What’s wrong with your LinkedIn photo?

Is your LinkedIn photo working for or against you?

Is your LinkedIn photo working for or against you?

A recruiter, a career consultant, two lawyers and a hospital administrator are talking at a birthday party.  The career consultant (me) asks the recruiter (my friend, Maria), “What’s the most important part of the LinkedIn profile?”  And the recruiter says, “The picture.”

No joke.  Not the headline, not the summary.  The picture.  “It’s the first thing we see, and it can be a big turn on or turn off.”

It’s a shallow world after all. 

Maria’s biggest advice: make your picture as flattering as possible (but make sure it looks like you).  Recruiters and the hiring managers they work for are human.  They’re drawn to good-looking pictures of people, just like everyone else.  And they don’t like it (and LinkedIn’s search algorithms don’t like it) when there’s no picture at all.  Your photo is your first impression, your first opportunity to connect human-to-human.  Use it well.

We then talked about all the things a picture can do to turn recruiters off, and how people can make the best choices when it comes to their photo. While there are many do’s and don’ts, it all boiled down to the advice I always give my clients…

Look like the person who will show up on the first day of the job.

Consider the recent LinkedIn photo odyssey of my client, Robert.  Robert’s looking for a director level marketing position within fairly traditional companies.  When he first came to me, his photo was “guy in baseball cap who may have just climbed a pyramid in the Guatemalan jungle.”  And you couldn’t see his face well.  Adventurous, yes.  But unless he’s targeting companies with a younger, more casual culture (i.e. a startup) or an outdoor adventure brand (i.e. REI), it could throw people off.  I gave him my “look like the person who will show up for the job” advice.

Robert’s second try was worse.  He looked great, in a tux this time—and with a wineglass in one hand and his other arm wrapped around an unidentified much younger woman.  Primary rules broken: no booze; no other people; dress for the job you want.  LinkedIn isn’t Facebook.  (And by the way, if you’re in job search mode, everything on Facebook—including your profile picture—should be professional all the way.  Do you really think prospective employers won’t check you out there?)

Try three was just right.  Shirt and tie, big smile, close-up, in front of a bookcase (he’s got a publishing background).  Way to go, Robert.

And way to go, you—when your photo looks like the person who will show up on day one of your new job.

Do you have a LinkedIn photo story of disaster or triumph?  Share it below!

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