If you are between the ages of 25 and 55, then chances are, you probably already have a LinkedIn Profile. And chances are, you probably don’t think about it very often, unless you are job hunting (in which case, you may be updating your profile almost daily.)
Most people only update their work experience or skills when they revise their LinkedIn profile. More savvy B2B folks find ways to optimize their LinkedIn profile so that they rank higher in the LinkedIn Search results. Others may ask for recommendations from former coworkers or clients. But how much time and thought did they put into their LinkedIn profile photo? My guess is most people have not thought about their photo since the day they uploaded it. How many times have you changed your photo?
LinkedIn has published guidelines for profile photos, but unless you are posting your company logo, your tagline, your favorite animal, or landscape, they will pretty much accept any photo as long as you are in it. If you break their easy-to-meet guidelines three times, they supposedly will not let you upload any more profile photos. However, I have seen some profiles of people who somehow got around this rule, and have a pet as their profile photo. My guess is they uploaded the photo before the rules were created or enforced, and now they are essentially ‘grandfathered in’ (or would it be, ‘grandfather-Linked-In’?)
Remember that the FIRST thing someone sees when you show up in a LinkedIn search, or “People You May Know”, is your photo, and those first impressions count! Yet for most people, the profile photo is the LAST thing they worry about! So what kind of photo makes a good LinkedIn profile photo? What makes for a bad one?
Here is my short list of Do’s and Don’ts of LinkedIn profile photos:
1. DON’T use your wedding photo, or a photo someone took of you while you were attending someone else’s wedding. These are far too common and very easy to spot. Will you be wearing that tuxedo or strapless dress to your next interview? Dapper!
2. DO yourself a favor and get a professional headshot taken at least once every 5 years. No one likes meeting an older version of you after they saw the younger you online. Request a full color headshot and a black and white version of the same photo. Beyond your LinkedIn profile, its good to have “your best face” on hand for other reasons like company newsletters, bylined articles, online dating sites, obituaries … “you never know when you are going to go” is my motto. Might as well be ready for it.
3. DON’T use a photo that is obviously a cropped photo of you and someone else. This is just as common as the wedding photos and drives me berserk! Just because you were wearing a tie that day does not mean you look professional. You look sweaty! And if you are going to crop out other people, you should also crop out that drink in your hand.
4. DO make sure to smile in your LinkedIn profile photo. Just like dating sites, people on LinkedIn want to work with happy people. Save your Resting Bitch Face for after you get the gig.
5. DON’T keep your profile photo blank. If you don’t have a profile photo yet, then you probably should not have a public profile yet either. No one wants to work with a ghost. Plus, without a photo, how can the people you have previously worked with know that its actually you, and not someone pretending to be you?
6. DO include other items in your profile photo that are relevant to your career. For example, if you are an audio engineer who typically works at concerts, then a photo of you standing next to a huge audio mixing console certainly adds value to your online resume. It says “yes, I have done this before, so I am qualified”. Or if you are a bowling coach, its okay to have bowling ball in hand.
7. DON’T wear sunglasses. Hey, I understand where you are coming from: I think I look better in sunglasses too, but its not appropriate on a professional networking site. Your eyes are the window to your soul, and by wearing sunglasses, you just closed the shades. The one exception to this would be if the person was visually impaired, or if they wear prescription glasses that transition to sunglasses in sunlight. Also, if you use a photo taken outdoors, make sure your face is clearly visible. Oftentimes, outdoor photos have too much contrast between the sunlight and shadows.
8. DO wear something that resembles what you would typically wear to your job on a day to day basis. No wedding dresses, no hats, no tie-dyed shirts, no sports attire. I don’t care how much you love your team; there are people on LinkedIn who do not. Why jeopardize your career just because you are still bitter that the Hartford Whalers moved to North Carolina in 1997, and left Connecticut without any major sports team? Not cool, Whalers!
9. DON’T have a coworker, friend, or family member take a photo of you using their mobile phone camera, standing in front of a wall or a tree. Unless you are the photogenic type, these types of photos will never be as good as a professional headshot. AND NO SELFIES. NO EXCEPTIONS.
10. DO make yourself stand out, but be careful: this can be a double-edged sword. You may be wearing a t-shirt that says something funny in your photo, but others may not get the joke. Better to use a photo from that time you went sky diving, or snorkeling. These types of “adventure photos” will create instant conversation when you connect with someone new on LinkedIn. Photos of you receiving an award also show you are valuable.
Hopefully by now, you ‘get the picture’. By putting a little extra time, effort, and yes, a little money into your LinkedIn profile, you will be sure to be putting your best business face forward, and your online resume will be much more professional. First impressions are everything, and online, that impression is limited to your profile photos.
Additional advice on LinkedIn:
If we are not yet connected on LinkedIn, here is my profile: