Your LinkedIn Profile Photo Is A Joke

linkedin profile photoSo you have a LinkedIn profile. Well, that’s just great. We’re proud of you. But just like showing up to class in college doesn’t actually get you an A, just showing up to your LinkedIn profile won’t get you a job.

In fact, 9 out of every 10 LinkedIn profiles stop you from getting a  job.

How is this possible, you ask? Isn’t it typically irresponsible facebook photos and oversharing on twitter that cost folks their career?

Oh, those are bad too. But Facebook and Twitter are like the party where you went a little too crazy in college and passed your professor on the sidewalk the next morning. He looked the other way and tried to forget about it. But if you showed up drunk to class, that would be impossible to ignore.

The sad thing is that your LinkedIn profile may be hurting your career and you don’t even know it.

That’s why I spoke extensively with a top recruiter who spends every single day searching LinkedIn for candidates to fill upper-level executive positions. You can bet he’s formed some opinions on what works on LinkedIn and what doesn’t. Below find his insights. This is the first article in a Wall Street Job Report exclusive executive career search series. Stay tuned for more.

We’re going to start with an easy one. At least it seems easy. It seems so simple that it should be obvious to everyone. But, clearly, it is not.

I’m talking about your profile photo.

Quite frankly, it is shocking how many high-level executives sell themselves short with an unprofessional LinkedIn profile photo. It’s even more embarrassing when the individual in question is actively seeking a new position.

Here’s a short list of LinkedIn Profile photos to NEVER use.

1. The “I live for the weekends” photo.


Variations include: Woman in sparkly dress, headshot with bare shoulders, woman holding a drink, woman in a crowded room, woman at the beach, some full-body shots. This is by far the biggest offender on LinkedIn.

Translation: You want to hire me because I’m fun and freewheeling, not some stodgy old button-ed up exec. I’m cute and pretty and I’ll wear a lot of makeup and short skirts to work. I’ll be going out for drinks most nights of the week and don’t ask me about my weekend on Monday morning because I won’t remember half of it, and yes 50% of all workdays, I will be functioning under a mild hangover. But hire me because I’m fun!

Exception: If you are a party promoter, bartender, or other nightlife performer.

2. The “Check out my bling” photo.

Chan Nandhray

Variations include: Guy posing in front of sports car; guy posing in front of motorcycle; guy posing in front of sailboat; guy posing in front of motorboat; guy posing in softball/basketball/hockey gear.

Translation: I’m a really cool cat. I’m probably cooler than you, the person checking out my profile. I’ll be cutting out of the office early on Tuesdays and Thursdays for softball practice and Friday afternoons you’ll find me on my boat, not at the office. I will have sunglasses on my head at all times, just in case I have to jump into my convertible at a moment’s notice.

Exception: If you are a professional sports player, Nascar driver, or boat repairman.

3. The “Quintessential Family Man/Woman” photo.

Variations include: Man or woman with arm around shoulder (significant other cropped out of the shot); any shot that includes significant other or kids

Translation: I spend all of my time with my significant other and/or kids, to the point that I literally couldn’t even find a recent photo of me by myself where I look good. I have no independent thoughts, no independent ideas, and I need to be guided by others at all times.

Exception: If you are a society wife capitalizing on your husband’s influence to raise funds for charity.

4. The weird facial expression photo

Translation: Either this is how I look all the time, or I am a really bad judge of my own appearance in photographs. Either way, you can expect me to be awkward at reading social signals in the office and when interacting with clients.

5. The scary photo

Vemuri S.

It’s like a car accident. You can’t tear your eyes away, but you really don’t want to look. What exactly is going on in the above photo? Is someone about to be shot? I don’t want to know. I really don’t. Don’t scare me away with your profile photo.

7. The I Just Got Married Photo

This one is a rare breed. You really have to hunt to find it. But that doesn’t make it any less egregious. The young lady picture above looks just delightful in her gown, and the photo could be a great Facebook profile picture. But unless she is a gown designer or other wedding industry mogul, sharing the news that she’s just gotten married with her professional network is not a good thing. Is she worn down from the months of planning? Is she going to be on an extended honeymoon? Is the stress of newly married life not going to agree with her? These are all questions that pop into the viewer’s head. They could all be avoided if she switched the photo.

8. The Overly Dark Photo

A man in a dark coat walks alone on a remote beach at sunset. Revelers and merrymakers are long gone. He looks warily over his shoulder to see if he is being followed, then hunches up his collar and continues his lonely walk as the sun dips below the waves.

Sounds like the opening to short story in the New Yorker or a bad crime television pilot. Not like the beginning of a great career. Why can’t we see his face?

8. The standoffish or agressive photo

Translation: You got a problem with me? After you hire me, I will be impossible to work with, create drama among my coworkers, and respond to even the slightest criticism from my superiors with anger and indignation.

9. No Photo

Translation: I don’t want to be on LinkedIn. Like I really don’t want to be here, even more than I don’t want to be at my bratty niece’s bat mitzvah and my ex’s engagement party. But I had to, so look, here’s my name, here I am. I’m trying to hide, though, so I didn’t put a picture up. I don’t really even get what this LinkedIn thing is and I’m too busy/lazy/stressed/old/backward to figure it out. Why should I bother? Everyone told me to be here so I’m here. Isn’t that enough? OR: I can’t put a picture up because I will be recognized as one of America’s most wanted.

10. The I put no work into taking this photo photo.

 Translation: The internet? Yeah, I’ve got that figured out. I just snapped a quick photo on my smartphone in my horribly lit cubicle and I’m good to go!

The Win List:

These guys did a great job conveying their professional personality and their career accomplishments in the photos. Here’s what they did right

-You can see their faces clearly.

-Their facial expressions are pleasant, not odd or scary.

-They are dressed professionally.

-Both men are in work-related settings; the man on the left is apparently at an important business conference, while the gentleman on the right is enjoying an out-of-doors networking lunch (one could imagine.)

-The image quality and resolution is high.

-The photos are colorful enough to be engaging but not so loud as to distract from the individual photographed.

What do you think? Would you hire anyone with the photos above?

Disclaimer: If this article seems a little bit harsh and judgmental, it’s because recruiters and hiring managers judge candidates–all day long. They have to evaluate you based on the evidence they have at their disposal, and they won’t take a risk.

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Beth Connolly is Editor-in-Chief of the Wall Street Job Report and the Compliance Exchange. She blogs creatively at When Nutmeg Met Basil. Connect with her on LinkedIn , Twitter, and About.Me.

About Beth Connolly

Beth Connolly is Head Editor, Writer, and Marketing Coordinator at the Compliance Exchange and the Wall Street Job Report. She tweets @Bethconnolly and shares her love of the good writing life at her blog, When Nutmeg Met Basil. A graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont, she works in Manhattan and calls Astoria home.

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