You might not think the photo on your LinkedIn profile or other social media site would have much impact on career transition success. Think again. You can make all the right job hunting moves — career coaching, strategic networking, outstanding job performance, great education — yet possibly undermine your efforts by the picture you post (or don’t post) next to your social media profile.
Job candidates who included a photo in their LinkedIn profiles were rated more favorably than those without a picture, according to research conducted jointly by Ramapo College assistant psychology professor Nicholas Salter and Tiffany Poeppelman of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP).
A picture makes job candidates appear more thorough in their work, say the 100 professionals involved in the study. No picture suggests the person has something to hide.
Attractive pictures unsurprisingly rated most favorably as stronger and better applicants. Even photos regarded as unattractive, however, scored higher than no-photo candidates. The hiring managers believed they could perceive positive or negative qualities by looking at the photo.
Photo faux pas to avoid
In other words, seeing is believing. For those who make hiring decisions to give you a cursory review, much less take you seriously enough to interview, add a photo to your social media profile, especially on business-oriented sites. LinkedIn’s connection director told Business Insider that the company’s own research has shown that profiles with photos are seven times more likely to be viewed than those without.
The question then becomes, what kind of photo? Use common sense before hitting the upload button. LinkedIn urges site members to avoid posting these kinds of pictures:
Photos with a pet, a group, or a family member. These are not okay for business.
Photos that are too dated or of poor quality. These do not show you at your best.
Photos in an unprofessional setting, like a wedding or at the beach. Again, not right for business.
Photos that show a company logo or product or an avatar. You are a person, not a cartoon.
Photos that show you as too serious. You don’t want to put people off at first glance.
Tips to polish your photo presence
Your profile photo functions as a substitute for you in person, your graphic foot in the door. Consider this an important exercise in career management. How would you look and behave if you were meeting a potential employer in the flesh? As much as you possibly can, replicate this in your social media profile photo by following these basic guidelines:
Relax your eyes and smile. Add as much warmth as a still photo can show while still appearing professional and appropriate.
Convey your personality and character. Sit or stand straight when being photographed, because good posture implies confidence and competence.
Dress appropriately for the profession you are in. No halter tops for women or sleeveless shirts for men.
If you are a woman, you especially need profile photographs because you may change surname when you get married. The picture helps potential employers, colleagues, and contacts keep track of you.
There’s no need to hide. Post that photo to make your best first impression.