Updated: August 2020
Online professional branding has become a critical part of career management and job searching. Without an optimized online presence you are doomed to be unreachable, unfound, and miss out on great opportunities. In this blog post we will share the importance of your LinkedIn profile photo in attracting employers, why it matters, and how you can leverage your LinkedIn photo to look the part in your industry.
Why professional branding is critical for your career and job search
Online professional branding is one of those career management activities that can take relatively little time. However it does require ongoing maintenance in order to keep your brand current, relevant and aligned to your end goal. Your brand communicates who you are, what you do and whether or not you have potential to be the best person for the job. So it’s important that your branding not be left to chance.
Where to showcase your professional brand online
There are a number of ways to showcase your professional brand online. Online real estate is readily available for professional branding through personal websites, social media, and professional forums – with LinkedIn being the most essential. If you are not on LinkedIn you are missing out on countless opportunities to make new contacts in your target space. More importantly you are missing out on being found by recruiters and hiring managers.
Spend some time getting your LinkedIn profile picture right
Within Linkedin there’s one critical element of the profile that should not be overlooked: your profile photo. The profile photo, while seemingly small, is an absolute must. If you’re serious about leveraging LinkedIn for your career benefit, being camera shy is simply not an option in the world of online branding. Here’s why:
1. People are attracted to visuals. They won’t click on your profile if your picture is missing.
Much like fish, people are attracted to bright shiny objects. We like to see visuals. Hence the popularity of websites like Instagram and Pinterest. No one will be attracted to a Linkedin profile without a photo. Since being found is a huge LinkedIn benefit, you don’t want to risk being passed over once found. And yes – people won’t click on a profile without a photo. Talk about a missed opportunity!
2. People are attracted to beauty. Take the time to make your picture look sharp.
Of course having any old photo is not enough. Your online profile photo has to look good. I’m not talking “supermodel good” but rather a “high-resolution photo good.” You want to capture a clear shot of the face and a clean crop. Since the picture will be displayed in a small window on-screen, you want your photo to be zoomed in as much as possible.
Here is an example of a picture that could be stronger both in terms of resolution and crop.
3. People are interested in getting to know you online – so keep your photo solo
Recruiters and hiring managers (and others) are searching LinkedIn to find and research specific individuals. They are not so much interested in your family photo or other types of group pictures. Therefore you want to make your picture contain ONLY YOU. The other reason you want to follow this rule, is so that you don’t look like a LinkedIn newbie. You need employers to know you are tech savvy and understand the platform. When I come across a group pic, I think the opposite about an individual. Save the family pic for your Facebook page. It will be more appropriate there.
Here is an example of what I’m talking about. You can’t tell who the candidate is in this picture. It could be either person. Furthermore, it is shot from way too far away. You want to show them who YOU are!
4. People have very limited attention spans so it’s your job to capture them
As we’ve seen in user experience and design trends over the years, less is more. People are conditioned to skim when online – not read heavy chunks of text. Consider how Linkedin search results are returned: just enough to skim headlines and headshots.
It’s this that will either draw the reader into your profile or cause them to keep moving to other candidates. And for the record, having worked as a recruiter, I am guilty of passing over profiles without a photo. I have also passed by profiles with a weird or bad quality LinkedIn photo. So it’s in your best interest to get it right.
Is it vain to pass over a bad photo just because it’s bad? Absolutely! But the point is that you can’t control someone else’s actions. And oftentimes the passing of profiles is done instantaneously with little to no thought. It’s a knee-jerk reaction! You wouldn’t click on an amazon product from the long list of products if it didn’t look good in the picture. Am I right? Recruiters, employers, and everyone else work the same way.
5. People hire people so show them you are hire-able
At the end of the day, people hire people with whom they have a personal connection. You can’t establish a connection if don’t give the viewer even a glimpse of who you are. The photo works to establish that connection with a positive first impression long before you ever walk in the interview room. Your recruiter or hiring manager will feel like they know you. This in addition to a clean and complete profile will help you be perceived as a competent professional.
