8 Dos and Dont’s of LinkedIn Profile Pictures

July 4, 2013

Your Personal Branding:

It’s a topic we have covered before precisely because we think it’s so important. Personal branding is absolutely crucial to your career development in the internet age where social interaction and networking, being able to reach out  and engage reigns supreme. Whether it’s by sprucing up your resume or getting active on Social Media, building, improving and polishing your personal brand is the absolute best way to gain attention for yourself and open yourself to new ventures, partnerships, consulting offers or job opportunities and emphasize your progressive career experience.

Something we’ve mentioned specifically with LinkedIn is to make sure to include a picture. The importance of having a good, professional-looking profile picture on LinkedIn can’t be understated. Why is it so important? It’s common sense: you’re a person, not merely a set of keywords. Your picture does give that all important first impression and precisely because humans are visual one needs to play into that. Hiring managers and Recruiters are making decisions in 5 to 7 seconds and you want to be able to quickly allow them to establish some kind of connection with you. A great picture makes it easier for them to make the leap and mentally reach out to you. A bad picture raises red flags that can be an instant impediment to you getting a call for an interview. No picture these days just looks odd.

Your profile picture should always be fresh, show character and be professional rather than personal. It should convey confidence, action – “I can get things done” and ‘person ability’  -“I’m a born leader.”

Recruiters come across hundreds of profiles a day – you would be surprised at what people think makes a good profile picture. What might seem obvious to some isn’t always as straightforward for others.

So to help you interpret what exactly “Professional” in your profile picture here’s the Dos and Don’ts to help you along. Certainly pass this along to a friend to help them build a better brand profile.

So for starters, it’s certainly more than wearing appropriate business attire in your photo (although that helps). It’s about using the right body language to convey the message of confidence. It’s the image quality of the photo itself (resolution, composition, etc.). It’s what you shouldn’tinclude in the picture. You get the idea. You don’t need a professional photographer (although it’s worth the money to get a good headshot if you can afford it), and it’s never been easier to establish your professionalism with a quality picture.

1.      DO: Use a recent photo and keep it updated – nothing worse than a photo which looks outdated. LinkedIn isn’t Facebook. You don’t want to be too much of a perfectionist, constantly curating your profile photo. But it’s all about implication: having a recent profile photo and updating it once in a while implies that you’re investing in your branding and wanting to keep things fresh. That update will come up to everyone in your network which is good.

2.      DON’T: Make it a Party photo. Many of us like to let off steam on the weekends, and hiring managers and recruiters know we all have a personal life. But photos that are obviously from a party (say a photo of you in a bar, holding a drink) send the wrong message. Avoid tank tops – they don’t translate well into professional photos – or eveningwear, bathing suits, miniskirts, tuxedos, t-shirts, or basically anything that you wouldn’t wear in a business casual or formal work environment. BTW, it’s getting much more common for companies to do a full audit of social media before they even consider hiring someone so we also recommend that one also uses caution on personal social sites so as not to have it reflect badly at any time.

3.      DO: Make Yourself Look Personable. It’s important for your profile picture to convey that you’re a real person with good character and personality.  You don’t want to look so over-serious that no one would reasonably want to work with you. Don’t be afraid to smile in your profile picture. If you have a  ‘mugshot’ for a profile picture time to change it up. Don’t send the wrong visual message that it’s like being in jail working with you.

4.      DON’T: Upload a photo with someone else cropped out. Cropping is so easy to do in photo editing software. That doesn’t mean it sends the right message in a LinkedIn picture. You might have uploaded that cropped photo because it presents you well, but a photo with someone else cropped out leaves the viewer wondering….

5.      DO: Keep it simple from a composition standpoint. That means there’s no need to include Instagram-style filters or odd camera angles. Avoid any photo that looks blurry or overexposed. Your photo should be well-lit and straightforward. The key is to avoid looking careless or unprofessional. Keep it close cropped – people are more interested in seeing you than the architecture from your last trip and then trying to squint to see you.

6.      DON’T: Have a photo that looks like it belongs on an online dating profile. You’d be surprised how often this one comes up. Your LinkedIn profile photo is all about looking assertive, confident, inquisitive, reliable, and professional. It isn’t about looking dreamy, wistful or romantic. Leave the windswept beaches and photos on horseback for OkCupid. LinkedIn is all business.

7.      DO: Feel free to include some kind of reference to your career. This is the best way to make your LinkedIn profile picture an “Action” photo. Say you’re in distribution, your photo can be yourself in a distribution centre. Say you’re an SAP wunderkind: your photo can be a screenshot of you configuring a module. Your photo can be a picture from an industry event, or you with your team. It’s not a requirement of course, but this can be an easy way to connect you with what you do. There’s no harm in a little creativity to express what you enjoy about your career.

8.      DON’T: Include children, spouses or pets: We love our animals and our families but there’s a reason why everyone with kids has photos of them on their desks at work. They’re a big part of why you do what it is you do. Your family doesn’t belong in a LinkedIn profile picture because they’re not relevant to the professional brand you want to represent. An occasional person can pull it off – in fact sometimes it shows a gentler side to a top tough executive but usually it’s not the case. Your personal and professional lives are two separate things, and your professional brand is best served if you emphasize your working self. Some other things to avoid:sporting events, bare feet, beach chairs, headwear (unless for religious reasons) and such.

There are many many outstanding profile pictures on LinkedIn. Obviously for confidentiality reasons we can’t point you in their particular direction. But take a few minutes when you can to look around LinkedIn to find some good and not so good points of reference to work from. You will definitely see what we are talking about. Follow these pointers and we can assure you of being able to determine what is the best way to put forward your best shot.

Over and Out for Now





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