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I heard someone the other day mention the “LinkedIn Effect.” It’s definitely not a popular phrase, like the “Nordstrom Effect,” but it has been gaining popularity over the last couple of years. So what is it? It’s the way LinkedIn has affected our lives professionally. Instead of who you know, now it’s who someone in your LinkedIn network knows. LinkedIn has forever changed the way we will find jobs, locate qualified recruits, and enhance our careers.

Yep, it’s that good.

So, how’s your LinkedIn profile looking these days? There are all sorts of blogs out there with tips on how to improve your profile. Publishing high-quality content and having a killer background summary may seem like they would make you look desirable to potential employers and connections, but do you know what they see first? Your profile picture.

First impressions matter.It may sound crazy, but you could easily argue that your picture is more important than your résumé on LinkedIn. First impressions are everything – especially on social media. Social Psychologist and author, Amy Cuddy, says that we immediately ask ourselves two things when we glance at a photo:

  1. Is that person approachable?

  2. Is that person competent?

In a matter of seconds, people are going to look at your profile picture to see if you look trustworthy. If their brain tells them that you are, then you’re safe to approach. Congratulations, you’ve completed hurdle #1.

Once you’ve been categorized as being friendly and warm, then people will move on to decide whether or not you look competent at whatever you do. Just how do you look skilled and capable in a photo? Good question. We’ll talk about that later.

Keep in mind that it doesn’t do you any good to look competent if you’re not approachable. If I don’t trust you, it doesn’t matter if you can do your job well or not.

What’s your photo saying about you?This may hurt a little, but I’m going to just say the first thing that comes to mind when I look at different types of profile pictures. If I’m thinking it, so is someone else – and you might want that person to be your boss one day.

Like a band-aid, here we go…

  • The cropped wedding photo: Why is this the best shot of you? Do you attend weddings as a hobby? If it’s your own wedding, well… I’m afraid of why you think it enhances your professional life.
  • The selfie: With sunglasses, a pout, and your shoulder precariously perched to let everyone know that you took this masterpiece yourself, you are simply too cool for me. And to be honest, you look like you’re the opposite of nice.

  • The here-buddy-will-you-take-my-picture: Do you live at a bar? Do you work at a bar? Ahhh… wait, I get it. Maybe you own the bar. Now it makes sense.

  • The out-of-focus snap: Let’s be clear: if your photo incorporates Christmas lighting, you need a new one. I don’t know what it is, but blurry headshots make me think one of two things: the person is either too lazy to find one that’s in focus, or they have no attention to detail.

  • The I-don’t-need-to-put-up-a-photo photo.: This category can represent the gray and white default profile pictures on LinkedIn or those people who choose to put up pictures of anything other than themselves. Kids, dogs, motorcycles, and logos are not profile pictures. They just aren’t. Those photos have a home. It’s called Facebook. Why don’t you like following the rules? Why are you frightened to show your face? You must be hiding something.  More than likely you have low self confidence. 

  • The you-can-see-too-much-of-me picture: Well, unfortunately we all know what this one is. It’s the friend with too much cleavage or whose close-up can literally count towards their semi-annual dental exam. I don’t need to know that much about you. I bet if I connect with you, you’ll message me incessantly and try to become my BFF. Pass.

How can you find a picture that makes you look both approachable and competent?

  1. Invest in a professional headshot. It will be clear, properly proportioned, and we won’t be able to tell what you ate for lunch.
  2. Dress professionally and check your hair. The more sophisticated you look, the more competent you’ll seem. You don’t have to look serious to prove that you are serious about what you do. Just look like you can take care of yourself. Believe it or not, employers will take that to mean you can take care of their business, too.

  3. Speaking of serious, don’t go for a look that wouldn’t translate to qualities on a job application. “Sexy,” “tough,” and “somber” rarely find their way onto position descriptions.

  4. Smile. It’s pretty simple. Grin, show your teeth, and think happy thoughts.

And another thing to remember is that other people don’t see your faults like you do. If you hate your teeth or think you have an ugly smile, get over it. No one will notice. They will notice if you look unfriendly, unkempt, and angry, though… so it’s your choice.

That profile picture that you hate or think is useless may actually impact your career. So, when the time comes to update your photo, choose wisely.

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