9 tips to stop compromising your career ambitions on LinkedIn

LinkedIn Profile Picture

This article has nothing to do with LinkedIn endorsements neither recommendations. It’s about a slightly different topic, because for the success you need a good profile first. If your profile is terrible in general, doesn’t matter how many LinkedIn endorsements you buy, it won’t help. So let’s focus on different aspects now…

How can you have a winner LinkedIn profile

Let’s say you have a LinkedIn profile with every data and information filled, LinkedIn says you are an “All Star”. Congratulations, you are going to the right direction, so do yourself a favor and don’t ruin the whole thing with a handful of poorly chosen pixels. Because your visitors won’t even click your profile and read more about you if your profile picture is not attractive enough.

I deal with dozens of people on LinkedIn on a daily basis, and I see what mistakes they make. Whether you realize it or not, we make instantaneous judgements about every person and image we see. And it is also true for the recruiters and others getting their first impressions from what you put on your LinkedIn profile.

“Face perception involves a specialized neuronal network and is one of the most developed visual perceptual skills in humans,” notes a recent study out of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. “Facial appearance can affect judgments of attributes such as trustworthiness, aggressiveness and competence.” Another study published in 2015 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in the US supports this, finding that facial characteristics factor strongly into people’s perception of an individual’s character, strengths, weaknesses and ability to lead in different situations.

According to research, happy faces come off as more trustworthy — political candidates with competent-looking faces are more likely to win and people are more likely to convict defendants who “look guilty.”

For CEOs, looking healthy is more important than looking smart, according to the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. Study participants chose more healthy-looking faces over less healthy-looking faces for leadership in 69 percent of trials, in which they were shown two photos of one man, digitally altered to appear more or less intelligent or more or less healthy.

A new study by researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University of York says that accurate first impressions can be attained from measurements of physical features in everyday images of faces, including those found on social media. The university sought to examine how different judgments can be boiled down to three distinct dimensions — approachability, dominance and youthful-attractiveness — by taking 1,000 faces, describing them in terms of 65 different features such as eye height and eyebrow width, and combining these measures to explain the variation in human raters’ social judgments of the same faces.

All this to say the obvious: choosing the right photo to convey leadership capability — or even overall capability — is paramount, especially in the professional universe that is LinkedIn.

A poor choice can be damaging to your professional brand and even hamstring your career opportunities. Glossing over the all-too-obvious no-nos, such as using party shots or vacation pics that reveal too much information, there are more subtle offenses.

  1. No selfies.
    LinkedIn is a professional network, please act like that. It is obvious if a photo is self-taken and that tells a lot about you. First of you are definitely not a team-player if you can’t ask anyone to take your picture. It also says that you don’t care about your profile picture that means you don’t care about your profile, your career and your job. That is not a nice message to send to your visitors.
  2. Position and angle.
    You should be on the picture alone. No friends, no family, no kittens, babies, only you in the center, facing the camera. Don’t look elsewhere, you should establish eye contact with your visitor through your LinkedIn profile picture. Don’t use pictures where you were not aware that your picture is being taken.
  3. Background.
    Make sure to choose a simple, not distracting background. It doesn’t have to be plain color, it can be for example a brick wall or the company logo on the wall. Of course an office or a cityscape is also fine, but make sure the focus is on you, and the background is out of focus or even blurred out. You don’t want people read confidential data from the office whiteboard.
  4. Clothes and overall look.
    On the picture you should look healthy, tidy and most importantly wear what you usually wear at work. If your job requires a suit, than wear a suit on your profile picture. If you are a doctor, you should dress according to that. Make sure that you accurately represent your profession, in terms of clothing.
  5. Up-to-date.
    On LinkedIn using childhood pictures or anything outdated is a bad idea. Of course there are several jobs but for most of them your are is a pro not a contra. You are more experienced more skillful, don’t deny your age. We get that you loved the golden ages when you were a quarterback in the high school football team, but now you are playing in a different league.
  6. Appear approachable.
    Try to look nice and trustworthy, warm and friendly. You want people to have nice feelings when they look at your picture, you want them to work with you. If you look mean, sneaky or arrogant, no one will contact you. Try to find the balance between the serious and the fool. It’s nice to express that you have personality, it’s fun to work with you, but in the meantime you don’t want to position yourself as the clown of the office either.
  7. No Photoshop, or just a little bit.
    You can have some corrections on your photo, but make sure to not over saturate the picture, you don’t want to make your visitors bind. Try to not apply filters and effect, or hilarious amount of blur on your picture. If the source material is not good enough, simply make another picture instead of raping it with Photoshop.
  8. No full-body pics.
    Your picture will be displayed in a tiny space, so you have to make sure your face is recognizable, your expressions are visible. Do not use full-body pictures on LinkedIn. As a golden rule, use conventional portrait pictures, your body should be visible only to the line of your elbows maximum.
  9. No “too-close-ups” either.
    If your profile picture is so close-up that your chin or the top of head is missing, it’s time to look for another picture. It is the opposite of the full-body picture when your visitor can barely see anything except your pours on your nose. At least your shoulders should be visible, not just your face. As a golden rule let’s say your face should take up 60% of the frame.