6. People like approachable-looking people
It’s not enough to just post a photo and walk away. Some careful thought has to be put into the type of photo and message it sends, including that of making it approachable. Think of it as a networking room. We are drawn to the person with a smile and open body language and the Linkedin photo is no different.
7. Be aware: people will make quick assumptions about you
Not having a Linkedin photo can communicate a number of false assumptions to the viewer including: “creeper,” “fake profile,” “not much to look at,” or worse yet, “not up with the times.” These wrong assumptions can be especially damaging to the fifty-plus job seeker trying to combat ageism. Don’t give anyone the opportunity to make wrongful assumptions about you. Communicate immediately that you are up with the times and you’re quite a looker at that! This is what the profile photo achieves.
Here’s how to achieve a really sharp LinkedIn photo that attracts more profile hits
Now that you know just why your profile important is so important, let’s focus on the how. Use these LinkedIn profile picture tips to achieve the perfect profile and make a stellar first impression!
1. Crop just below the shoulders or above the waist to really capture the face
Showing any more than your shoulders or waist will reduce your face size and look unprofessional in the context of LinkedIn. LinkedIn displays your photo in a circular crop so this is another reason to not crop above the shoulders; you don’t want the end result to be an extreme closeup!
Here is an example of a good below-the-shoulder crop:
Here is a good example of a tightly cropped above the waist crop:
If you do decide to crop above the shoulders or at the shoulder level, I recommend no more than this. He gets it right with his sharp background!
2. Avoid the full-body shot
Because 99.9% of people have zoomed in headshots, a full-body shot will make you look like a fish out of water. Also, you can’t get a great sense of personality.
Here is an example of a nice photo but too zoomed out – almost a full-body. While she does achieve some nice personality elements, the picture doesn’t fare well in the context of the list view of search results.
3. Ditch your friends
If you are cropping someone out of the picture (which you should) – be sure they are fully cropped. It looks unprofessional to have that creepy hand on your shoulder.
4. Don’t overlook the background
The background can add or detract from your picture as a whole. As you approach the executive level, you may seriously want to consider investing in a professional headshot. This way you can achieve that “professional headshot” type of background that really speaks volumes for executive candidates.
If you are going for a really sharp professional look, I recommend a traditional headshot blank background such as this:
I also find the blurry background and hyper-focus on the person appealing. Using a newer version of any smartphone – specifically Apple’s portrait mode, can make for a very professional-grade background.
Here is a blurred background so you can see what I’m talking about.
You will want to avoid a busy background. While many people may want to highlight their travels via their background, it can detract from the main concept you are trying to showcase: you! I don’t recommend a busy background.
Here is an example of a busy background:
You can achieve the same interesting background with a little different approach.
Here is an example of a busier background that works:
5. Match your industry “look”
People will draw assumptions about your industry or profession based on your photo. If you’re a hot-shot marketer with a stuffy, serious photo, people might not consider you a very credible marketer. (After all, marketers are fun, creative and cutting edge, right)? Skim photos of your target industry professionals and try to fit the mold when you find a vibe you want to portray to the outside world.
Here is a great example of a VP in e-commerce marketing. Notice how he achieves his executive status with a more casual suit (no tie) yet shows some marketing personality with a candid shot. Looking away from the camera won’t always work but it works in this example! And talk about approachble!
Here is a great example of a finance professional. She is very polished, with a sort of business-savvy/serious feel.
Here is a great example of an education professional. Her profile pic exudes approachability and the map in the background adds a nice touch that screams “learning environment.”
6. Be prudent when using a selfie
A selfie should only be used if it doesn’t look like a selfie. The outstretched selfie arm in the pic always looks a little be cheesy. And let’s face it, there are always people around to be able to snap a quick pic once you find the right background. Your career is worth it, right? So take the time to find someone to snap your pic.
Here is an example of a subtle selfie. You don’t know how that could influence your first impression on someone else.
The bottom line when it comes to your LinkedIn profile picture
They say “a picture is worth a thousand words” but where career is concerned maybe it’s a thousand new clients, contacts or job opportunities. Make this the year that you put your best photo forward by tackling a key piece in your online career management and professional branding.
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