Social Media Profile Photo Tips: Get Ready for Your Close Up

Social Media Profile Photo Tips

These days taking a selfie is as commonplace as brushing one's teeth or blinking. There's even a TV show based on it. But when it comes to your social media profile photo for LinkedIn or other professional networking sites, you might want to rethink using your arms-length self portrait. Here's why.

It's All Fun and Games Until...

It may seem obvious, but your social media profile photo is often the first impression a hiring manager (or anyone online) has of you. Though it may seem unfair, the first glance forges a perspective that may be unchangeable. In fact, research shows looking at a person's profile photo, inclusive of the setting, dictates what we think about him or her, regardless of what we learn later on. In other words, no matter how impressive your online resume, a photo of you looking unkempt, making a silly face or partying could deem you a poor cultural fit for an employer.

Put Your Best Face Forward

The research, as explained by the Forbes piece "Your Profile Photo is a Liar," also showed that an impression can be made in the blink of an eye. Make sure your social media profile photo puts your best professional face forward during that split second. Follow these tips.

  1. Smile like the whole world is watching. (Because it is.) Convey confidence and happiness with a pleasant, approachable expression. Look directly into the camera but be sure not to look too stern or to stare, as this can be off-putting.
  2. Go solo. Employers want to see you, not your bridal party or softball team. Say "no" to group shots or photos with loved ones.
  3. Dress for the job you want. Whether you have your sights set on a big firm or a small business, err on the side of being more conservative in your attire. You don't need to dress as if you're on an interview but do look as you would in a business environment. Your clothes should be clean, unwrinkled, and non-distracting. Go light on jewelry and style your hair.
  4. Don’t be an poser. Ideally, your social media profile leads to an in-person interview. If your photo is more than 5 years old, you've changed your hair drastically or undergone significant changes in your appearance, you may be unrecognizable to the hiring team. Update your photo before you raise questions.
  5. Come out of the shadows. Getting the lighting right can be tricky, but avoid having dark shadows. Frame your shot to show your shoulders and above. It's acceptable for the background to be a bit out of focus, but it's a no-no to post a blurry face.
  6. All business in the front...and back. Avoid busy or messy backgrounds. Look around your space and remove objects (your cat's tail, a random shoe, take-out box, etc.) that could stand out in the wrong way. Posing against a white wall may seem like a safe bet, but consider a colored backdrop to avoid your photo looking like a mug shot.
  7. Consider context. Save the photos of yourself in Cabo or completing a mud run for Facebook. These images are completely out of context on LinkedIn, where you need to showcase your professional skills and experience, not your abs. Also steer clear of photos from special occasions, or when you're in very seasonal attire (big coats, sunglasses, straw hats, etc.)
  8. Get feedback. Sometimes we have a tough time judging our own photos. Before you post, ask a friend or colleague whom you trust for her thoughts. You can also try PhotoFeeler, an image review site that provides real-world feedback on your images across all your profiles.
Thanks to Karen McClenny (above) for allowing us to use her image, which was taken at a Robert Half-hosted photo booth during a Society for Human Resource Management conference. She was asked to show us her worst social media profile photo, and she was such a trooper!


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