Your Profile Pic on LinkedIn Matters More Than You Think

A recent survey indicates that 7 out of 10 business owners, managers, and HR professionals have rejected a candidate for a poor LinkedIn profile picture, despite being qualified for the job.

Author: Michelle Russell       

LinkedIn page

A new survey shows that what your LinkedIn profile photo looks like can affect whether or not you get hired. (Courtesy LinkedIn)

Michelle Russell LinkedIn

Editor in Chief Michelle Russell, who recently updated her LinkedIn profile photo, says that next time she will have someone else take it.

Last year, I realized my LinkedIn profile photo was a good 10 years old. So I took a selfie and swapped out the old for the new — or the younger version of me for the older. I was just embarrassed that I hadn’t updated my photo in such a long time but it turns out that paying attention to your photo is a smart career move: A recent survey finds that your LinkedIn photo is more important than you may think.

The survey of 200-plus human resource professionals, business owners, and managers was conducted by Passport-Photo Online. Okay, this company’s reason for being is its online headshot service for passports, so there’s a bias there. I’m not sure how that influenced the way they phrased the survey questions or who they surveyed, so you may want to take that into account. But here’s what they found: Eight out of 10 respondents said a candidate’s LinkedIn profile picture is an important ranking factor. And even though 82 percent agreed that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, 71 percent admitted they had rejected a candidate solely for poor LinkedIn profile pictures, despite proper qualifications for the job. Breaking that down, who is more prone to judge candidates by their photo? Business owners (90 percent), followed by managers (60 percent), and half of HR professionals.

Not all of us are model material, and the survey does not get into gender or racial bias. What respondents said they were looking for in photos is a likeability factor, a sense of personality, and authenticity. Some red flags: the lack of a fully visible face, a pixelated headshot, a vacation photo, and lack of a smile. And they’re looking for the photo to strike a balance between personal (preferred over a company headshot) and over-the-top casualness.

Who better to offer advice on how to approach your LinkedIn profile picture than LinkedIn itself? Here are the company’s best practices — 10 tips — for profile pictures.

  1. Pick a photo that reflects what you look like today (hair, whether you wear glasses, etc.)
  2. Use a high-resolution image — the ideal size is 400 x 400 pixels.
  3. Your face should take up at least 60 percent of the frame — crop the photo from the top of your shoulders to just above your head.
  4. Choose a solo photo – there should be no other people in there.
  5. Get someone else to take it for you — for one thing, the front camera on most phones produces a lower-quality image than the rear camera (something to keep in mind for my next photo update).
  6. Choose the right expression — one study cited by LinkedIn of 800 profile pictures found that people view you as more likeable, competent, and influential if you are smiling in your picture.
  7. Avoid distracting backgrounds.
  8. Wear what you’d wear to work — this blog post was written in 2019, pre-pandemic, so I would say to pick what you’d wear on a Zoom call when you want to look put together. And solid colors are best.
  9. Pay attention to the lighting — taking your photo outside on an overcast day is good, or inside near a window, but not with your back to the window.
  10. Use filters wisely — LinkedIn offers six filters to give your picture a slightly different look and feel. The Spotlight and Classic filters, according to the blog post, can make your photo look more polished and sharp.

In a Forbes article, psychotherapist Amy Morin suggests taking some time to think about what kind of vibe your photo may be sending — and to even try different photos over a period of time “to see which one seems to get you noticed the most on LinkedIn.”

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.