5 Mistakes People Make with Their LinkedIn Profile Photo
As the world's largest professional network, LinkedIn has become the primary resource for everything including job searching, professional networking, business related content and more. As a result, it's also becoming one of the most important (if not the most important) platform to use to demonstrate your personal brand. In person, it takes less than 10 seconds to make a first impression (I've heard everything from milliseconds to 9 seconds), and online we likely get less than that. What is that first impression on LinkedIn? The profile photo.
I recognize that this can be a touchy subject, and I'm not trying to create any cringe-worthy moments here while you're reading this. But if you fall into any of these categories, hopefully after reading you'll have a better idea of what you need to do to make a better impression with your profile photo.
So here are the biggest mistakes people make with their LinkedIn profile photo:
1. They don't have one. The most important reason why this is not helping you is that you're not allowing people to create a connection with you in a way that you control. Many people use LinkedIn profile photos as a way to recognize someone when meeting them for the first time or, in this age of virtual business, see what the person on the other end of the email or phone looks like. Though I don't have stats on this, I would suspect that LinkedIn is likely the first place people go to gather information about their professional connections or to see what their connections look like. Here's an example of how this may go down: You're meeting a business contact at a coffee shop but you've never met each other in person. That person goes to LinkedIn to see who to look for in the coffee shop. You don't have a profile photo, so they do a search on Google. They see a bunch of people who may or may not be you AND the one that is you is a photo of you from a holiday party three years ago and a few drinks in. Including a profile photo puts you in control of your professional brand, not Google or anyone else.
2. They are unrecognizable in the photo. This could happen in a few ways. Some people use photos that are too tiny or shot from too far back, making it difficult to see what the person looks like (best to use a headshot that is 200×200 in size). I've also noticed that some people feel compelled to show their personality in their profile photo by using a photo of a caricature, them in a costume, or something else completely. If your profession is a comedian, an artist or another profession where it may be useful to show something like that, I would say to go for it. But if you're doing it because you want people to think you're “fun” or “likable,” I would say to use your personality to do that, not your LinkedIn profile photo.
3.The photo is not taken in a professional setting. LinkedIn is not the place to put the photo you like most, regardless of where you are or what you're doing in the photo. You may have looked great on that beach in your bikini, but that doesn't mean you should use that as your LinkedIn profile photo. The same goes for wedding photos, Halloween photos or any photo that shows you in attire that you wouldn't wear to work or in a professional setting (unless it is aligned with your profession). “Professional” is likely one word that you would want most people in your professional network (or recruiters) to think of when they see your LinkedIn profile, so keep that in mind when making your selection.
4. They crop a group photo. We've all seen these photos where someone is leaning in the photo and/or someone's arm is visible. Though I am not saying that everyone absolutely has to invest in taking a photo with a professional photographer, I am saying that when you force feed a cropped out image of yourself from a group photo as your profile photo, you're likely not putting your best foot forward.
5. They use a selfie. The jury is out on whether a selfie is appropriate for any profile photo (likely best in Instagram or Facebook), but LinkedIn is not the place to post your selfie. It ends up screaming the opposite of “professional.”
You may be asking yourself, “if I should avoid these things, what should I be doing?” Best practices would be shoulders and above, sized at 200×200, wearing professional attire, good lighting and taken with a professional camera.
Also, if you want to get the most out of your LinkedIn profile, listen to episode 9 of my podcast, Beyond the Business Suit.