10 Tips for Picking the Right LinkedIn Profile Picture 

August 5, 2019

Your profile picture is a key element of your LinkedIn presence. Our research shows that just having a picture makes your profile 14 times more likely to be viewed by others.

As a recruiter, that means this little round image is your first chance to make a good impression on candidates — and it's a key element of your recruiter brand.

If you already have a recent headshot taken by a professional photographer or have the opportunity to get one, this is often a good bet. A photographer can ensure that the lighting is flattering and that you’re putting your best foot (or rather, face) forward. This typically costs between $200 and $400.

However, if you don’t have the budget, the camera on your smartphone will also do the trick. Here are 10 tips to help you pick a strong photo and make a great impression.

1. Pick a photo that looks like you

It might sound obvious, but your photo should give candidates a clear idea of what you’d look like if they met you tomorrow. 

You’ve probably met someone whose social profile photo looks nothing like how they look now — maybe it’s a photo that was taken 10 years ago, before they started wearing glasses, or before they dyed their hair. It can be startling to meet them in person if you’ve only got that picture to go by, and it might even make you question their credibility.

Make sure your LinkedIn profile picture is up to date (within the past few years) and reflects how you look on a daily basis — your hair, glasses, makeup, and so on. If you do change your appearance drastically, consider taking a fresh pic to keep candidates in the loop. The first time they see you in person might be when they come in to interview, so giving them the ability to quickly identify you can improve their experience and help put them at ease.

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Related: 10 LinkedIn Profile Summaries That We Love (And How to Boost Your Own)

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2. Use a high-resolution image

The ideal size for your LinkedIn profile picture is 400 x 400 pixels. Larger file sizes are also fine (although 8MB is the max), but try to avoid small, low-resolution images.

If the picture looks a bit blurry when you upload it, you may want to opt for a different one. This may also happen if you try to take a picture of a picture (like taking a pic of the photo on your ID badge) so it’s best to take a fresh one instead. 

3. Make sure your face takes up at least 60% of the frame

Using a picture of yourself standing atop a distant mountain peak works well for some social media platforms, but it’s not ideal when you want candidates to know what you look like. 

Instead, aim to have your face filling about 60% of the space. Crop the picture from the top of your shoulders to just above your head so that your face fills the frame.

4. Be the only person in the picture

It’s great to show candidates that you’re collaborative and love your team. But if you use a group photo as your profile pic, they may be unsure which person is you. 

To leave candidates with no doubt about what you look like, choose a solo photo for your profile pic. Cropping a group photo isn’t the best solution, since you might see a random hand or shoulder popping into the frame. If you do want to include a team picture on your profile, you could use this for your banner picture instead.

5. Get someone else to take the picture for you

While it’s fine to use a photo taken with a cellphone, it’s probably best to steer clear of a selfie. Ask a friend or coworker to take it for you — it only takes a minute and it can make a big difference. 

For one thing, the front (selfie) camera on most phones produces a lower-quality image than the rear camera. Depending on your phone settings, it may also produce a mirror image, which can cause any words or logos to appear backwards. 

Plus, by getting someone else to take the picture for you, you’ll probably find that your pose is more natural and comfortable. They might also help to direct you a bit, like telling you to tilt your head slightly or tuck your hair behind your ears.

6. Choose the right expression

Your profile picture is an opportunity to convey your personal brand. So if you consider your brand a little more serious, it’s okay to look serious in your picture. But generally speaking, smiling can help put candidates at ease and make you look more approachable. 

One study of 800 profile pictures found that people view you as more likable, competent, and influential if you smile in your pic. And smiles that show teeth were rated twice as likable as closed-mouth smiles. 

Consider practicing in front of a mirror first to see which expression you like best. You don’t want to look uncomfortable, so do what feels natural to you.

7. Avoid distracting backgrounds

Where you take your picture matters. You don’t want anything to distract from your face, so a simple background can help ensure that you’re the focal point. 

That’s not to say you have to be standing in a white, empty space. Taking the picture outside in nature or against a painted wall can keep things simple without being boring. If you want to showcase cool details of where you work, though, that might be better for your banner image.

8. Wear what you’d wear to work

Every workplace has a different vibe when it comes to the dress code, and your profile picture can help candidates get a feel for that vibe right away. You don’t want to be over or underdressed. 

If you wear jeans and a button-down most days, it’s okay to wear that outfit in your pic — likewise if you wear a suit.  And if you work from home most days, try wearing clothes that match the dressiness of the company as a whole, just to help candidates gauge what might be expected of them. 

Another thing to note is that solid colors tend to do best on camera. Color blocking your outfit using bold tones can help make your pic really pop.

9. Take the photo in soft, natural light

Lighting can completely change the look and feel of your photo. Standing beneath harsh fluorescent lighting can change the tint of your pictures and create shadows on your face, while using a camera flash may make your skin look shiny. Natural light usually produces the best effect, but direct sunlight can make pictures look blown out. 

Try taking your picture outside on an overcast day, in a slightly shady area (anywhere that’s out of direct sunlight), or when the sun is setting to help to soften the light. You can also stand inside using the light from a nearby window to illuminate your face and give your skin a natural-looking glow. Avoid standing with your back to the window, as this will make it harder to see your face.

10. Use filters wisely 

LinkedIn now offers six filters that you can apply to your profile picture, each of which will give your photo a slightly different look and feel. Think carefully about what kind of mood you want to convey, and don’t be afraid to play around to see which filter looks best. The Spotlight and Classic filters, for example, can make your image look more polished and sharp. 

If you don’t want to apply a filter, you can still adjust the brightness, contrast, saturation, and vignette of the photo directly on LinkedIn — so you don’t need to learn Photoshop to make a few subtle tweaks.

What having a great profile picture means for you

To increase your response and referral rates, invest in your profile picture. It’s your first chance to communicate that you are friendly, likable, and trustworthy — attributes that are crucial to getting prospects to engage with you. 

Think of it as your first step to building your personal brand on LinkedIn and making yourself stand out from other recruiters. Now that’s worth investing in. 

But you don’t need to stop there. For more tips on how to polish up your profile and build your personal brand on LinkedIn, download our free ebook: 6 Steps to Building Your Recruiter Brand on LinkedIn.

Learn how you can find and hire the right talent using LinkedIn Talent Solutions. Request a free product demo.

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