Does My LinkedIn Profile Really Need a Photo?

by Meg Guiseppi on December 5, 2011

Linkedin Chocolates

If you think that HAVING a photo on your LinkedIn profile (and elsewhere online) may red-flag you for discrimination – age, weight, ethnic background, etc. – think about this.

NOT having a photo can be a red flag, too.

Discussions persist over whether including your photo can cause people to discriminate against you. My c-level executive clients – typically over 50 years of age – are understandably worried that they’ll suffer from age discrimination. You can minimize the age issue by not including earlier career history in the “Experience” section, but a photo could well show age.

Your reasoning for not including a photo may be that you hesitate “putting yourself out there” so visibly. Although you know that for executive job search and networking, you have to be on LinkedIn, you resisted putting up a profile in the first place.

You didn’t really want to have an online presence at all, but you slapped up a LinkedIn profile because you felt you had no choice. But you feel that adding a photo will make you way too visible online.

You may have good reason not to include a photo, but I encourage you to include one. The benefits far outweigh the pitfalls.

Think about the recruiters and hiring decision makers at your target companies who click through to your LinkedIn profile. The first thing they’ll notice 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?”

One of the strategies you should be using with your LinkedIn profile is branding yourself to differentiate the qualifications and qualities you possess from your competitors. Branding is also about creating emotional connections.

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.

Why NOT having a LinkedIn photo is NOT a good idea:

  • You can be perceived as not understanding how to use LinkedIn. It can make you seem out-of-touch with current technology and trends. You can appear to be technically incapable of loading on a photo.
  • “Fake” LinkedIn profiles do exist. Those without photos may be perceived as not belonging to real people.
  • Lack of a photo keeps your profile from being 100% complete, according to LinkedIn’s criteria. Profiles that ARE 100% complete are more likely to show up higher in search results, giving them an advantage over “incomplete” profiles.
  • LinkedIn research indicates that profiles with pictures are seven times as likely to be viewed as those without.

Choose your LinkedIn photo wisely. This is the first thing people are likely to see when they open your LinkedIn profile. Select an appealing photo that strikes the right image and professional tone for your industry and niche.

Remember that your LinkedIn photo isn’t only visible when people click through to your profile. It also shows up with all of your status updates, group discussion comments, contributions to LinkedIn Answers — any of your activity on the site — so make it be a positive reflection of you.

Related posts:

LinkedIn Guide for Executive Branding and Job Search

My free e-book: Executive Branding and Your LinkedIn Profile: How to Transform Your Executive Brand, Resume, and Career Biography Into a Winning LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn: Best Tactic for Undercover Executive Job Search

29 Biggest LinkedIn Mistakes

photo by nan palmero

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Meg Guiseppi May 19, 2017 at 8:24 am

John, I appreciate your insightful advice. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

2 John Clarke May 18, 2017 at 4:07 pm

If you are a minority, do not post your photo. It’s a statistical fact that you will get fewer interviews. At least if you get to the interview phase, the interviewer either has to confront their -ism or invent a reason that your skills didn’t match the position (not to mention exposing him/herself to greater liability for discrimination). Those who dismiss a profile without a photo were looking for non-job-related reasons to dismiss you anyway. From an opportunity, legal, and social standpoint, enabling easier ways in which -isms can affect you and your social group is not a wise path.

3 Meg Guiseppi April 19, 2016 at 9:22 am

EK, thank you for your very insightful comments. There’s no question that discrimination exists in job search, and people may make a judgement based solely on one’s profile photo. But the over-riding fact is that many people will dismiss a candidate outright if their profile has no photo. Everyone needs to make their own decision about whether or not to include a photo. Much needs to be considered.

4 EK April 18, 2016 at 6:58 pm

The advice to include a photo on LinkedIn may very well work for the average LinkedIn client, but may be a significant detriment to those who experience discrimination regularly. Quickly Google, “Uglies need not apply,” and then tell me everyone is better served attaching even a professional headshot to her/his LinkedIn profile. It’s not a popular topic, I understand, but discrimination exists and can have catastrophic effects. Studies over the past few years demonstrate how gender, race, ethnicity, body size, general aesthetics, and age discrimination can close people out of the workforce, even when they otherwise have objectively outstanding credentials.

