As LinkedIn profile writing experts, we advise clients that profile pictures are possibly the single most important element of making you stand out to potential recruiters. They create your personal brand and speak volumes about who you are. By humanizing a LinkedIn profile, a good photograph increases response and referral rates by 7 times.

A good photo makes you appear more approachable, increases the acceptance of invitations and makes contacts feel more comfortable and familiar with you.

Your profile picture is your first opportunity to communicate to contacts that you are trustworthy, likeable and friendly, all critical attributes in getting people to engage with you. Research shows recruiters spend 19% of their time looking at your profile photo, which is more time than they spend on your work experience or skills.

Choosing a great picture to compliment your LinkedIn profile writing will make a serious impact on your networking and career prospects, and can determine whether a recruiter will engage with you or not. This article will explore some of the do’s and most-definitely-do-not’s of professional LinkedIn profile pictures.

1. Your Linkedin Profile Photo Needs To Look Like You

Sounds ridiculous right? But we’ve all had that experience of seeing someone on social media before meeting them only to discover that they look entirely different in person (usually for the worse).

It’s an instant credibility crusher and can lead people to question your honesty and your engagement with reality. You don’t want your first face-to-face meeting to have your contact wondering why you posted such a misleading photo. Use a recent, honest photo that is an accurate representation of what you look like on a daily basis.

Remember when you go to meet a contact in real life, they are relying on your photo to be able to recognize you.

2. Your Picture Must Look Professional

Another no-brainer, right? Well, it only takes a few minutes on LinkedIn to come across profile pictures that show why this advice is important. Dress for the job you want, not for the couch you’re posting from.

If you’re dressed for a nightclub you might not come across as responsible, by dressing too casually you might not be perceived as serious as you’d like to. As great as you looked on your wedding day, no one is going to employ you for it.

LinkedIn isn’t a black tie event either, keep it relevant and wear what you’d wear to an interview or if the CEO was sitting next to you in the office for the day.

3. Facial Expression Is Everything

The two most important characteristics your photo should convey are to make you appear warm and friendly. Regardless of rank or industry, these two features are most likely to get you connected.

You want to seem approachable; in fact, you want to scream approachable. Your expression should make your potential contacts be able to imagine having an enjoyable conversation with you. Take that golden advice from Tyra Banks and ‘smile with your eyes’.

Cultivate a calm state before you take the photo, imagine pleasant conversations with future employers and be as natural as possible. Everyone can tell a forced smile and vacant eyes, and nothing says inauthentic more loudly.

4. Use A Neutral Background

The point of the photo is to humanize your profile and give potential contacts an idea of who you are professionally; this is all done with your face.  Once we have the expression right, let’s make sure it’s not lost to an overbearing or inappropriate background.

Contacts want to see your face, and that’s it. A bright glared background will cast a shadow over you face and might make you seem dull, a Bali sunset might be pretty, but isn’t right for this context. Keep the background neutral, so the viewer’s attention can be on your face.

A simple background makes you the focal point, which is, after all, the point.

5. The Photo Is Of Your Face

Now that you’ve nailed your natural, approachable, smile-with-your-eyes expression, make sure it can be seen.

Avoid taking photos from too far back, you don’t need a full body shot, a yoga pose or a just-conquered-a-mountain photo. Your face should take up 60% of the frame. The top of your shoulders to just above your head is what you need to display. Profile pictures on LinkedIn appear as thumbnails, so any less than 60% of the frame and you’re too small to notice.

Oh and use portrait setup, photography 101 teaches that the layouts are named fairly for obvious reasons (portrait for portraits and landscape for landscapes).

6. The Photo Is Of You, And Only You

No cats, no children, no motorbikes, no guns, no sports cars, no hula hoops, no puppies, no jet skis, no marathon running… you get the point. And no group shots.

Your contacts should be able to recognize you from this photo, so keep it simple and honest.

7. Avoid The Head Tilt

Women especially are prone to head tilts in photos. For a professional profile picture, this makes you look less self-assured. Keep your head straight and square to the camera.

A straight on photo increases the sense of capability and confidence, both attributes you want to exude.

8. No Selfies

Invest in a photo session with a professional photographer if you can, or at the very least have someone else take the photo. Worst case scenario, use your webcam or a camera timer to snap a photo that looks nothing like a selfie. A bathroom mirror iPhone photo just doesn’t convey professional credibility.

Ask your partner or friend to help you select which photo to use. The objectivity of someone else can help to ensure the most professional photo is chosen.

With these tips, you can get the best photo possible for your professional LinkedIn profile, showing you as the confident, credible professional you are, making potential contacts want to have you in their office. A great photo will significantly increase the amount of views and interactions with your profile.

Happy snapping!

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