Disclosure upfront: A professionally taken profile picture for LinkedIn can be a super powerful part of your profile. I admit that I do not necessarily follow my own advice on this one, but further down I will explain why that is the case.
The profile image of a LinkedIn profile is a very powerful portion of your profile, but then maybe not. I am still surprised how many people are able to totally destroy their LinkedIn profile by using a profile image that is just not appropriate.
First, let’s have a look at some random LinkedIn profile images.
I think you get idea of what is wrong with these profile images. They are simply not a good option. While it is OK to a certain degree to use headshots as profile images that are not professional in style, the images shown above are useless and do more harm than good. They are either too small to properly show the person’s face or they are simply not a good option for a professional networking website like LinkedIn. They may seem to be a good fit for Facebook, but definitely not LinkedIn.
About a year ago I saw a women using a picture of her in her undies. When I looked at her profile she was trying to advertise a weight loss solution through her personal business. While I am sure it might be OK to show before and after pictures of weight loss success on her website, it does not fit well on LinkedIn. I could not find that specific profile anymore, but I found this one:
This would definitely make for a lasting impression, right?!
Again, it is alright to use decent looking head-shot pictures for your profile that shows you during your free time, but please use common sense. The purpose of the profile image is to “sell” yourself to a recruiter or hiring manager. They want to see your face so that they eventually feel positive about you and it helps to draw (professional) attention to your LinkedIn profile.
Note: I blurred out any faces on the images above where needed. I simply assume those people do not know better – using those images here is not about judging them, but to help you do it better.
When using a regular picture for LinkedIn, make sure not to use images with “red eye syndrome” –you probably know images where the flash is being used and your eyes show up in a devil-ish red color. Don’t do that. It’s almost better to not have a picture uploaded in that case.
Which brings me to the next point. Having no picture at all pretty much tells any recruiter or hiring manager that it is not worth looking at your profile anyway. No profile image = why bother!? The assumption would be that the rest of your profile is of the same quality and recruiters don’t have time to waste.
Having a decent profile image is one of the major keys to success. An engaging and nice looking profile photo creates a personal relationship with the visitors to your profile. Managers and recruiters will see you as friendly and professional. If you show up like this in the search results they will be more likely to click through and read more about you. You might end up being contacted for a job or business opportunity.
Below is how my profile shows up in the search results. I do not always using a professional headshot for my profile, but you can tell that hiring managers and recruiters can easily see my face. I need to do some split testing with a professional headshot to see if it makes any difference in my field (Information Technology). I can tell you that I always receive a decent number of unsolicited job inquiries and job opportunities coming in all the time and my profile picture seems to be acceptable.
In other industries and areas of interest this will be different, and in general I would recommend that you use a more professional profile image to further increase your chances of being selected as a potential candidate. This becomes especially true for executive level positions. I work in IT (Information Technology) and maybe things are a bit more relaxed in this field than in others. If you have any doubts, or are applying for higher positions, then go with a more professional image. In those cases, I recommend that you work with a professional photographer for best results.
Extra Tip: This is not necessarily based on something LinkedIn put into writing, but rather on search engine related information. Over the years, search engines have used many different pieces that make up the algorithm. The search engine algorithm is the secret sauce – it is what makes the search results good or bad.
Search engines use keywords (as you already know) as part of their algorithm. LinkedIn is a kind of a search engine because in the end when somebody searches for a job or for a job candidate it responds with search results (of job seekers or jobs).
Based on what we know now it makes sense to treat LinkedIn like a search engine and that applies to your profile picture. Let’s say you are a tax accountant in Chicago. Before you upload your picture to LinkedIn, rename it to tax-accountant-chicago. By doing this you are adding additional keywords to your LinkedIn profile. This extra step could eventually make a difference and it does not require much effort to rename the image. Of course LinkedIn will neither confirm nor deny, but that is OK. Since it only requires very little effort on our side, let’s just do it.