Another point: some people, though professionally highly competent, may just not be particularly likable intimately. A recent article I read pointed out that hiring managers for medium and small companies strongly prefer to choose from among qualified candidates those they’d “want to sit next to for eight hours a day.” Other studies in social psychology conclude that humans feel we can infer crucial information about character and intellect from the way people look. Together these points suggest some people may experience a net loss from opening with even a “good” photo of themselves.

As the workforce has become better educated and both business and technology savvy than ever before, prejudices, like ageism, can mean the professional kiss-of-death for eminently qualified applicants who’re simply different from how hiring teams envision their perfect coworker. It is too bad that these factors arise often in interviews, too, but at least in person one can hope to wow a hiring manager with one’s personality and command of the knowledge domain.

5 Meg Guiseppi September 4, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Lynn, you should do whatever you’re comfortable with regarding posting a photo or not. If you’ll fear you may be stalked, it’s probably not worth taking the risk. Thanks for commenting!

6 Lynn September 4, 2014 at 1:47 pm

I have nothing to hide, however I am not interested in doing business with individuals that make a decision to hire me based on my appearance. The job hunt is not dating. First impressions should be skills and experience, not appearance.

As a woman, there is no way I would publish my photo to Linkedin or any other social media site. Its a open invitation to be stalked.

Additionally identity thieves are now using site photos to facilitate more sophisticated crimes.

I’d rather be jobless then a target.

7 Meg Guiseppi August 15, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Madhav, it’s unfortunate, but true. Most people probably do judge a book by its cover. Thank you for joining the conversation!

8 Madhav August 15, 2014 at 4:12 pm

People judge, including you. It is part of our biology. A picture is worth a thousand words, and can tell a lot about a person. The problem is, it is easy to misinterpret what we see, so judgments are often inaccurate in truth. What is our FOCUS here ? i think Education + Skills + Experience matters, Take a picture of yourself all dressed up and nice, take another one of yourself in less than perfect condition.

Fact is .. Make 2 profiles, have the profiles identical in every way except the pictures, and the one with the good pictures will get infinitely more views and messages than the one without. ( what will happen to people with no looks ?? ) so, say no pic on professional networks.. pls make it a world a better place to LIVE & WORK.

I Agree with Alex+Mikki

9 Meg Guiseppi August 15, 2014 at 9:00 am


Thank you for your insightful comment. I can appreciate the discrimination dilemma you face. You have to do what you feel is right regarding whether or not you post a photo. If you feel your photo is a hindrance, then don’t post it.

But if you find that fewer people are reaching out to you, it may be because your profile has no photo, so you may want to try putting it up again, to test results. See what works best for you.

10 mikki August 15, 2014 at 12:28 am

I agree with Alex fully. I got a lead for some illustration work through a friend who had shown my artwork to a potential client. The client emailed me about me how beautiful my work was. When I replied, the clients attitude really changed. I wondered what had changed so fast. Then I realized my picture was on the account. I immediately removed it. I am African American and I cannot express the different levels of discrimination alive and kicking. I am going to remove my picture from LinkedIn also. Some of you guys really downplay the element of race when you have zero experience with suffering its effects. Please stop denying and downplaying.

11 Quintine Perry April 9, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Alex your comments are right on!

12 Meg Guiseppi March 14, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Alex, thanks for commenting and bringing up these issues.

You’ve pointed to an ongoing debate among career professionals and others — whether or not including a photo in your LI profile will leave you open to discrimination.

The thing is, you’ll never know if your photo helps or hinders your candidacy. It could be that including your photo actually makes you a more appealing candidate, even for the very things others may discriminate against you for.

In this age of transparency, more and more job seekers are comfortable including their photo, which leads me to believe that hiring professionals will be less and less likely to discriminate.

My advice — People should weigh all the odds and make the decision for themselves. But I always advise my c-level executive clients to include a photo, because I feel it helps more than it hinders.

