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 again. NOT having a photo can be a red flag, too.
I originally published this controversial post in 2011 and, over the years, several people have left impassioned comments. You’ll see them below.
A thoughtful new comment appeared recently, so I wanted to put this post in the forefront again. Whether or not to include a photo on your LinkedIn profile seems to be an evergreen hot button issue.
Discussions continue over whether or not to include a photo and potentially face discrimination.
I want to state plainly that discrimination in executive job search most certainly exists . . . based on all kinds of things that have nothing to do with someone’s ability to do the job. It’s probably more pervasive than many of us think and, unfortunately, may always exist.
My c-suite executive clients – typically over 50 years of age – are understandably worried that they’ll suffer from age discrimination. Age can be somewhat minimized on LinkedIn and the resume by not including earlier career history in the “Experience” section, but a photo could well give an indication of age.
Many job seekers face racial discrimination, as noted in some of the comments from readers below, and they’ve found that they land more job interviews when their profile has NO photo.
But I wonder, doesn’t it make more sense to post a photo to your profile so you will attract the many companies that are committed to diversity, or looking to build diversity?
NOT including a LinkedIn profile photo can sabotage your chances to land a great-fit job.
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. For the most part, the benefits 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 complete. Profiles that ARE complete are more likely to show up higher in search results, giving them an advantage over “incomplete” profiles.
✅ LinkedIn research indicates that profiles with photos are much more likely to be viewed than those without photos.
✅ If you have no photo, get an interview sight-unseen, show up for the interview, and experience discrimination based on your appearance and/or ethnic background, you’ve just wasted your time and faced an unnecessary rejection, which is always hard to take.
If you do decide to use a photo, choose it 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 follows you everywhere on LinkedIn — with all of your updates, Group activities, and any posts — so make it be a positive reflection of you.