A picture tells a thousand words
We have all heard the phrase “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Psychologists Todorov Alexander and Janine Willis from Princeton University studied first impressions in a series of timed experiments. Their findings reveal that when meeting a new person, it takes no more than a tenth of a second for our brains to form a first impression of that person based on their face.
Most of us have been accustomed to making a great first impression during, for example, job interviews, networking events or in any other face-to-face situation. This same principle should, however, also apply to social media, especially on LinkedIn and other professional platforms.
Like it or not, roughly 92% of all recruiters use social media in their work, which means that they will most likely to ask your permission to check your profile on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the most frequently used platform by recruitment professionals as it allows them to find and easily preview potential candidates or references.
First impressions on LinkedIn are heavily based on the UI (user interface) of the platform and since a radical redesign of LinkedIn’s UI in January 2017, much more emphasis was put on your profile picture. It is the first thing that any recruiter sees before even opening your profile and it continues to dominate the screen real estate even after opening. An eye-tracking study from The Ladders found that recruiters on LinkedIn use an average of 19% of their time looking at profile pictures rather than reading through other relevant information about the candidates. The Ladder goes on to state that, as recruiters only spend an average of 6 seconds reviewing each resumé, not much time is spent on the crucial skills and experience. Your profile picture suddenly seems like a crucial part of your digital resumé, doesn’t it?
Based on all of this information, how to make sure that your profile picture attracts the right attention?
Put some effort in the quality
Bad lighting, blurry or pixelated image or perhaps a weird angle. These are all attributes of a bad picture. While you might not be the most photogenic person in the room, you shouldn’t disregard the impact of a well-shot picture. Ask yourself this question: does a bad picture give a positive or negative image of your work ethics and attitude – hint: this is not a trick question.
Ask someone else to take the photo for you
Whatever you do, try to avoid selfies. In the eyes of a recruiter, selfies fall most likely into the category of unprofessional pictures. You don’t always have to pay a professional photographer. You could rather have a friend of yours take the picture with a better camera.
Dress according to your line of business – no suits for startup applicants!
When taking a picture, consider your line of business and the culture that it fits into. If you are an aspiring banker, you should most likely wear a suit – or something other suitable for the picture. On the other hand, if you are applying for a software developer’s role in a gaming company, you might want to wear something more relaxed – something that portrays your personality and interests.
Ask for unbiased opinions
As humans, we are usually blind to our own mistakes. Perhaps you should try to get some unbiased feedback on your photo? You can start by asking your friends, current co-workers and even your LinkedIn network. You could also use a site called PhotoFeeler, where people can give you feedback in masses.
Try something different and test the performance
If you take a random sample of 100 professionals in your field and with the same skills, you can most likely identify similarities. Take for example, the financial sector. Most profile pictures in that field are conservative, include suits and mild colors with identical facial expressions. How can you differentiate yourself from this mass? Try something different and do some A/B testing. Take a few pictures, change them periodically and check out the results from your LinkedIn profile.