13 Alex Gutierrez March 13, 2013 at 11:55 am

You make interesting points but I still think that people should be judged by their education and experience and not how attractive they are. In addition, I also find it interesting that of all of the people who are dispelling the possibilities of discrimination, none of them are people of color. In addition, I think that from a sexual harassment perspective this opens up the chance of potential liability. As a Human resources business partner, coming across cases of sexual harassment has been a regular thing. By posting a picture of yourself on Linked in you run the possibility of being selected for a position simply because the individual hiring you may want a chance at giving you a lot more than a pay check. Earlier in the comments posted I noticed one person comparing dating to hiring. HUGE Mistake!!! When people are dating they are looking for a physical and emotional connection. Hiring or looking for employment should not encompass either of the two. LinkedIn in some ways is more than just a means to network. In many cases your entire career and certain aspects of your personal life are open for all eyes to see. In some ways it’s even more open than Facebook because Facebook at least gives you the option of allowing who gets to see what. I think LinkedIn is a phenomenal tool, I just think not having a photo should not be a “red flag”.

As I mentioned before I’ve been in Human resources for over 8 years and I’ve seen all types of issues involving employee relations. In one instance a few years ago, I terminated a manager who openly admitted that he hired a young lady he found on linked in because he found her to be attractive. Little did he know, she was unable to fulfill the duties of the job and became engaged shortly after being hired. In fact, he even went as far as to check out her personal Facebook page from work the day of the first interview because she used her personal email address on her resume. When this happened I decided to conduct an experiment. I asked my then girlfriend (now fiancee) to take a look at the list of people that have viewed her page on LinkedIn. Being that she is a young, attractive and in shape woman with a photo on her linked in account, I was curious to see if those who were looking at her page were people in her line of work or industry. What we found was interesting. All of the men that showed up had NOTHING to do with her line of work. In many cases they couldn’t have even been potential clients. One guy was a school bus driver and another was a janitor. When we looked for the individuals that were in her line of work, they happened to be women. Point is hiring should be based on prior experience and education not looks. You want a job not to be homecoming king/queen.

14 Meg Guiseppi December 12, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Hi Randi!

Thanks for your comment. This makes me wonder whether people who don’t have a profile photo, and do business via LinkedIn, sabotage opportunities.

I would be surprised if those of us in the careers industry discriminate against doing business with job seekers who don’t have a profile photo, but there could well be other businesses that would shy away.

One more consideration when deciding whether to include a photo – people may not want to do business with you.

15 Randi Bussin December 12, 2011 at 3:41 pm

You make some great points in this article. In fact, before I speak with a prospective client, I check out their LinkedIn profile. If they do not have a photo-I have the same thoughts. I wonder what “they are trying to hide” so I can only imagine what a prospective employer is thinking.

16 Meg Guiseppi December 12, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Jeff, you make a valid point, of course. But it could be that discrimination against those without photos could be more prevalent than for reasons of color, age, or any other physical factor. You never really know.

Thanks for commenting!

17 Jeff December 12, 2011 at 10:49 am

Interesting but I think that some people rightly fear discrimination, if not based on age then definitely on race. Many studies have shown that racism is still a major factor in hiring.

18 stephen q shannon December 7, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Susan, Your “first date” comment sings. Your full name is also beautiful branding not to mention memorable…easy to say and spell. Grand slam.

19 Meg Guiseppi December 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Susan, I love that! “A LinkedIn profile is like a first date.” It’s so true. Give prospective employers a visual image of what they’ll be getting, as well as an idea of how you’ll perfor, through hard-hitting content.

Thanks for commenting!

20 Susan Peppercorn December 6, 2011 at 8:19 pm

I couldn’t agree more about the importance of having a photo on LinkedIn. In many ways dating and interviewing are very similar. You’re both selling yourself and trying to figure out – will this company and I be a good match?
Would you date (or hire) someone you’ve never seen? A LinkedIn profile is like a first date.

21 Meg Guiseppi December 6, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Steve, thanks for your thoughtful comment. You make a good point. So many LinkedIn members have not optimized or fully competed their profiles. Those who take the time to do so, will have a greater competitive edge. They’ll be more likely to be found on LI.

22 stephen q shannon December 6, 2011 at 6:50 am

Meg has nailed this key element of embracing LinkedIn. My hunch is that you, like a majority of my tribe (boutique client base) have put off and put off intensely optimizing your LI profile way beyond the minimums (full green line) that LinkedIn recommends. Big mistake! Meg can in less than 60 minutes, get your profile on the road to being “found” if you will only say yes to her. You have less competition to be intensely optimized, because so few members of LinkedIn will do the work. How can I say this? Because I have been on LinkedIn since 2007 at a mere 21 million!

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