A career consultant asked a recruiter "What's the most important part of the LinkedIn profile?" And the recruiter said, "The picture."
Really? Not the headline? Not the summary? Not having the right keywords in your job experience section?
The picture. "It's the first thing we see, and it can be a big turn on or turn off," said the recruiter.
"It's a shallow world after all," writes Larry Braman, a career consultant.
His biggest advice? "Make your picture as flattering as possible, but make sure it looks like you." Research shows that just having a picture makes your profile 14 times more likely to be viewed by others.
Recruiters and hiring managers are only human and "they're drawn to good-looking pictures of people, just like everyone else." Your LinkedIn photo is your first impression, "your first opportunity to connect human-to-human," according to Braman.
The worst thing you can do is have no picture at all. Recruiters hate that and so do LinkedIn's search algorithms.
What can you do to make sure your picture doesn't turn recruiters off?
1. In your photo, dress the way you would look on the first day of a new job.
This consideration makes you think about the industry you work in. If you work in a corporate setting, you wouldn't show up on the first day of a new job in a ball cap and t-shirt, all sweaty from a hike in the mountains of Western Montana, with your eyes squinting against the bright Montana sun. So don't use that image on your LinkedIn profile.
Conversely, if you're looking for a job in a creative industry, you don't want to look boring and corporate. You want to look professional, yes, but interesting.
Think about your audience here. You are communicating with them with how you look in your photo. Think about the attributes that your potential employers are looking for. Can you express them visually?
Also: Solid colors tend to look better in photos. And you already know what colors work best on you, I'm sure.
2. Avoid common pitfalls.
No photos where your face is too small to see.
No sexy photos.
No wineglasses. No booze in general.
No group shots. No group shots where the other people are cut out of the photo, either.
No selfies. Also, no mirror selfies.
Your wedding photos may be the only profession photographs you have of yourself, but still, no.
No sunglasses. Apparently eye blockage, like sunglasses, can make you seem less likable.
3. If you can afford it, go to a pro.
Having a professional photographer take your headshot is amazing. You look like you, but the light is better. On average, this will cost you between $200 and $400.
4. Choose a photo that looks like you.
Have you ever had the experience of first seeing someone's Facebook or LinkedIn picture online, then meeting them in person only to find that they look completely different? "If yes, you know it can be startling and even make you question their credibility," Lydia Abbot on the LinkedIn Talent Blog.
Make sure you photo is up-to-day and reflects how you usually look. If you wear glasses, wear them in the photo (unless they reflect so much that your eyes aren't easy to see.)
5. Make sure your face takes up at least 60% of the frame.
Don't be the woman that has a picture of herself on top of a distant mountain peak. Instead, crop the picture from the top of your shoulders to just above your head so that your face fills the frame.
6. Choose the right expression.
"As Tyra Banks would say: smile with your eyes," says Abbot. This makes you appear warm and friendly. "Exude approachability," says Abbot.
7. Choose a background that isn't distracting.
Keep the background simple so that you are the focal point. Let it be out of focus.