Deadly LinkedIn Mistake: No Professional Photo

by Meg Guiseppi on July 13, 2015


When I first viewed the LinkedIn profile of a recent client (a CFO job seeker), I knew something was fishy.

A dashing 30-something man was smiling at me with perfect teeth, perfect hair, and a perfectly chiseled face. Based on his career history, I knew my client had to be around 50. He obviously used a stock photo.


Sure enough, he told me he and some colleagues thought it would be fun to put up this misleading photo.

What he didn’t realize was that when I Googled his name – which executive recruiters and employers were sure to do as well – real photos of him came up in various places. He didn’t look anything like his LinkedIn profile photo.

Think about how this discrepancy would impact his credibility and reputation. People could think all kinds of things about him, including questioning whether his was a legitimate profile.

His blunder could be a worse one than having no photo at all which is, in my opinion, a deadly mistake.

Why You Need a Photo on Your LinkedIn Profile

Although some LinkedIn members fear discrimination based on age, appearance, ethnic background, etc. if they include their photos, I still advise that it’s best to have one. There’s no doubt that discrimination exists in job search, so you’ll need to decide for yourself, but there are risks involved with NOT having a photo.

Most executive recruiters and hiring decision makers at the companies you’re targeting will see your LinkedIn profile before they see anything else about you. Put yourself in the shoes of these people assessing your candidacy through your LinkedIn profile.

The first thing they’ll notice when they land on your profile is your photo . . . or lack of one. If you have NO photo, their initial thought will likely be “What is this person trying to hide?”

Personal Branding Matters

Personal branding is an essential piece in developing the content for your LinkedIn profile. Branding helps you differentiate the qualifications and qualities you possess from your competitors’.

Branding also helps you make an emotional connection. People connect easier and believe content more when it’s accompanied by the author’s photo. They’re more likely to reach out to someone when they can “see” the person. Your photo helps to personalize and humanize your brand-driven content.

Another issue associated with not having a photo − your profile may be flagged as a fake, especially if there’s very little content within the profile.

And lack of a photo keeps your profile from being 100% complete, according to LinkedIn’s criteria. Complete profiles land higher in LinkedIn search results than incomplete ones, making you more visible and “findable” online.

Choose your LinkedIn photo wisely. It follows you everywhere on the site, with any of your activities, not just when people click through to your profile.

Select an appealing photo that strikes the right image and professional tone for your industry, niche, and personality. Executives typically wear suits, but if your leadership style is relaxed, then a more casual, but still professional, look may be right for you.

Bad Photo Choices That Can Hurt Your Chances

  • An obvious selfie taken in front of the bathroom mirror. (Any selfie is probably not a good idea.)
  • A group photo of you and colleagues. Which one is you?
  • A photo with you and your darling child or children.
  • A party photo of you.
  • No actual photo – just a logo or goofy drawing.
  • A photo of you holding a beer, at a barbecue.
  • A photo of you inappropriately or partially dressed.
  • A photo of scenery, but no you.
  • A photo of someone other than you – like my client noted above.

Go to a professional or have a friend take a headshot of you smiling, both showing teeth and closed-mouthed – inside and outside. Try wearing different clothes.

Then sit down with all the possibilities and a few friends and/or colleagues. Try to reach a consensus on which one evokes the real you, consistent with the brand message you want to get across.

More About LinkedIn and Executive Job Search

Personal Branding and Your LinkedIn Profile Photo

Deadly LinkedIn Mistake: Neglecting SEO and Keywords

Deadly LinkedIn Mistake: Generic, Short Summary Section

Deadly LinkedIn Mistake: Anemic, Incomplete Profile

Get the Most Out of LinkedIn

graphic on wikimedia


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