companies.

Including details, even if you have already mentioned them in the “about” section, is OK. These points should include what the company does, who they do it for, and your role within it. You have 2,000 characters in the body of the text for each experience, so you have room to mention your accomplishments, special projects, and more.

Here too, write in first person and use short paragraphs.

LinkedIn is where business professionals are vetted, so it is incumbent upon you to present yourself well.

If you want to see what I consider a great profile, go here:

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Author Information

Mark Amtower is a GovCon consultant, author, radio host and LinkedIn coach. Find him at or email him at

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