Putting Your Best Face Forward: 6 Rules To Follow When Choosing Your LinkedIn Photo

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Think of your LinkedIn photo as the headline of a news article – it’s the first thing people will see, and it might be the only thing that they remember later.

Like all first impressions in business, you want to put your best foot (or in this case, your best face!) forward. Your profile picture should convey professionalism, trustworthiness, competence and likeability. Here’s how you can make sure your LinkedIn is picture perfect.

1. Solo shot

You are the star of your LinkedIn profile, and you should be the only one in your profile picture. Group shots and family portraits are not acceptable as having multiple people in your picture is confusing for viewers. It also makes you look unprofessional, and gives viewers the impression that you don’t understand LinkedIn etiquette.

Choose a picture that includes everything from the shoulders up, with 50-60% of the picture being occupied by your face. Full body shots, extreme close-ups, and cropped group shots are a no-no. It goes without saying that a selfie is never okay.

2. Crop it

When it comes to pictures on various social networks, you can’t take a one-size-fits all approach. Make sure your image is optimized for LinkedIn specifically by cropping it to a square for best use across the website. Do a quick internet search to find a reference tool for the correct image types and sizes for all social networks (including LinkedIn), so you can optimize your images to look great at any size. (Sproutsocial.com is a great place to start!)

3. Quality is key

Your LinkedIn picture is the face of your online professional brand, so a high-quality image is essential. Ideally, you should invest in a professional headshot. Professional photography will show you in your best light, and most photographers will be able to coach you into better posture and a good facial expression. If professional pictures are not an option, recruit a friend with a good camera to help you out. Make sure to take lots of photos so you have options. A high resolution picture, even if it’s not professional, beats a low-res webcam picture any day!

4. Dress for success

It’s important to dress appropriately for the job or the industry you want. What would you wear to an interview at your desired company or to an industry event?

Keeping in mind that the picture will only show your upper body, pay special attention to your neckline, collar (and if applicable, hair and makeup). Accessorize carefully – for example, a statement necklace might look great in person, it might not translate well on camera. It’s also best to avoid busy patterns and overly sparkly jewelry. Choose a background that will let you stand out, preferably something that slightly contrasts your outfit. A neutral background (black, white or grey) is always a safe bet, but locations like an office, historical building, or outdoors work well too.

5. Choose a picture that looks like you

This seems obvious, but there are a shocking number of profiles with decade-old pictures, or individuals who got a little too heavy-handed with Photoshop. Make sure you pick a photo that actually looks like you, so recruiters or potential employers can recognize you when you are meeting for the first time. When it comes to Photoshop, some retouching is acceptable, but save the magazine-worthy makeover for your other social networks. Update your picture frequently (2-3 years is sufficient), or if you make a major change to your appearance.

6. Get a second opinion

When in doubt, ask a friend what they think of your picture. Ask what message it conveys about you, what they think of your facial expression, outfit, and if the quality is sufficient. If you want more objective feedback, try a tool like Photofeeler.com, that lets users rate your photo based on metrics like competence, likeability, influence, and trustworthiness.

What are the biggest professional photo blunders you’ve witnessed on the internet? Share your stories in the comments!

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