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 profile photo can be a red flag, too.
I originally published a shorter version of this controversial post in 2011 and, over the years, several people have left impassioned comments. You’ll see them below.
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.
C-suite and senior-level executives – 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 profile photo is a bad 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 uploading 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 Help says:
“Profile photos can receive up to 21 times more profile views than those without profile photos.”
✅ If you have no photo, then 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.
Your LinkedIn Profile photo is one of the first things people see
If you do decide to use a photo, choose it wisely. Don’t assume that ANY picture of you will do.
I’ve looked at a lot of LinkedIn profiles, and there are a lot of bad profile photos out there.
Remember that, since your profile photo is in the introduction section at the top of your profile, it’s the first thing (along with your background photo in the same section) that people will see when they land on your profile.
And your photo (in other words, your face) follows you everywhere on LinkedIn, when you post to your stream, publish articles, comment on others’ posts, etc.
Naturally, a poor or inappropriate photo will reflect negatively on you. You may turn people off before they read anything about you in your profile.
As with most aspects of job search, put yourself in the shoes of recruiters or other hiring professionals assessing you, your photo or anything else (LinkedIn Profile, resume, etc.) they’ll find associated with you.
What will their first impression be, when they see these things?
Present yourself as a professional and you’ll be judged as one.
Don’t limit the visibility of your LinkedIn Profile photo
According to recruiter Ed Han, a surprising number of job seekers limit the visibility of their headshot to only their LinkedIn connections:
“Limiting the visibility of your face is a BIG mistake on LinkedIn.
To be most visible to recruiters, be sure that your photo is visible to people viewing your LinkedIn Profile even if they aren’t on LinkedIn. For the most successful job search, check your Profile’s privacy settings to be sure that your Profile and your “headshot” (the Profile photo) are completely visible.”
What makes for a good LinkedIn Profile photo?
You can take the worry out of it by hiring a professional photographer. But that’s not a realistic option for most people, cost-wise and time-wise. It could cost you a few hundred and may take a few weeks to get your headshot.
As you probably know, most smartphones these days have very good photo-taking capability. If you take a selfie, using a phone stand will work much better than the phone on a selfie stick or your arm.
A better option is to have someone you know use your phone to photograph you, preferably using a stand.
Take several shots, experimenting with different options, using these guidelines:
🎯 You don’t want a blurry, poorly lighted photo that doesn’t clearly show your face. Pro tip: When your face is in full light, wrinkles and other signs of age are minimized. Try some outside photos and inside ones in naturally lighted rooms. Supplement with lamps directly on your face, if needed.
🎯 Pay attention to the background. You want something that’s not busy and distracting.
🎯 Don’t use a group photo. No one, except the people who already know you, will know which one is you.
🎯 Don’t use a casual photo of you, say, on vacation with a drink in your hand.
🎯 Don’t include more of you than your head, from shoulders up. Any more of your body will mean your facial expression is smaller and harder to read. Your face should take up 50-60% of the frame.
🎯 Look right into the camera so people will clearly see your whole face.
🎯 If you wear glasses all the time, keep them on for the photo, but make sure there’s no glare on them.
🎯 Dress professionally, as you would for an in-person job interview, in the kind of clothes you’d wear on the job. Avoid stripes or bold prints that can be distracting.
🎯 For women, a little makeup goes a long way. Experiment with different colored lipsticks, eyeshadows, etc. Flashy jewelry may be too distracting.
🎯 Don’t use a dated photo. You’ll confuse (and possibly turn off) people when you show up for interviews.
Your expression is important
I can’t stress enough how important your facial expression is in your photo.
A Flexjobs article agrees:
“People hire people that they like. And the fastest way to look like someone a hiring manager might want to work with—day in and day out—is to give your LinkedIn photo a simple smile.
Strangers easily misinterpret almost all facial expressions. So, while you may think the intellectual look in your LinkedIn photo is helping your career, the hiring manager who reads you as smug might disagree.”
Look approachable. Smile genuinely and warmly, showing teeth or not, whichever looks better. An engaging smile will draw people in and help them get a feel for your personality.
How to size your photo
According to LinkedIn specifications:
- Maximum file size is 8MB.
- Pixel size is between 400 (w) x 400 (h) pixels and 7680 (w) x 4320 (h) pixels. We recommend adding a photo that won’t require much cropping. You can adjust the photo after it has been uploaded.
- File type must be PNG or JPG. Note: We don’t support GIFs.
What if you have a photo you like but it’s blurry or otherwise needs some cleaning up?
You can use Photoshop, probably the most popular app for editing photos, or other similar tools.
If this is beyond your capability, there are many services that will do the retouching for you. My own photo needed some work so I had The Headshot Wizard clean it up.
Their photo guide includes a few more tips to take the best photos:
- Set your camera or phone to the highest resolution setting.
- Don’t crop your image too tight. Have some space around either side of your arms.
- NEVER use a flash!
- Take the photo during daytime in natural even light.
- NO direct sunlight.
- NO ceiling lights.
- The camera should be slightly above eye height.
How to upload your LinkedIn Profile photo
Follow LinkedIn’s easy guidelines to upload your photo.
Be aware that LinkedIn can remove your photo if it “doesn’t include your likeness or a headshot photo.” Photos that shouldn’t be used include:
- Company Logos
- Words or phrases
If LinkedIn removes your photo 3 times, you lose the ability to upload a photo again.
Check in Settings for your profile photo visibility. Although you can adjust who can and can’t see your photo, it’s best to stick with the default setting, which is “Public”.