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I received a request from a newsletter subscriber asking me to critique four photos that she was hoping to narrow down to one for her professional LinkedIn profile. As a corporate image consultant, when I saw them, I cringed.
Two photos were full body shots where you couldn’t really make out her face, so those weren’t good. The other two were head shots; but in one she was very serious (which made her seem cold and standoffish) and in the other she was looking up and away from the camera (like she was trying to remember something).
On top of this, all of them had a distracting background of her office with mucho clutter all around her. They didn't make her look like the friendly competent professional she was.
LinkedIn is all about your professional brand. Sure it's like your CV but it’s not just the words that should show you at your best. These days LinkedIn is often people’s first impression of you and you know how big we are on making a good 1st impression.
Like or it or not, people form immediate impressions of you, about the level of your professionalism and competence based on that single photo.
So below are some LinkedIn photo tips and advice
on how to avoid common mistakes that I’ve seen so many professionals make:
Not including a photo implies that you have something to hide and may suggest you’re not confident in your appearance. I’ve also seen photos where only the eyes are visible or where the individual is looking out at the distance and not directly at the camera which can make you seem aloof or distracted. Include a photo and make sure to look directly at the camera.
While profile shots or body shots with arms crossed or on your hips may work for magazine photo shoots, headshots are best for LinkedIn. We recommend hiring a photographer that specializes in portraits. This investment in yourself is worth it.
Avoid vacation shots, with beaches or bars in the background or cartoon images (or a cluttered desk). An executive I know was pictured sporting sunglasses, his baseball cap backwards, a five o’clock shadow and clutching a drink (not too different from our photo'd friend above). Luckily you couldn’t even make out who he really was. Maybe that was a good thing?
If you are in a more conservative industry don’t wear clothing that is too tight or too revealing. And yes, I have seen some LinkedIn profile photos of topless men. Unless you’re a lifeguard, why include a beach swimsuit type photo on your LinkedIn CV. Men should wear shirts (and not too lumberjacky.) Enough said.
Your face should be the focal point not your clothing. Consider the colour that you wear. Ideally the colour of the garment should act as a frame around your face. Wearing neon colours or bold patterns is distracting and takes the focus away from you. The best colour choices are mid tones in muted shades and those that compliment your eyes will be most flattering.
Selfies are for Facebook not LinkedIn. Selfies do nothing for your professional image as they tend to be distorted and unflattering. (See tip #2 re: hiring a professional to make you look like a professional)
So for Linked In, the photo should be a close up, with you looking directly at the camera. But one last word of advice, add a warm smile. Your smile communicates that you're friendly, trustworthy and approachable. It helps promote your personal brand and will make people want to meet you, work with or hire you and your company. Your picture will be worth a thousand words.