Is the LinkedIn profile photo really that important?

A good first impression on LinkedIn matters. ALOT.

Putting up a good photo of yourself matters VERY MUCH on LinkedIn. And yes, the LinkedIn profile photo is the first impression that others have of you on the professional platform.

Judging a book by its cover — unfortunately, that’s how most of us operate.

The human brain is naturally resistant against expending much of its energy and processing capacity. Unless it’s absolutely needed.

The brain relies on shortcuts to complete an activity — rather than working overtime.

Why your LinkedIn profile photo is so important

The new LinkedIn is the prime spot to maximize your career and business opportunities.

The place where you find potential clients and customers, where you network with other professionals to grow your network, and where your next job opportunity lie.

On Linkedin, a person is judged by their picture, their profile, what they publish and their comments (interactions) with others.

Arthur Dobrin D.S.W wrote in Psychology Today:

“The sequence that we encounter matters in how we judge subsequent information.”

It’s related to the halo effect.

There exists the cognitive bias of a tendency for an impression created in one area to influence opinion in another area.

In this case, the photo is the first visual impression, where most eyes would land immediately.

Not only that, your LinkedIn profile photo actually follows you around when you are actively interacting or messaging others on the platform.

It's like your "LinkedIn passport photo".

When you comment on articles or write other people a message, your profile photo appears next to your name. When you first write someone a direct message, the person replying to you would see your photo too!

Also, If you think someone is likeable (from a picture!), you’re more likely to be friendly, which raises the likelihood for positive interaction.

Similarly, if you deem someone to be unlikable or perhaps rude, you may be more careful and guarded, which can lead to a negative interaction.

Top benefits of having a great LinkedIn profile photo

A picture speaks more than one thousand words.

Do you see how your LinkedIn profile picture can influence another person's perception of you?

Furthermore, it’s used as a comparison marker for subsequent interactions with you.

Let's look at the facts.

There is limited information for a stranger on LinkedIn to trust you. There's only your profile headline, description, your career history, possibly some recommendations and endorsements you've accumulated. All those are in text format so the visual component becomes more important!

As you see, it’s even more key to create the best first impression with your only visual of you - your profile picture!

Imagine the effort you put into these two scenarios to portray your best image and how you want others to perceive you.

  • Dressing up well for an interview.
  • Dolling up for the first date.

What makes it any different from a impressive-looking LinkedIn profile photo?

interview dressed up

The Connection-Acceptance Factor

If your profile photo fails expectations, your connection requests are more likely to be ignored (or rejected!)!

Credibility and trust are one of the criteria for accepting connection requests. Instances of fake profiles on LinkedIn have been associated with no photos or strange pictures.

Even if you have a fully filled up profile description, a nice headline and your career history looks credible, people would still have their doubts if they see a picture of a dodgy-looking person.

That image of you is the first thing anyone sees. Therefore the impression you make on others, whether consciously or unconsciously, starts with it.

Your photo should be synonymous with the word "trust"

Creating trust is not rocket science. Review your profile picture with these three basic questions.

a) Do you look approachable?

b) Do you look professional?

c) Are you recognisable from your picture?

Networking and conversation

Another major benefit: Find your dream job

LinkedIn mentioned this in one of their reports last year. “A photo could mean the difference between getting overlooked and getting the job.”

Here are the LinkedIn stats.

When you set a profile photo, you open up these three opportunities. It attracts up to

  1. 21x more profile views
  2. 36x more direct messages
  3. 9x more connection requests

When recruiters go on LinkedIn to search for suitable candidates, they typically search by skillset, job roles or titles or by relevant keyword search.

On the search results page, they are likely to see a long list of results. Their purpose is to shortlist the most suitable candidates and get them placed in the job vacancy as soon as possible.

With the long list of results, the recruiter wants to narrow them to the most suitable candidates that most likely fit the job profile and fit into the company culture.

A missing profile photo falls under the category of an incomplete profile as it makes it more difficult for the recruiter to determine whether you are the best match for the job. It's like a missing puzzle piece from your personal profile.

While an inappropriate photo gives a poor impression and hurts your chances to be shortlisted because it undermines your professionalism and work ethics.

So if you want recruiters to contact you, get a good professional LinkedIn profile photo. If you want to know how professional, likeable and influential you come across from a professional standpoint, check out PhotoFeeler to get some feedback.

More engagement with your content

The new LinkedIn encourages you to showcase content on LinkedIn to author your expertise. When you have a profile picture that speaks "professionalism" and "competency", your words carry more weight and respect for your experience is likely higher.

This leads to more people willing to "listen" and learn from what you say on LinkedIn! They'll "stop by" your post update, video or article to engage with your content. They might agree with a "thumbs-up" and join in the conversation by commenting with their feedback.

Research studies demonstrate that political candidates who look more competent than their rivals are more likely to win elections.

Trust comes intuitively when you look sharp and competent. You don't have an uphill struggle proving the value of your words. The value of your words go up especially during the initial interactions.

I reiterate: people judge a book by its cover before they decide to pick it up and read it.

My advice: dress for success.


