The Psychology Behind the Perfect LinkedIn Profile Picture

linkedin profile picture

467 million people used LinkedIn in 2016. Judging by statistics in previous years, the number is steadily rising. So how do you create a LinkedIn profile, and most importantly, profile photo, that will stand out from the crowd?

Although you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, many companies looking to hire employees do just that. Your photo should reflect not only who you are at this point in time, but who you aim to be.

Just like you shouldn’t dress for the job you have, but dress for the job you want, your LinkedIn profile picture should also reflect your business goals.

Read on for more information on the psychology behind choosing the best LinkedIn profile photo. It could help you land the job of your dreams.

What Does Your Profile Photo Say About You?

Actual Photo Analysis Results:

Age: 35:
Ethnic: White_Caucasian
Attraction: 7.64 out of 10
Emotion: Happy 
Results: This would be a GOOD choice for a Dating Profile.


One Face, Many Impressions

According to one study published in Psychological Science, different photos of the same person can lead to different first impressions. During the study, even photos taken of the same person, with the same angle and same lighting created different impressions based on the expression of the individual.

When asked which shot they prefer for different online platforms, such as dating profiles or LinkedIn, people favored varying photos and expressions. For example, they may prefer one photo of an individual for Facebook, but another photo with a different expression for online dating.

We Subconciously Assign Traits to Photographs of Individuals

The aforementioned research states that people often assign traits to individuals based on the photo they are looking at. For example, photos that look too relaxed don’t give off a competent vibe and may look as though you’re too immature for the job.

But photos that show your shoulders can make you look tense, which can put people off by thinking that you might be unable to relax.

The More Natural and Transparent the Better for Your LinkedIn Profile Picture

When choosing a profile photo for LinkedIn, you want to look natural and relaxed, but not too relaxed. You’ll want a photo that shows that you’re professional, but not that you’re trying too hard. A photo where you are not trying to impress others will often rank the highest in terms of the best photo for LinkedIn.

Photos that look too posed, or have you in a high powered suit, might look like you’re trying a little too hard to look professional and polished. But photos in a tank top with heavy makeup would best be reserved for a more casual platform, like Facebook or online dating.

According to casual findings by journalist Vanessa Van Edwards, sunglasses and other things that obstruct the face make you look less likable and less competent. As a result, they should be avoided, specifically for professional photos.

Should You Pose With Your Full Body or Headshot?

Full body poses increase likeability quotients, according to the aforementioned research by Vanessa Van Edwards. But while it does increase your likeability, it often decreases how competent people assume you are. While you want to be likable in your LinkedIn photo, you want to strike a balance between likable and competent.

Headshots are more associated with competence and professionalism than full body shots. Save the full body shot for your personal social networking, and use a headshot instead.

Posing or a More Natural Shot?

A photo that looks “too posed” can come across as unnatural. As such, people might not find you approachable. Remember, you want to strike a balance between likable and competent, and a posed shot can decrease your likeability.

Instead, opt for a photo that just shows your head or your head and shoulders. You should also make eye contact with the camera, which boosts your approachability.

Photos to Avoid

Psychology supports the notion that we judge people in an instant. Because of this, there are types of profile photos that should simply be off limits to those trying to make a good impression on their LinkedIn profile.

First and foremost, avoid selfies. If you can take a professional looking selfie that doesn’t look like you held it over your head at an angle, that could work for a LinkedIn profile, providing it doesn’t look too much like a selfie. But a photo that is very obviously taken by you should never be put on a professional profile.

Additionally, avoid photos with too many filters, photos where you’re not smiling at all (you want to look approachable and likable), photos of other items or pets or pictures with your face cropped out. While some of these might seem like a no-brainer, many people continue to make these mistakes, and then wonder why their profiles aren’t getting the hits they deserve.

You should also steer clear of any photos that could double as photos from a drunken night out with friends, anything where you’re dressed in revealing attire is or a photo that was clearly taken in the mirror. Remember, keep it likable, but professional.

Crowdsource Opinions

If you’re stumped as to which photo to use, you can always crowdsource for the best photo for your LinkedIn profile. PhotoFeeler allows you to let totally anonymous strangers decide which picture works best for you based on a variety of factors. They can rate the photos based on how they perceive your likeability, competence and how influential you might be.

You can also change the photos for different social media platforms, such as social or dating. Photos intended for other platforms will rate you based on other things those particular users are looking for.

This is an excellent tool if you’re still stumped but know what kind of vibe you want to give off to future employers.

Which Photo to Choose?

Ultimately, a professional but likable photo is your best bet for your LinkedIn profile picture. It can be difficult to decide which photo is the most appropriate for your LinkedIn without a third party. Therefore, using crowdsourcing sites or asking friends and family to help you is a good strategy. Neutral individuals and those interested in helping you succeed are great resources.

Check out our blog for more information on using social media to help you land a job, and find the love of your life. And consider a personal branding expert if you want to take your profile further.

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