By Tom Crouch
The answer is, “Yes, you really do need to post a picture of yourself on your LinkedIn page.”
The general resume advice in the past has always been “no personal information” – no photos, no watermarks, no rainbows or unicorns, no discussion of marital status or family crests. But LinkedIn is different, and it is rapidly changing the job search landscape into something new (and I think wonderful, but more on why in future articles).
If you do get “Googled” by a potential employer, and you probably will, your LinkedIn page is what you want them to find and be impressed by.
As many of us discovered when first claiming our e-mail usernames, sometimes (much to our astonishment and disbelief) it turned out there are many of you and me out there, and they may have already staked their name claim. That is just one reason you need a photo on your page.
Part of the importance of the photo is it separates you from every other person on LinkedIn who may be using that name. It is an almost instantaneous point of recognition, and as is frequently pointed out, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” That means the picture has to be one you are proud of, and that conveys to any viewer the image you want to present, whether it be as a prospective employee, a business supplier, or a potential service provider.
People are often apprehensive about having their picture taken. If you are one of those, your assignment is to find someone who can take a “professional” picture of you and send it to you as a digital copy.
Have a purposeful photo taken by someone who knows what they are doing. There are many elements that go into an attractive portrait photo, but most importantly there should not be any negative elements. Similar to the “no rainbows” advice, avoid having any other images or people (or their various body parts) in the photo frame. Just you. My apologies to all you pet lovers, but no pets!
Only you can decide what you want to wear, but hats, sunglasses and loud shirts are usually not a good idea. Colour is usually good. It should be a nicely framed head-shot of you, preferably smiling.
When discussing interviews, we emphasize the importance of the first moments, and how smiling makes the person being interviewed naturally more appealing. This advice applies to your LinkedIn photo as well. Of course, this depends on the first impression you are intending to make, but most of the time an approachable, genuinely pleasant appearance will be more enticing then a stare or pout.
If you bounce around your LinkedIn list of suggested connections and review the available photos, you will get a better sense of what works for you, and which photos “not so much.”
As to background, there is always some debate. Many people prefer a plain background. Some prefer outdoors. Others use more professional lighting to generate good texture and warmth. Whatever you decide, just try not to have anything too busy or distracting in the background. The focus should be just on you and your friendly expression.
What happens after the photo will be discussed in future articles about LinkedIn on this website. Whether it’s LinkedIn or some other online platform, what is certain is that it is increasingly important to have some kind of online profile available to potential employers or colleagues.
For better or worse, part of that profile will be what you look like, so it is worth putting in the time to get it done right, and in a way you are proud of and “like.”