Job Searching with Social Media For Dummies
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Humans are visual creatures. That includes hiring managers, so consider including a profile picture to help improve your chances of landing a job. In a matter of milliseconds, people draw conclusions, make assumptions, and form opinions about others based on how they look. The way people look, of course, shouldn’t have anything to do with our eligibility for a position, but it often does.

Hiring managers want to know who you are. They want to see whether you have leadership qualities and whether you’re friendly and professional. They want to imagine what working with you may be like. All these attributes can be communicated to your advantage with a good profile photo.

Generally speaking, not having a profile photo on LinkedIn can cause you more damage than having a bad one. Many recruiters say that a blank profile photo lands many qualified candidates into the maybe pile. A faceless candidate communicates an incomplete profile, which is perceived as low motivation and a lackluster enthusiasm for finding work.

After all, if you went to a dating site and read the profile of the mate of your dreams, but instead of a tall blond, you saw a blank, would you believe what that person says?

A strong LinkedIn profile picture includes the following key elements:

  • A pleasant smile: A good photo is warm and welcoming. Show those pearly whites.

  • Professional attire: Not every job requires that you wear a suit and tie, but you should dress appropriately. Think about the job you’re going for and dress for your first day.

  • A pleasing background: Each color and background texture alters the emotional quality of the image. Some people choose green or blue backgrounds, which convey trust and stability. One friend, a financial advisor, stood next to the Merrill Lynch bull to communicate an association with the financial industry.

  • An interesting angle: Your profile picture isn’t a mug shot, so don’t look head on at the camera. Instead, try tilting your head slightly or look at the camera over a shoulder. You want to avoid symmetry around your head.

  • A sign of your personality: A marketing job seeker used an image of herself playing a Rock Band guitar which helped her land a job in the creative marketing world. Although you don’t need a gimmick or prop in your photo, think about what you can do to show who you are and how that image relates to your chosen industry.

  • Clear lighting with a close crop: Because your picture will appear on someone’s computer in a very small crop, your face needs to be clearly visible. Be sure you use lighting that highlights your face, and crop so that your face takes up most of the 150-x-150 thumbnail.

Don’t crop your face out of your vacation photos. Take your profile picture seriously and find an hour or two to do it right. If you don’t have a good camera, see whether your local department store has a family studio where you can get some good, professional shots.

If you’re concerned that adding a picture of yourself to your LinkedIn profile may put you at a disadvantage due to ageism, racism, or sexism, consider this: If a hiring manager makes a negative determination about your employability based on a half-inch sized profile photo, then his company isn’t for you. Clearly that organization has a culture of oppression, and you probably aren’t anxious to jump into a shark tank.

This type of organization can make it twice as hard for you to succeed, so let it go. If you don’t have a picture, you’re not playing ball. Recruiting professionals are used to seeing profiles with pictures, so the one without the picture becomes the oddity.

And to hammer down this point, LinkedIn’s search algorithm puts priority on displaying profiles with images on search results pages. Without a picture, your profile probably won’t get the full consideration or visibility it deserves.

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Joshua Waldman, MBA, is an authority on leveraging social media to find employment. His writing has appeared in Forbes, Huffington Post, Mashable, and the International Business Times. Joshua's career blog,, won the Readers' Choice Award for Best Career Blog 2013. Joshua presents keynotes, trainings, and breakout sessions around the world for students, career advisors, and professional organizations.

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