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Is Your LinkedIn Profile Picture Scaring Away Potential Employers?

After my recent post that was focused on LinkedIn profile writing, I had several people follow-up with me on the subject of profile pictures – a subject that has probably given most of us pause for thought, maybe even anxiety attacks!

As a quick refresher, it’s my experience that anyone reviewing a profile on LinkedIn has one of three motives:

  • They want to be reminded of who you are
  • They want you to connect them to someone else
  • They are considering you for a role with their company

And, like it or not, the first thing they’ll see is your LinkedIn profile picture.

When it comes to any personal/professional representation – resumé, online profile, business cards, etc. – you are your own best source of research. So, do me a favor, go onto LinkedIn right now and search for a generic job title. You can earn some extra points by refining your search to people beyond your first-level connections.

Now, without reading the words, scan quickly down the list of hits. What appeals? What doesn’t? Whose profile are you most likely to click to read further?

Here’s a sample of what I got when using the search term: administrative.

LinkedIn Profile Pics

First things first, none of these people know I have pulled their profile pictures – these are public-domain profiles of people who are not in my network; if I can see the picture anyone can see the picture.

First impressions stick

If I’m looking at your picture, I’m making a first-impression assessment. And the thing about first impressions is that they stick!

There’s a rule-of-thumb in selection interviewing: that it takes 5 minutes of solid interviewing to undo 30 seconds’ worth of initial impression, and a further 30 minutes to undo that first five minutes. This is a big reason that I refuse to interview anyone for less than 30 minutes if I’m going to be involved in a hiring decision.

More often than not, on LinkedIn, you don’t even get 30 seconds. You get your profile picture, more often than not in a long, long list of profile pictures!

Even just scanning the list you pulled up, or those pictures above, you’ve already decided what ‘type’ of people these are, you’ve already begun to categorize them as stronger or weaker, as more or less capable. And here’s the thing, you don’t even have a job to consider them for! We are human beings and we are highly geared to being implicitly biased on first impressions.

So, with that in mind, I’m not going to discuss the individual pictures or rate them. Here are my takeaways from this small sample:

  1. Simple, smiling works
  2. Plain background works
  3. Professional business headshots work
  4. Professional glamour headshots not so much

Don’t be a bobble-head!

Finally, a word about those search records that come up without a profile picture. There could be many reasons for this – upload didn’t work, the photographer didn’t return your perfect headshot, the idea of putting your face online fills you with terror – but there’s a bottom line impact that, frankly, doesn’t care about the reason(s).

Scan those pictures above again. Do you feel yourself skipping over the grey bobble-heads? Do you find your eyes drawn to the photographs?

At minimum, not having a picture on your profile means you have less impact in a list of search results and, at worst, there’s a possibility that a human reviewer has reached the biased conclusion – on your name, one-line, etc. – that you have something to hide.

To profile pic, or not to profile pic…

The answer, like it or not, is that if you’re on LinkedIn, you should have a profile picture. It should represent you the way you want to be represented to people who don’t know you. Anything else is a distraction. As with writing a strong profile, there are 3 rules:

  • Keep it simple
  • Keep it specific
  • Keep it focused

Though, in the case of photographs, that third rule becomes even more important!

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About the Author Vincent Tuckwood

Vincent Tuckwood is an independent coach and consultant, focused upon helping people, teams and organizations achieve lasting change. A Brit now based in Waterford, Connecticut, Vince is a veteran of a 20-year transatlantic career which he happily left behind to go independent in 2009. You can read more about his business, music and writing at The View Beyond and connect with him on Noomii

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