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Why your profile picture is holding you back!

profile picture

What kind of profile picture is this?

Yes, your profile picture matters:  

Pay attention to your profile picture.  Whether you are looking for a position or happily employed, pay attention to this piece of the puzzle.  LinkedIn is one of the first places recruiters and hiring managers to check after looking at a resume or hearing about a candidate and at a subconscious level, these decision makers want to see what you look like. It is the first impression you will make online and you don’t want to blow it. For this reason, I always recommend that we make it easy for the recruiter to see what you look like and list a link to your LinkedIn profile at the top of the resume along with your contact info. I would rather see your LinkedIn profile vs. your street address. I am going to look at your LinkedIn profile to make it easy for me. I am NOT going to send you anything via snail mail.  

I am not talking about the obvious:

  • Your Facebook photo’s showing you hung over at a college party
  • In an embarrassing situation with half-naked friends 

These are the obvious job stoppers and I am not here to lecture you about this faux pas.  I will leave that to your significant other and parents.  I am talking about are the basics.  If you have a Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Skype, or any other profile picture, don’t just use it appropriately, leverage the opportunity and use this space effectively.

Whether a recruiter will admit it or not, they all look at the profile picture of candidates on the internet.  With the advent of LinkedIn and Facebook, can you blame them?  I may not have your picture top of mind when I go to your LinkedIn account, but there is nothing more frustrating than searching for the background on someone and then find the following on the profile:

  • The profile picture is absent with nothing but an empty silhouette: This tells me that you haven’t taken the time to finish a project, have something to be embarrassed about, or you just don’t care.  If the rest of the profile is filled out then this is an obvious miss.  
  • Use of a cartoon avatar for your profile picture, specifically on LinkedIn.  What is this??  This is your PROFESSIONAL profile.  This is not a forum for clown school.  Professionals are searching and viewing your profile, consequently, they come to this site with a specific mentality.  
  • Caricature of yourself on their blog.  Unless you are an artist, or in a creative field, avoid this move.
  • Profile picture of you that is dated or a picture of you that isn’t focused.  This is your professional image, treat it as such.  This should be the picture that you would put on your company web page.  In this day and age of high-definition camera’s, there really is no excuse to present a less than professional image.
  • You are standing in front of some tourist attraction. Usually, these pictures are thumbnail size, so getting your face AND a tourist attraction in there is tough. I didn’t hit this page to see the Eiffel Tower or you in Pike Place Market park.  I came to see you!  Use these pictures on Facebook to show the personal side of your life.

It is common knowledge that recruiters and execs go to these pages to get a feeling for who someone is. It is probably not a recruiters number 1 goal to figure out what you look like, but it sends a distinct message when the picture is absent. Even if you are gainfully and happily employed, you may be a potential customer, a potential vendor, or a potential recruit that a company may be going after. Your picture just greases the wheels to you becoming any of the above or a networking target. You may be happily employed, you may be self-employed, but if you are in the business of networking, you need appropriate pictures.

If you are not able to be found in the year 2015 the message you are sending is that you probably have something to hide, or you don’t want to be found.  Hmmmmm.

So, how do you present yourself?

  • LinkedIn should be a professional picture.  A headshot where your face fills the frame.  Smile if you can.  Think of this picture as what may be used on a company website.  Professional and appropriate dress for your industry.
  • Facebook, in my opinion, is an opportunity to show off some of your personality.  If you like hiking, and your picture was taken on a mountain, perfect.  If you are a wine drinker, a picture of a glass of Red wine won’t cut it, even if the glass is Riedel cut glass, and the wine is vintage. Get your face in there with a smile.
  • Blog:  yes, you do need the obligatory headshot here.  A lot of recruiters these days are looking for blogs when they go to LinkedIn.  I recently saw a blog where the writer went to one of those instant picture booths found in an arcade and took his pictures there with some serious and not so serious pictures.  The caption literally read “obligatory headshots”.  I got the feeling he didn’t want to do it but figured out a way to make it his own.  (yes, I am behind a mask in my headshot here, but I NEED to work in this town)
  • If I go to your website and the first thing I see is your headshot smiling into my face taking up a majority of the page, I will get a little creeped out.  The profile picture with a link to the “About” page is perfectly acceptable and drives interest.  Keep it simple.
  • For LinkedIn, have a friend with a high def camera go out and take a minimum of 20 pictures.   30 is better.  Don’t be embarrassed.  This is your brand and your image.  All it takes is time.  Pick the best.  Avoid taking 2 pictures and picking one.  You want to present the best that you have, and picking from 2 is VERY different from picking from 20 or 30.  They will all look very similar, but 1 or 2 WILL jump out at you.  We all took 1 single picture for the yearbooks in high school and look what happened.  No professional photographer takes one shot of their model and says “OK folks, that’s a wrap”
  • Keep the pictures recent.  There is nothing worse than seeing a picture and then meeting the older sister or older brother version.  If you went on a date, would you want to see the 10 years younger version???
  • Avoid pictures of you with your friends/family and BFF.  This is YOUR profile picture.  Am I supposed to be able to figure out who is who and what is what???  Whose profile picture is this???

There is plenty of advice on how to frame a picture, my point is to make sure you frame it.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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