Is it time to drop the selfie from your LinkedIn profile?

Just reaching out…
Just reaching out…
Image: Reuters/Robert Galbraith
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Before experience, educational background, or skills, a small profile picture on LinkedIn is often the first thing a recruiter sees when making a judgment about a potential hire.

And yet so many people post profile photos on the professional-networking site that look, well, unprofessional.

JDP, a background-check service for employers, analyzed 2,000 LinkedIn photos across a dozen different industries to spot trends in how professionals present themselves online. It found that many user photos were pixelated or grainy. Nearly a quarter of the photos were either selfies or cropped from a larger group shot. And many profiles had no photo at all.

“It’s probably unfortunate how much [your photo on LinkedIn] matters,” says Andy Kerns of Digital Third Coast, which worked with JDP on the analysis. “But there’s so much communicated visually before a prospective employee ever meets an employer.”

It makes sense for industries where employees often have to keep a low profile, like healthcare and government, to have so many image-less profiles. But for industries like sales and fitness, which are predicated on first impressions and interpersonal relationships, a missing profile picture can represent a wasted opportunity.

To get a sense of how your photo stacks up, or how to choose a photo to add to your profile, Kerns recommends perusing LinkedIn to find profiles of people with attractive jobs in your field and taking your cues from them. JDP found that norms varied across industries. For example, people in marketing were most likely to have professionally shot photos, and recruiters were most likely to be smiling. Finance professionals were the most likely to be wearing formal attire, and retail workers were most likely to use a selfie.

Real estate workers had the best photos overall, according to the survey’s subjective rankings. You can view the full results here.