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Is Your Profile Picture Helping or Hurting Your Job Search?

Your head shot should add value – not detract from – your profile. Get back on track by fixing these common mistakes.

With today’s marketplace being so heavily influenced by the internet and social media, it’s not enough to have a well-written resume and a list of great referrals. It’s critical that every job seeker develop and actively monitor their online professional brand, including photos on their LinkedIn profile or the myriad other social-media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, etc.

It is less common for individuals to post their photo directly on their résumé (and I discourage it), but some recruiters have come to expect a picture to accompany their online professional profile. According to LinkedIn data, one’s profile is 7 times more likely to get noticed if it’s accompanied by a picture. But not just any picture. Choose your picture strategically so that it enhances, rather than damages, your professional brand.

To help, I’ve created a list of nine profile-picture pitfalls to avoid.

Too Blurry or Too Small

Take advantage of the space available by uploading a profile picture that’s at least 200px by 200px. In fact, the larger the better. Anything smaller than this minimum size will be too small which will look unprofessional. Consider choosing a square head shot, as you can use it on multiple social-media accounts.

Too Close or Too Far Away

Don’t take a selfie for your professional profile. More often than not, they tend to be too close, sometimes they distort how your face looks on the picture (at least that’s what happens when I take selfies) and it’s unprofessional. Stick with a standard head shot for your profile. Prospective employers and your professional network aren’t interested in your dental work and if it’s too far away it will be difficult for them to identify you at an event or an interview.

The Group Shot

You may love your dog, Spot, and the picture you took last Winter with your best friends at the ski lodge in Vail earned you over 100 “likes” on Facebook, but not a great idea for your LinkedIn profile. Remember, this picture is supposed to represent your professional brand – no one else’s. Don’t make recruiters guess which one you are in the photo. Use an image that shows you and only you.

To Crop or Not to Crop

Using the crop feature – even if you’re really good at it – isn’t a good idea either. While it may be your favorite picture, no one wants to see half of your dad’s face, or your sister’s hair on your shoulder. Use a solo shot that doesn’t require Photoshop.

Bad Lighting and Busy Backgrounds

A neutral, solid-colored background that’s well lit makes the best impression, as it keeps the focus on you.

Too Serious

The key is to appear approachable, which doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have a wide grin on your face, but you also don’t want to come across as too serious where you appear to be unapproachable.

Silly Expressions

Remember, this image is supposed to represent your professional brand. When you look at your profile photo, does it send the same message as your resume?

No Photo at All

As I referenced earlier, some recruiters today expect to find a head shot with your professional profile, but if you don’t have one, it’s not the end of the world. From my experience as an Executive Recruiter and from speaking with other recruiters, having a photo is a “nice-to-have,” but if you don’t have one and your general LinkedIn profile and résumé are stellar, more than likely you will still get a call if your background and experience matches the company’s needs.

If you’re concerned that including a photo could cause people to discriminate against you, carefully weigh the benefits and drawbacks of the profile photo before making a final decision. While the right image can reinforce your brand and help viewers connect more easily with your profile, at the end of the day, the decision to include a photo is your personal decision and yours alone.

Additional Best Practices

You may have gotten compliments on the picture of you when you were in your 20s, but if you are more mature, it’s ok. Use a recent headshot and consider your outfit to ensure it reflects your current professional brand and career goals. The best headshots I’ve seen are those that are professionally done with a solid background and where the individual is in professional business attire. One of the least professional I’ve seen is of the individual at a bar with his girlfriend downing a couple of beers.

Remember, having no photo is better than uploading one that doesn’t project the right image, so put some thought into the picture you choose to represent your professional brand.