How NOT to Select a Social Media Profile Photo

Many professionals fail to use their social media profile photo to their best advantage. Whether you are looking for a job, keeping your eyes open for new opportunities or networking, it’s imperative that your LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter profile photos match your professional aspirations.

It’s good to show some personality, but don’t use bad judgment by showcasing too much about your private life. Although there is leeway in some industries and professions, most folks are making a grave miscalculation if they assume the gatekeepers — recruiters and HR professionals — will care about their inner artist or how Burning Man was a transformative experience.

In other words, it’s smart to look the part and err on the side of caution. Use your profile photo to represent your personal brand. For example, consider the profile photo I use on Twitter. It has a graphic feel that’s perfect for my role in social media, but it’s still professional.

Here are some examples of bad social media profile photos.

The Adventurer










Hey, nothing says you're committed to your career like a profile photo of you doing yoga in the desert! Or scuba diving in the tropics, like in the profile photo that led off this post. Kidding, of course! You want to use something that presents you in a more professional (and fully clothed) light.

The Vacationer










Your professional contacts — and potential employers —aren’t concerned about how you spent July 4, even if your kid is really, really cute.

The Sloppy Cropper









Bad cropping can add confusion to your profile photo. Who’s hand is that?












And why is there a pole through your head?

Captain Sideways










You’ve probably seen LinkedIn or Twitter connections who inexplicably have sideways profile photos. This type of profile photo won’t exactly convince hiring managers that you have great attention to detail.

Too Cool For School















Please take off the aviators, no matter how good you think they make you look! Hiring managers and other contacts want to be able to look you in the eye.

Dr. Doolittle










Don’t include your pet in your profile photo unless you’re a veterinarian ... or celebrity.

The Dad or Mom











No matter how cute or funny you think your kids are, don't put them on LinkedIn or any other social media account you use for professional purposes.

The Drinker










A profile photo of yourself drinking? Nobody would toast to that.

The Honeymooner









Want to share photos of your significant other? Do it on Facebook. (You’ll also lose points for not cropping out the beers.)

Your Favorite Profile Photo Mistakes?

In a future post, I’ll highlight tips for creating more appropriate, professional-looking social media profile photos. In the meantime, do you have any favorite mistakes of your own? Let me know in the comments.

(A special thanks to Doug White and his wife, Sue, as well as Alison Strickland and Nerdstalker, for providing these wonderful examples of bad social media profile photos!)

Create An A+ Social Media Photo in Eight Easy Steps