Another benefit: build up your network of weak ties

Tanya Menon spoke about this in her Ted talk " The Secret to Great Opportunities is the Person We Haven't Met Yet". The next job, client or even speaking opportunity could lie beyond your current network.

LinkedIn offers the golden ticket to connect virtually to new people. People you wouldn't typically meet in your day-to-day, people who could be living far away.

Building up an online community is challenging because there is a growing mistrust with fake profiles and identities. It's led to an increasing importance on establishing a trustworthy online reputation.

When you put up a professional, friendly and clean LinkedIn profile photo, you reveal more information about yourself.

It's akin to your personal logo. The picture shows you are open and transparent and relating your profile picture to your description gives them more subtle reasons to trust you!

Top 9 LinkedIn profile photo mistakes

I’ve been very active on LinkedIn for a long time now. I’ve written more than 60,000 words and I’ve even published a viral post that got 30,517 post views in two days.

So these are my observations of the top mistakes people make with their chosen profile picture.

  1. No picture: Some folks who are worried about privacy issues staunchly refuse to put up a photo. Put it this way, would you go to a networking event with a mask? How does that feel when you see someone wearing a mask?
  2. Animal photo: I’ve seen a couple of folks with a cat or dog photo. I guess they are real animal lovers but LinkedIn is NOT Facebook. When you put an animal photo, it doesn’t give others a chance to form any other impression except that you are probably an animal lover.
  3. Logo: A logo doesn’t represent you!! As the name implies, a profile photo means you should stick to a picture of your face. Not your company’s business logo or anything else. Imagine when you send someone a private message. The other party would feel that they are speaking to a logo rather than a real human being!!
  4. Far away photo: If your face is too small to be seen, isn't that the same as having no photo?!
  5. Blurry photo: What’s your impression of blurry images on websites? What’s your perceived value when you see a magazine with low-quality images? You get my point.
  6. Family photo: As a professional, we are more interested in knowing first more about you! Your expertise and skills come first, bit of personality is cool but we don’t have to know how many family members you have.
  7. Grumpy-looking photo: That comes across as totally unapproachable and people might be put off. And when you combine an unfriendly-looking picture with straight-talk (words), others would likely perceive that as rudeness.
  8. Photo from 10 years ago: That might create confusion for others. If people meet you face to face and look surprised because you look totally different from your picture, they may wonder why you posted such a misleading photo. Read: trust.
  9. Looks like you just got out of bed: you probably look listless and non-energetic. People want to hang out with positive, high-energy people and if you are similar, you don’t want to attract the wrong crowd.

How to reverse a bad first impression

According to a Harvard university study, it takes 8 positive encounters to reverse the first wrong impression.

(And if you intend to generate leads on LinkedIn, whether organic or paid, the selection of the right photo could make a difference between a potential lead or NONE.)

When you start off on the wrong foot, it creates the fundamental attribution error. It's the assumption bias that the first impression is an essential trait of yours rather than a one-time off misunderstanding.

Initial impressions tend to stick. Especially if it was a horrible one and triggered an emotion.

It takes even more work to overwrite the first bad impression and recreate the right impression to establish trust in relationships. There is less work to form the right impression and proceed from there.

In other words, get a good professional headshot and use that on your LinkedIn profile.

Handshake trust

How to create a perfect LinkedIn profile photo

  1. Choose a photo that looks like you.
  2. Your photo should be brightly lit up.
  3. Wear clothes that you would wear when you go networking or when you meet clients for the first time.
  4. Have a pleasant expression that makes people want to talk to you.
  5. Your face should take up at least 60% of the frame. So it’s in close proximity and your face is clearly visible.
  6. Non-distracting background — ensure you are in the spotlight

To increase your opportunities to grow a valuable network on LinkedIn, invest in your profile picture to convey your friendliness, likability, and trustworthiness. These attributes are key in getting you prospects and opportunities on LinkedIn.

Keep in mind, you’ll never get a second chance to form the first impression.

good impression

The profile photo plays a bigger role on LinkedIn than you imagine. It symbolizes authenticity, conveys trust, and injects subconscious familiarity. When people can actually "SEE" you and associate a face with the name, you come across as a "real" person.

And if you convey warmth, approachability and competency, you've set the right tone for future opportunities.

LinkedIn Profile Video

If you want to amp up your "trustworthiness factor", LinkedIn introduced the Profile Video in 2021. Initially known as the LinkedIn Cover Story, this feature acts as an introductory clip to give others a chance to hear your voice and see how you present yourself.

The length of the short vertical video needs to be a minimum of at least three seconds and up to 30 seconds long.

You can choose to either record it directly using the LinkedIn app or you can first record it on your phone and upload it to your profile.

Once you have successfully uploaded a video, an orange ring will appear around your profile photo.

This is the best opportunity to tell others who you are and what you do professionally - all within 30 seconds. So I highly recommend you to script out what you want to say before pressing on the record button to make sure it's punchy and to the point, creating the best first impression of someone meeting you for the first time.

Need help to power up your LinkedIn profile?

If you are ready to turbo-boost your LinkedIn presence and get more customers through LinkedIn, check out my Power Up Your LinkedIn presence package to learn more.

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