As recruiters we spend a lot of time on LinkedIn while researching candidates and job seekers.  One of the first items that grabs our attention is a candidate’s profile photo, not because we specifically look for it but simply because images are more noticeable than text.  The photo you use creates a first impression for anyone looking at your profile.  This first impression is no different than the first impression you strive to make as you enter a room or arrive for an interview.  The old saying “You don’t get a second chance at a first impression” is as important online as it is in person.

In today’s world the prevalence of smartphones and digital cameras means there is no excuse for not having a professional looking photo.  It can be a photo a friend has taken or it can be one that was professionally done.  Use a neutral or non-distracting background and dress for the impression you are trying to achieve.  Business or smart casual attire is fine, but it should be appropriate for your profession.  Be sure to take the time to prepare a professional first impression just as you would to develop a professional resume.

So here are a few suggestions on what not to do:

  • Don’t use a cropped photo.  Cropped photos tend to be distracting and show you didn’t take the time to do it right.
  • Don’t use a group photo.  The photo should be of you and only you.
  • Don’t use photos from casual, social settings.  A photo of you from a recent picnic or party may look good on Facebook but does not instill a sense of professionalism on LinkedIn.
  • Don’t use wedding photos.  You may look great but a tuxedo or wedding gown is not exactly the professional image you are trying to achieve.
  • Don’t use a low quality or low resolution image.  Pixelated photos are distracting and can hint at a lack of technical ability or attention to detail.

So this leads to the question, do you really need a profile picture?  It depends.  I will suggest it’s better not to have one than to have an unprofessional photo.  Without a photo it simply leads us directly to your profile text.  We care more about the substance of your profile, your experience and your accomplishments than we do whether you have a photo.  However, your industry and profession is also a consideration on whether or not to use a photo.  In any sales related fields a profile photo is a must.  Your LinkedIn photo and profile are an advertising and sales tool, no different than a business card in that you want to be remembered and recognized.

The suggestions above are simply my observations based on reviewing dozens of profiles a day.   The subject may seem a bit shallow but it is a consideration if you are using LinkedIn as a career tool.  A simple web search for “linkedin profile photo tips” will yield millions of results so there are plenty of resources available to help you develop and post an appropriate photo.  Here are a few suggested links to help with putting together a professional LinkedIn profile photo:

Make the Most of Your LinkedIn Profile Picture from Rich Harrington on PicMonkey.

5 Tips for Picking the Right LinkedIn Profile Picture from Lydia Abbot on LinkedIn.

 7 Tips to Make Sure Your LinkedIn Picture Is Helping, Not Hurting, Your Prospects from Harrison Monarth on Entrepeneur

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What Does Your LinkedIn Profile Photo Say About You?