Your Social Media Profile Picture is holding back your job search

head shot
Your face and smile fill the frame

A picture is worth a thousand words

Since we’re tech nerds, we can tell you that a picture is actually worth a lot more than a thousand words. And because of this, we need to pay attention to our social media profile picture. Snap decisions are routinely made on which photo to use, and these are not always putting our best face forward (yeah, tons of bad puns in this one). Let’s give the hiring manager what they want. Fair or not, this picture will help determine if you are a fit for the hiring company. Recruiters don’t want to take the chance that they could be bringing a “suit” into a tech startup or a Lisbeth Salander to Goldman Sachs.   

The picture that is only worth a single word would be described as any of the following:

  • Obvious selfie. Just…don’t.
  • A picture of the candidate where it is obvious the picture was cropped from a group shot of friends. 
  • The candidate is standing in front of a tourist monument like the Eiffel Tower. The monument takes up the full frame and the candidates are just a small speck.
  • Picture of the candidate with a friend or colleagues in front of the sign for an industry conference. The hiring manager doesn’t know which person in the picture is you.

The one word to describe the above profile pictures? “Declined” 

The picture that is worth zero words is the lack of a picture. If the box where the headshot belongs is blank, we lose momentum. This may not be the intention, but a lack of a picture conveys, “I have something to hide”, or “I am resistant to social media”. Both could be showstoppers to certain companies and recruiters. 

So let’s create a 1000 word picture.

In the same way, a profile picture can ruin a candidates chances, a good to a great picture can create momentum. A profile picture on LinkedIn should look like a picture that could be posted on the company website. Take a look at any company About page. Most companies will have headshots of the leadership team. Smaller companies will have headshots of the entire company. Your headshot should fit this paradigm.

You don’t have to be a model to take a great picture unless you are looking to be picked up by a modeling agency. A professional, high-resolution photo won’t raise any eyebrows or cast any undue doubt. 

Headshots are an investment

Headshots don’t need to be expensive. One easy workaround is to have a friend take 15 – 20 pictures of you in front of a neutral background. A brick wall, green trees, or neutral colored wall will work. Using a modern phone, take the picture in portrait mode which will focus on you and blur the background ever so slightly. This makes you pop out of the picture.

The emphasis should be on taking these 15-20 pictures and varying the angles. Professional photographers don’t just take a single picture of their subject looking straight into the camera. Professionals take a couple dozen pictures and adjust their angle to find “the one”.  We are professionals and should treat our job search as such.

If you are looking for a new position, clean up your Facebook and Instagram profiles. If there is a picture of you partying, looking questionable post-party, or looking questionable getting ready to party, your level of judgment will be in question whether you like it or not. Remember, our social media profile is a window into the real you. We all have photos on social media that may look questionable to an outsider, but could be totally benign or part of an inside joke between us and our friends. While you’re searching, it’s better not to take the chance. Make sure what an employer sees when they take their peek is what you’d like to project.  

Key Takeaway: Your profile picture matters. Because it is so easy to obtain a high-quality professional looking photo with modern phones, the bar has risen. Make sure you are rising with it. The devil is in the details; focus on them and you will do well!  


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