In many ways, LinkedIn is just like every other social network. It allows you to create a profile. You add details about yourself, upload your preferred photo, and connect with other people. You post status updates, and like and/or comment on updates by others. However, as we continuously point out on this site, LinkedIn is not like every other social network. You need to carefully consider how you update your profile on LinkedIn, beginning with your profile photo.
I’m using actual profile images that I’ve found on LinkedIn, in my “People You May Know” listing. They are all professionals, including: managers, executives, owners, salespeople, marketers, customer service representatives, and others.
I’ll obviously not be exposing names or anything, but if you find yourself here and would prefer to not be highlighted here, please just let me know and I’ll remove your public photo from my site. It’s not my intent to insult anyone here - only to help. (However, if you feel this way, this should be a clear indication that you’re falling into one of the categories below.)
Don’t tale these tips lightly. Unless you don’t need new opportunities, or your brand speaks for itself (e.g., world famous actor, CEO, or author), you should probably apply the tips here carefully.
Sin #1: Using the Default Profile Image
Unfortunately, LinkedIn can’t read our minds and it doesn’t know what we look like. It’s up to us to tell LinkedIn how we want to be represented. Like with everything else that you do and don’t do, the effort you put in here will reflect directly upon you and your character. It shows how much you care about how you’re perceived online. It helps people understand how much “attention to detail” you practice. Above all, it’s your opportunity to stand out. Make sure you do it in a good way.
Sin #2: Using an Outdated Photo
It’s not always clear if a photo is actually old, or if it is simply poorly composed in some way (see below). However, if it appears to be outdated, it’s a safe assumption for one to make to assume that your entire profile is also outdated. Not having an updated photo also is a subtle queue that you’re not okay with having your photo taken. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I couldn’t find any statistics on it, but I would guess that there’s somewhere around a 70/30 split with people that like their photo taken. You don’t have to like your photo being taken, but you DO need to have a good one on your profile. A good one means one that actually reflects what you look like today.
Imagine working with a prospective client over the phone. After weeks or months of hard work online, you finally get the chance to work with them and you need to meet face-to-face. They’ve looked you up. The moment they meet you, the last thing you want is them questioning your integrity simply because you don’t look like your photo. (Even if it is silly for them to do so.) Keep your best foot forward and have a current photo on your profile instead.
Sin #3: Using a Blurry Photo
It should go without saying, but a blurry photo is not a good way to represent who you are. In most cases, I’ve found that people that have blurry photos simply don’t like their pictures taken – but a blurry photo and an old photo will have a similar result. You’ll notice though, that these photos would be pretty good if they weren’t blurred. Having a blurred photo signifies to people that you either don’t care how your profile appears, or you’re too lazy to make it any better. In either case, it’s a simple fix here to prevent people from passing this kind of unfair judgment on you.
Sin #4: Using a Upsized Photo
Upsizing a photo is when you make a photo larger than the actual dimensions of the photo. This results in a highly distorted version of the photo, like the first example. In other cases, LinkedIn realizes that your uploaded photo is too small. This results in a background being applied to your photo. As you can tell, this doesn’t represent you well. It also may signal to prospective opportunities that you’re not capable of working with technology, or not resourceful enough to work around it. Regardless to whether this is a valid way for someone to look at you, you can avoid this altogether by simply getting a friend to help you generate and upload a properly sized photo.
Sin #5: Not Using a Photo of You
The whole point of LinkedIn is to have a public representation of why you are the best candidate for that new job, contract, or other opportunity. If you were in a room full of people, you wouldn’t be able to site there with a logo over your face, or have your kids sitting there on your behalf. If you did this, you most certainly wouldn’t be the person chosen for the opportunity. Why would you choose to do this on your LinkedIn profile?
Unless you’re a graphic designer (and even then it’s still questionable), LinkedIn isn’t the place to express yourself using avatars of yourself, stock photography, symbols, or family photos. That’s what Facebook and Twitter are for. Your LinkedIn profile photo should look like what you’d want people to think of you on your first day on the job.
Sin #6: Using an Unprofessional Photo
If I wrote this article even as recent as a year ago, I might have only been able to find examples of people at parties. There are still plenty of those on LinkedIn. Luckily, it seems that most of us are getting smarter about the kind of photo we use for our profile. The examples here are not nearly as unprofessional as they could have been. When people are looking at your profile, I think we’ve established that they will be judging you. You don’t want them making assumptions on why you took the photo, where you are, or what you were thinking to post it in the first place. You want them focused on the experience and value you can bring to them.
Don’t post photos of you during sports, vacation, at parties or weddings. If you happen to be wearing a tux and have a friend take a photo of you, that’s exactly what people see. If you appear to be an extra in a hip hop video, scaling Mount Everest, or chilling on a Hawaiian shore, that’s what people will see.
Make sure you look like a professional in your photo, in a professional setting. Doing anything else is the equivalent of walking into an interview in a tank top, sandals, and shorts. You won’t be getting the gig.
Sin #7: Using a Poorly Composed Photo
Poorly composed doesn’t necessarily mean that the photo has bad lighting or appears to be squished. It might also be your pose, background setting, not being cropped close enough, or simply being too creative. People don’t look at LinkedIn to see how creative you are. They want to see that you fit in with their idea of you working with the rest of the team. Sure, there will be fun and creative times – but that’s not what they’re looking for. That comes after you put your best foot forward, earning the opportunity.
In the meantime, make sure that you are clearly visible in the photo. Make sure it’s not squished, and it crops you close enough to tell what you look like. Having some lights behind the camera will help too. Also, please… PLEASE smile in your photo. A partial smile usually works the best. Otherwise, you run the risk of having your photo look like a mug shot.
Simple Tips to Get a Good Photo
In addition to some of the tips above, don’t use a selfie, webcam photo, or anything that even remotely looks like one. It only takes a few moments to get a good photo of you. Put on some professional clothes and bribe your friend, roommate, or significant other with some pizza or something. (And take at least 20-30 photos. Only a couple will end up being usable.)
Make sure that you have even lighting behind the camera. It should come from multiple directions or otherwise be quite bright, so that is doesn’t create pronounced shadows on your face.
Use an actual camera. Services like BorrowLenses.com make this easy. You can rent a camera and equipment for as many days as necessary. Having the right equipment can make it look like you’re a pro, without being one.
Wear professional clothing, and don’t have a busy background. The clothing should at least be what you’d wear to work on your first day – except one step better.
If your background does appear to be busy, use a photo editing program to gently blur the background to make sure you’re the focus. If you don’t have the expertise to do this, there are plenty of ways to get it done for your. Ask a friend for help, take a new photo, or use a service like Fivver or UpWork to get someone to help for almost nothing. This will be one of the best investments that you can make in yourself.
Finally, if you must get creative, make sure it doesn’t interfere with your personal brand. For example, in the photo above, you can see a gentleman that’s half football player and half suit. This is actually an accurate representation of what he does. He’s both a professional athlete, and an investment advisor. It’s part of his brand. He could have easily done this wrong, by having the logo of his favorite football team as his avatar.
Don’t cut corners on your personal brand. You’ll get every cent back in that investment.
This article is cross-posted from my personal blog.