Q. I have learned I need a LinkedIn profile to conduct an effective job search; I have my jobs, education and even one reference from my old job on my profile. Some people say I need a picture, but doesn’t that just set me up to be too old, too fat or just not right for the job? I’d rather put in a symbol or leave it empty.
A. Congratulations on recognizing the value of LinkedIn for a job search. LinkedIn has a massive user base and according to its reports, a new member joins every two seconds. Before people meet you, they want to do an initial assessment of what skills you bring, your educational background and anything else which might offer a compelling reason to meet. Recruiters, hiring managers and networking contacts are also looking for some commonality in other connections and what your references have to say; and yes, they want to “see” who you are in person via your picture.
Your LinkedIn profile is your professional presentation and your picture is part of that. Leaving the ”ghost,” or the shadow that shows no photo has been added, indicates an incomplete project; that is not the message you want to provide to potential employers. Adding a great photo enhances your online brand and makes you more approachable to initial contacts. To make sure that happens, you need to select the right picture.
The right LinkedIn picture is a current photo of the professional you. Unless you wear a tux in your everyday job, do not choose a picture of you in a tux, or a wedding dress or a bathing suit. You also don’t want to have a piece of someone’s arm around you from a photo you cropped. If you are in a creative field, feel free to have a super close up that has an artsy appeal, but most people should have a head shot on a day you look your very best. Make sure your hair looks good, you are making eye contact and you have a real smile. Your attire, makeup and jewelry should be professional and not too overwhelming that any attention is dawn away from you.
Ask your professional colleagues for feedback. Make sure you don’t look dated, there is no glare in your glasses, you aren’t wearing sunglasses and as your closest friends would say, “You look as good as you can.”
Anything else in the photo makes a statement, but is it the statement hiring managers are looking for?. Profiles of a person wearing a cowboy hat may play in other geographic areas, but are a topic of speculation in Boston. Symbols or clip art are also questionable. What is the message? Is your profile an advertisement for a business, or a more personal statement? LinkedIn is the professional site. If you want to showcase other skills – you on a surf board or riding a horse, Facebook has a place for those.
So, start taking potential profiles pictures, get feedback and use it to complete your professional profile.