We need to talk. It’s about your LinkedIn Profile Pic…

As a hiring professional I’ve had to develop a strong sense for what employers like to see in a person they would consider for a job. LinkedIn is a source that employers check, and the profile photo ranks among the prime zones for first impressions. In the hiring domain where first impressions are so crucial, your profile photo may have a direct effect on your interview and income potential. I’ve assembled a few recommendations for you.

Have One

Yes, it’s that easy! Put a photo of yourself on your profile page. Having a photo differentiates you as a unique human being, and not just another random, impersonal profile likely made by the robots that one day intend to enslave humanity. To further clarify, unless you sport a corporate tattoo on your face, avoid using a logo in its place. A few exceptions exist to the “must have” rule. For example, many active members of law enforcement legitimately need to conceal identity.

Target Audience

Messages are meant for a specific audience; if in doubt just ask professional writers and marketing experts. Certainly you’ve heard the axiom, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In this case, the profile photo sends a visual message to a professional network, not an informal social group. Yes, innumerable other LinkedIn Influencers have repeated this mantra so much that it is an ideal case-study for the idiom, “beating a dead horse.” But since so many people still ignore their good advice, it’s my duty to bludgeon that proverbial deceased equine once more. Use a professional-looking photo!

What does that look like? Well, I’m glad you asked. Keep these in mind:


1. Background

In a professional venue, the background should be appropriate for the occupation.

It’s remarkable how many tavern photos I see in the profiles of non-bartenders or bouncers. However, if your professional reputation hangs on your ability to inebriate your clients, then maybe this is a suitable photo for you.

Many people use a picture taken from inside a car. Why? Please explain this one to me. Is it an emphasis of a status symbol? If so, this would be better done from outside the vehicle where those prestigious BMW or Ferrari badges appear. A picture including a car in the background makes the most sense for a person in the automotive industry. Captions for, “Yeah, I designed/built/repaired that” are optional. No really, don’t use captions.

Also keep in mind that no one wants to see a safety engineer grinning in front of a fiery car wreck.

2. Facial Expression

The other day I received a networking invitation, and so I checked the person’s profile. An immediate sense of numbness blanketed me as I looked upon a blank expression and eyes devoid of life. Perhaps you’ve experienced this moment too. On a networking site it makes sense to show yourself to be the kind of person other people might like to know. A little warmth goes a long way.

Smiling and direct eye contact work wonders to break down social barriers, create a sense of interpersonal warmth, and make a person look both confident and approachable.

Exceptions exist here too. Members of the military and other serious professions such as finance may want to convey a certain gravitas appropriate to jobs in which people expect to see the sober-minded.

3. Attire

We already know that clothing choices can reveal things about a person—sometimes too much. Why would the LinkedIn setting be any different?

Another point to remember—costumes are not the best choice if you subscribe to the philosophy of dressing for the job you want rather than the one you have.

4. Cropping

Is a close-up or panoramic photo better? Let’s think about this. If no one can see your face, then how do they know if it’s really you? Conversely, do you want people to be able to count each facial pore? Find the happy medium. A head-and-shoulders photo is a safe choice.

5. Era

Have you ever met someone who looked nothing like the profile photo? This practice bears the social stigma of false advertising without the legal consequences. It’s time for an update if you still use a photo from two decades past. An interview could get very interesting in a bad way if an employer feels that you have intentionally misrepresented yourself.

6. Method

It’s time to address the dreaded “selfie.” Its rising popularity has not yet removed the narcissistic stigma attached to the practice. Unless you are an expert who can keep a self-taken photo from looking like one, then have someone else snap a picture of you. Even better, find a professional photographer.

7. Individuality

Some leeway exists for individual/artistic expression, especially in eccentric fields. I’ve admired a creative marketing person reading to a statue, shaken my head at an unexplained clown pic, and laughed when I saw a defense industry pro rodeo-riding a replica of the A-bomb complete with hat-in-hand above his head. Some like to make the photo more personal by showcasing a favorite hobby like rock climbing. Be smart about what you use. A base-jumping profile photo for a life insurance salesman is probably unwise in both the vocational and legal senses.


Using these tips will help you represent yourself well on LinkedIn and other social media sites that potential employers can check. I invite you to leave comments below if you have more recommendations!

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Dan Curtis
Dan Curtis

About Dan Curtis

Dan joined Altair ProductDesign in 2013 as a Technical Recruiter for Client Site Services. He uses his 10 years of recruiting experience to connect people to opportunities for career growth. Dan works in the business development side of the team where attention to detail matters due to the great number of niche roles in need of the right personnel. He enjoys coaching people in job transitions and writing. He attained a Bachelor of Science degree in English through Rochester College.