LinkedIn Profile Photo : Using the right one

Researchers at New York University have found that people who use photos of themselves looking “a little happy” on LinkedIn give the perception of being trustworthy. The study reports that those who use a profile picture with an upwardly curved mouth and upturned eyebrows make a good impression with recruiters which, in the world of LinkedIn, could potentially translate into more job offers.

This very precise facial expression is described as being positive, warm and welcoming, and funnily enough, it does not require an actual smile. In fact, a wide smile or grin, or generally looking too happy in any way, could do the opposite of what you had intended by actually reducing your chances with prospective employers.

Using the right photo is crucial to attracting the right kind of attention on LinkedIn. You are portraying your own personal brand, and how you appear on your profile is an important aspect of this. Career coaching firm, Hire Level Coaching, uses its website to advise readers on the importance of choosing a great photo: “Employers use your profile to see if you look like someone who could represent their organization. You communicate how much you care about your profile, image, and reputation by how you present yourself in your profile picture. If you don’t take your picture seriously, an employer would be hard-pressed to believe you’d take their business seriously.”
And in contrast, the New York University study also claims that people with negative facial expressions on their photo, for example downward turned mouths, appear less trustworthy to employers – even if they are not frowning outrightly.

The consensus seems to be that most recruiters agree that you should smile. This report simply brings into question is just how wide your smile needs to be. GQ disagrees with the study, advising a huge grin: “When you introduce yourself to a business contact for the first time, what do you do? You smile! Don’t be afraid to show some teeth”. Buffer, the social media management firm, agrees: “A closed mouth smile has a small increase likability. A laughing smile increases likability even more, but you lose ground in competence and influence. The best smile, according to PhotoFeeler, is a smile with teeth.”

So what should you do? Ultimately, you need to look comfortable. If a closed smile makes you look homicidal, avoid it. On the other hand, if smiling with your teeth makes you look crazed, pick another option. You know what suits you best – whichever it is, keep it professional!

While there seems to be some difference of opinion regarding what you should do when it comes to your profile photo, many agree that there are a number of things you should never do.

Lots of people make the mistake of using a photo of themselves from an evening out. Though LinkedIn is often nicknamed the Facebook of the business world, it definitely is not Facebook. Using anything other than an image that depicts you as a professional is considered by many to be a huge error. Present yourself on LinkedIn in the same way that you would present yourself at work is commonly accepted as a good rule of thumb. The first thing to do is to make sure you are wearing smart attire.

Another big blunder is thinking you can get away with a selfie. Even if you are wearing smart clothes, a selfie has the potential to make you look egotistical, so stay away from them! Instead, invest in a headshot: a frame of just your head and shoulders. It can cost up to £200 or more for one of these if done professionally, but a cheaper (and sometimes great) option is to appoint a trusted friend as photographer. Amateur photographers may take more time to get the right shot than a professional, but if they are competent enough they should get there in the end. A good tip is to make sure that your background is plain and that your face takes up the majority of the photograph.

According to LinkedIn itself, having a picture makes it 14 times more likely that your profile will be viewed by others, so it’s important that you make the most of this opportunity by choosing the right one.

Written by

Cambridge University graduate and professional career sector writer.

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