The dos and don’ts of LinkedIn profile pictures

By Robert Half on 16 April 2014

LinkedIn may be a social network, but that doesn’t mean your LinkedIn profile should be a window into your social life.

There are no cat videos to be shared here. The latest Justin Bieber meme is not an ideal LinkedIn update. And I’d think twice before posting that rant about your ex from high school.

LinkedIn is a professional, business-oriented community – the pin-striped suit to Facebook’s Hawaiian shirt. You wouldn’t bring a slab of beer to a manager’s meeting, make family phone calls within earshot of the CEO or discuss your partying exploits in a job interview. LinkedIn requires the same professional etiquette.

And this definitely extends to your choice of profile photo.

Professional appearance

The prime audience for your LinkedIn profile should be industry colleagues, potential employers and recruiters. So have this audience in mind when choosing your pic.

If your first instinct is to choose a photo that would impress your mates, then you’re in the wrong place. Skip over to Facebook and post it there.

Your profile pic should suggest “reliable, dependable, employable”. That means you shouldn’t be holding a beer, cuddling a koala or sunning on the beach.

It might not mean a three-piece suit and an office background, either. Different industries have different expectations when it comes to presentation. So consider how you would present yourself for a job interview in your ideal role.

Accountant? Get out the suit and tie. Graphic designer? Maybe ditch the jacket and tie but keep the smart shirt. You should know what’s appropriate attire for the workplace culture in your chosen profession.

The headshot

Size matters. Your profile pic may look great when viewed full sized, but most people will view it as a much smaller thumbnail.

So forget the full body photo. No matter how great you look in that outfit, it will be barely discernible when shrunk down to a minuscule 60 x 60 pixels.

Like the shampoo, it’s all about the head and shoulders. Any more of you in the photo will reduce the available real estate in that tiny square for your face to be recognisable.

This is also why you should avoid busy backgrounds, other people or pretty much anything else sneaking into the frame. A plain, light background helps you stand out clearly and make a strong statement.

Style and a smile

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for a headshot to turn out looking like the blandest of passport photos – or worse, a police mug shot.

Relax. You can smile. Personality is as important to employers as skills and experience. So it’s good to choose a photo that makes you appear likeable and approachable rather than one that looks like you should be holding up a board with your prisoner number.

Stay current

Like dating sites, it isn’t cool to post that 10-year-old photo when you were 15 kilos lighter and had more hair. That’s why it’s a good idea to update your photo every now and then, making it easier for people to recognise you without appearing deceptive.

After all, if your goal is to network with potential employers in the hope of snagging an interview, they’re going to meet the real you anyway.

The right profile pic can help your profile considerably to make the right impression, so it’s worth spending a bit of time to get it just right.

For more advice on LinkedIn, read our article on Are you LinkedIn or left out? 11 tips for online networking.

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