The following is a version (lightly edited to incorporate keywords) of an article by Susan Rooks that details how to make sure your LinkedIn profile photo makes the right impression. The original article can be found here.

LinkedIn profile photo

“I’m not the first, and I’m sure I won’t be the last here on LI (or any other professional platform) to notice the variety of headshots that we use to represent ourselves.

While each of us is unique and our business might not require a suit-and-tie approach, there are still a few photos that have stopped me in my tracks … and not for a good reason.

Your LinkedIn profile photo is one of the first things we see, and it can make or break deals before we ever have a chance to strut our stuff, either by having someone read what we so painstakingly wrote or by meeting us in person.

First impressions and all that, right? So, while I don’t want to come across all grouchy and persnickety, it might be time for us all to take a look at how you present yourself to those who don’t know you in your LinkedIn profile photo..

Let’s start with cleavage. Yeah, that. I’m saddened by the number of (usually) attractive young women who show more than they probably need to. If you’re pretty and you have great cleavage — lucky you! But showing it off here could easily be misunderstood … what exactly are you trying to say? At the very least, it could be distracting. At the very worst, you could be shunted aside in favor of a competitor who appears to be more professional. Appears to be. Might not be, but that all-important first impression sure can help us … or hurt us.

Muddy, hard-to-see shots. Out of focus? Don’t use it. Messy, disorganized, over-busy background? Don’t use it. Dark skin against a dark background, something I just saw with the face so shadowed I couldn’t tell if it was of a man or woman? Light skin against a very light background, so you merge with it? Will we be able to see you clearly, or are you a ghost? It’s just a photo, but we’re drawn to it, so please help us see you in the right light.

Others in the picture — why? If you’re selling an experience for a group, great. A crowded picture of happy guests could work well, but where would YOU be in it? Maybe something like that could be the background banner, but not your personal picture. Others in your picture probably should not include your SO, your kids (unless you’re showing family values that align with your business purpose), or animals, unless they are part of what you are involved in. Yes, you might look friendly, but what do those others have to do with your being on LI looking for business? Are we hiring you … or all of them along with you? (Trust me, you don’t want to hire my little dog, Gibbs, unless you need a nonstop doorbell …)

And speaking of the top banner space that is currently a blue star-streaked default space here on LI — why is that still on your profile? Why would you waste such prime real estate and not have something extra that promotes your work / your company? You could WOW us with a great banner instead of boring us with that generic blue space.

Offbeat pictures might work if your company and your message are intended to show us something radically different from the norm. An attorney who poses with a clown or a fire-eater at a carnival might not be showing the professional side we could expect … unless the attorney actually represents offbeat kinds of clients! Of course, showing us a stern, unsmiling face might also work against someone. Who would dare to talk to a person who appears to be too authoritarian?

A picture of your company’s logo. Again, WHY? Why are you hiding your own face? We want to see YOU, not your company’s logo or product or anything that isn’t you. I don’t do business with companies; I do business with people in companies. Let me see the person I might be working with, please.

Simple questions, here: regarding your LinkedIn profile photo:

  1. What do you want us to FEEL when we look at your picture? Amused or amazed? Interested in knowing you? Certain we don’t want to know you?
  2. How old is the picture? Would we recognize you if we met you today?
  3. Does the picture represent you in your present moment at your present company?
  4. What does your expression convey? Friendly? Approachable? Likable? Stern? Angry? Sad? Distant?

I’ve seen all those in #4 and more here on LI and on other platforms, and I’m still surprised by some; I’m sure I’m not alone in this.”

As you’re digesting this, a reminder that while it’s not necessary to have a professional take your LinkedIn profile photo, it doesn’t hurt to make the investment. If you live in the metro NYC area, I recommend Nathaniel Welch at https://nycheadshotspot.com/

Now that you understand the importance of the headshot you select for your LinkedIn profile, let’s talk about how to optimize your profile for search by recruiters and hiring managers.