As a career coach and job search specialist, I work with clients in San Diego and all over the country. A common question that my job seeking clients ask is about their LinkedIn profile and specifically their profile photo. Since most of my clients are mid-career professionals in a variety of industries, they often wonder if their photo is standing in their way of getting hired. Should I use an older picture? Do they think I’m too old or ‘overqualified’ to hire? Should I just delete my picture and sell them on my experience and merits?
Before we get into the LinkedIn profile photo elements you should consider and prioritize, let’s start with an activity that can help you understand why these are important as a job seeker.
Visit your Network page (https://www.linkedin.com/mynetwork/) and scroll down the page. As you’re looking at the photos of the profiles being suggested to you to connect with, put yourself in the role of a recruiter. Notice which profile pictures capture your attention and why? Do any of them provide you with a feeling of a connection? Do any give you a sense of trustworthiness? Do any not capture your attention and if so, why not? Which of these people, instinctively, would you want to see more of or feel you could trust?
Incorporating these best practices won’t guarantee you a job, an interview, or a connection, but they can help.
Is my profile photo current?
Our instincts may be to use that great picture we took when our hair looked great and we’re so happy on vacation. It shows that we like to let our hair down and know how to play as hard as we work. Sure, it’s 5 years old and I have a new haircut, but essentially I’m the same person. In theory, this makes sense. But, as so much of job seeking is tied to dating, use the same criteria. If you use an app to connect with a date and they show up looking different — hair color, haircut, weight, age — what would you think? Sure, their personality is the same, but by just going on the photograph they provided to represent themselves, then your first impression with them is one of distrust. This person did not represent themselves accurately and therefore, I may be less trusting of what they tell me — whether I want to be like that or not. So use a picture of what you look like now. They’re going to see you one day anyway.
Is my face featured prominently in the frame?
The rule of thumb here is that your face is the main attraction of the LinkedIn profile photo and you can ensure that by zooming in so your face is what is taking up at least 60% of the available space. Fortunately, LinkedIn’s profile photo tools provide the ability to zoom in on your image. You can access these features by going to your profile page, clicking on your photo space, then choosing ‘Edit’.
This is where you can upload and edit a photo in several ways.
Not only can you Zoom in or Straighten the photo, but you have the option to adjust the color tones of the image using the ‘Filter’.
Adjust the Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, and Vignette choices under ‘Adjust’. So upload that photo and Zoom on in!
Is my expression approachable?
Easy enough! What draws our eyes to a person, especially what you discovered in the earlier exercise? We like smiles! Same as going on that first date, which photo is drawing you in, making you feel something? Usually it’s the LinkedIn profile photos that show someone smiling — even better, showing teeth. Showing teeth helps brighten up our faces, and that’s only a positive direction. After all, this is your first impression to someone who may potentially be spending 40 to 45 hours each week with you, and it makes sense that they’d seek out the people who look like they’d enjoy their company. Smiles make a difference, so make sure you’re using a picture with a smile!
Are the clothes I’m wearing appropriate?
This is a good question to ask: what should I wear in my photo? My advice is to dress for the role you want. Wearing a suit in your photo if you’re an attorney would make sense since that’s what you’d wear to your job. ‘Dressing the part’ in your LinkedIn photo helps prospective employers envision you in the role, so give them every opportunity to continue to nod their heads as they consider and research you. But what if you’re going for a role that might require less formal clothing? Ideally, don’t wear a T-shirt in your photo or anything too casual. At the very least, go business casual — a button down shirt or a jacket with no tie or an appropriate fitted shirt or dress.
Is my LinkedIn profile photo background simple with no distractions?
This question can be answered using the activity from earlier as you reviewed a list of other people’s profile photos. Choose a nondescript background — a backdrop, a cream colored wall, something that continues to allow your face to hold the attention fully. But what if you find the best photo of yourself that is perfectly appropriate but has a background on it? You can find free online tools by Googling ‘how to remove background from image’. One example is Remove.bg. Free to use for one photo, and easy to use. Additionally, using a free account on Canva can not only help you remove the background but also add in a new one, using a simple color or pre-made backgrounds that compliment you and your coloring (skin, hair, clothing) without detracting from them. This can be a fun activity as well.
Now you know what you should consider when setting up or selecting a LinkedIn profile photo. Ask yourself these questions and if you’re answering ‘Yes’ to all of them, you’re setting yourself up for success in your job search.
- Does the picture look like them (is it current)? Y / N
- Is their face prominently featured in the frame? Y / N
- Is their expression approachable? (Smiling, showing teeth)? Y / N
- Is what they’re wearing appropriate to wear to a job? Y / N
- Is their background simple with no distractions?
Hope this helps you get the best LinkedIn profile photo you need for your job search!