Ever meet someone in person and think, “Whoa. You look nothing like I thought!”

Prospects, customers and colleagues enjoy doing business with people they can relate to and feel like they know. A smiling realtor’s face on business cards and fliers is one way they try to build trust and likeability -- and pave the way for Very Large Purchases, like a house.

I see hundreds of LinkedIn profiles every week and 50 percent fail when it comes to their photo. As a business owner or executive, it’s crucial that people trust you and connect with you. You are the brand. Opinions are formed in a nanosecond. And that means the photo at the very top may be the most important part of your LinkedIn profile.

What does that tiny little thumbnail say about you?

What Are You Hiding?

Don’t have a photo because you’re freaked about privacy? Or extremely shy? People look at photos and ask themselves, “Is this person qualified?” or “Is this someone I want to work with?” If you don’t have a photo as part of your social profile, people will assume the worst. That’s exactly what you don’t need. And if you’re concerned about privacy, you should be more concerned about your personal brand in the age of social media.


Do you look unhappy, bored or just plain fuzzy? Your photo should convey genuine warmth and positive energy. You can still come across as a serious businessperson without forcing a stoic face or vacant stare. It’s not a mug shot.

How Old Are You?

No cartoons or avatars unless you’re a teen or work in the comic book business. Authenticity is key and you’re not going to build trust and transparency with people who don’t recognize you in person. Save “cute” for Facebook or Twitter. And not that I have any first-hand experience at this, but I’ve heard people on dating sites will post pictures of themselves taken long ago. This leads to awkwardness and mistrust when a face-to-face meeting happens. Sell, but don’t lie.

This Isn’t Facebook

Opting for a pic of your dog, kids, boat, or favorite alcoholic beverage? Or prefer a casual look with sunglasses or baseball cap? No. Just no. Your profile is a modern day resume and portfolio so focus on a career-worthy photo, not a look-how-much-fun-I’m-having Facebook-style shot. There’s time enough for someone to get to know about your personal life, foibles and flaws later.

You’re Trying Too Hard

Holy baloney! I’ve seen people go all out with crazy studio lighting or Glamour Shots makeup and hair. It’s just a headshot, not the cover of Sports Illustrated. Trust me, looking natural yet polished is far better. Wear a nice shirt or blouse in a solid color, try 20 headshots with and without flash on your digital or cell phone camera, and let a respected colleague choose the best one.

Make a strong first impression with a profile photo that represents the Big Picture of your career. Choosing the right photo enhances your brand, and provides a face and voice for the words on the page.