Recruiters spend a lot of time on LinkedIn combing through thousands of profiles looking for people who match their requirements. In order to make the process more efficient, recruiters must weed out people based on what they view. There's a famous phrase by Doris Day, "People hear what they see." Recruiters (and, anyone else who looks at your profile), literally imagine what you're like based on your photo. Over time, as they talk to hundreds of candidates, recruiters naturally start to form opinions, also known as candidate bias, towards people with certain things on their profiles. Let's face it, hiring is discrimination. Recruiters must find a way to narrow down the numerous number of candidates. Which means, something as simple as your profile picture can determine if you get contacted.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then these scream, "Don't hire me!"
I asked a large group of recruiters I know for their biggest pet peeves on candidates' LinkedIn profiles. The feedback was overwhelming. There were many things that annoy them. But, the overwhelming response was centered on profile pictures. Here are the top seven epic fails you can make on LinkedIn with your photo:
The "my puppy is the cutest" photo. Heather L. says, "I don't want to see pictures of your cats, dogs, car, etc.... I really don't need to see fun pics." Consider this: for every dog-lover out there, there's a recruiter that's a cat person. Don't ruin your chances by oversharing about your preferences.
The "I'm a woodsman" photo. Rebecca S. says, "I saw one with a cut up deer in a wheel barrel. It was AWFUL!" LinkedIn is NOT the place to try to look strong, intense, or unique. You are trying to get a job. You should look as friendly and approachable as possible.
The "I'm best man material" photo. Kendra S. says, "I had to ask a candidate to replace a picture of himself in tux holding a Heineken bottle. Had to explain Best Man title would not be applicable nor relevant for winning job." While they say everyone looks better dressed up, the tux is overkill. Better still, keep it to a headshot so your clothing (and, beer choice), isn't judged.
The "I'm a mystery" photo. Amber S. says, "Not smiling in the picture or doing the smirk smile." As mentioned earlier, the goal of a profile picture is to look approachable. The smirk can be interpreted as cocky, conniving, and sassy. No smile can appear too serious and anxious. Find your natural smile and let it shine through in the photo. Make sure your eyes are smiling too.
The "I'm sexy and I know it" photo. Jennifer F. says, "Inappropriate profile pics. I've seen candidate's pics from their boudoir photo shoot. This is a business networking site. If you don't have a headshot, stand in front of a blank wall in appropriate business attire, and have someone take your picture." In a time when the #MeToo movement is changing the workplace as we know it, sexy photos are a complete no-no.
The "but, it had the best light" photo. Dave T. says "I hate car selfies." and Stacy J. says, "anything too cutesy or unprofessional." Don't put up a picture just because the lighting was good. Or, you think you look adorable. This isn't a dating app.
And the worst offender? No photo at all. DeAnna T. says, "A profile with no picture." In fact, most of the recruiters agreed a lack of a photo is an immediate eliminator. Why? To them, it usually means the person either has something hide, they aren't tech-savvy, the profile is fake, or the profile has been abandoned by someone who was too lazy to care about how their professional persona looks on LinkedIn.
P.S. - It doesn't stop at the photo.
Your entire profile is being judged. The headline, summary, and work history are equally important. The right amount of text and the appropriate keywords are both critical to making a good first impression with your LinkedIn profile. Taking time to understand what a well-optimized profile looks like can dramatically increase the number of views and outreaches you get from recruiters.