With more than 277 million users in over 200 countries and territories so far, LinkedIn is a true social networking juggernaut. On LinkedIn, you'll likely meet your new boss, client, partner, or employee, even if you may not know it at the time. The undeniable reality is that before anyone reads the thousand words on your profile, they will judge you by your headshot.
In 2012, I wrote 19 Reasons Your Headshot May Be an Epic Fail, which took a satirical look at poor examples of profile photos on LinkedIn. That piece, as well as a follow- up a year later, garnered a lot of attention. (The social shares on both articles disappeared this January due to a site relocation, but I swear it received a lot of social media attention.)
The time has come for an update. Because I practically live on LinkedIn, I see an example daily of how to fail at your photo, and recent examples inspired this post. Remember: the point of my snarkitude is to exhort the working masses take a moment to double-check the face they present to the working world.
1. The bare-feet-on-the-beach selfie
That point-of-view shot of your lower calf and feet resting comfortably on a blue towel with only sand/shore/sky in front of you must mean you work for Jimmy Buffet, searching for your lost shaker of salt. Oh, wait. You're an account executive. In Chicago. Maybe this shot helps you endure the polar vortexes all winter, but are those lower gams really the first impression you want to make on LinkedIn?
2. I can haz Seth Godin
The bald look is powerful, I confess. More so when you are so deliberately posing a side profile with one hand on your thick framed glasses. In your gray T-shirt. Against that bright-red concrete background. No smile for you, of course. You are a SENIOR content manager, and you mean business.
3. This is how we drink our tea in London, mate!
A basic recommendation regarding the small real estate afforded our photos on LinkedIn is: Your headshot should show mainly our face. Yet you, sales manager in London, prefer to show us you sitting outside at a busy café with a waitress behind you, mirrored sunglasses on and a lovely flower-patterned tea cup right in front of your nose and mouth. Of course, you're holding up the little saucer in your other hand. Perhaps if you weren't wearing a gray hoodie, it would come off more Downtown Abbey-ish. Perhaps.
4. Don't you wish you could interview me?
Even CEOs like you may want to steer away from using this kind of image. Let me try to paint this picture... A full body pose on a cozy lounge chair. Your face brightly lit from the light attached to an expensive-looking camera mounted on a tripod. An ooh-la-la view of your largely exposed legs. A hint of cleavage to accompany the vaguely provocative half-lying down pose. This photo could easily be mistaken for one taken from a VERY different website involving camera-ready ladies.
5. Duck Dynasty meets data
Sometimes you just come across a LinkedIn pic and do a double-take. Like, hard enough to readjust your upper vertebrae. My dear analytics consultant, that is a LOT of hair cascading down your shoulders. Thick, long, endless hair, parted and draped in a way that we see all of it. Made more stunning by your choice of a pitch black background, your headshot makes it appear as if your head resting on your hand is floating on the dark side of the moon.
6. I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome I am
We share the same taste in favorite actors: William Shatner! In fact, I use the same exact photo of the Captain Kirk meme as the background on my personal Twitter account. As an SEO specialist, you are boldly going where no man should go on LinkedIn—Shatner as Profile Photo.
7. QR code + corporate logo + cartoon selfie
Animators are indeed making more money from Corporate America these days, and I've seen the concept of "cartoon version of myself" pop up on About Us pages and other business-oriented locations. Fun and trendy, sure. Yet I going to argue that it isn't the look for you, a VP for a social platform—especially when your cartooned mug shares real estate with a QR code in one corner and a thought bubble with your company name above your face. (Hey, bonus points for the QR code working, though it doesn't exactly lead to an exciting page. Also, I daresay the over/under on how many people have bothered to scan that code is four.)
8. The Costanza
I get it: Being an editor for a reality TV show is a headache. Those people! Lunatics, all of them. Yet, is it so stressful that you need to show yourself sitting down, slumped forward, with your head heavily resting in one hand? A hand, by the way, that looks massive enough to not be real. Memo to self: Copyright the phrase Gorilla Hands... That's GOLD, Jerry. Gold!
9. I'm cuckoo for Philz Coffee!
Dear marketing specialist, you really look great in this photo that was taken on the sidewalk in front of a Philz Coffee, which I can tell—not by any signs—but by you and that boyfriend-type embracing you while holding your Philz coffee cups, logo perfectly aligned to be visible to us. Vanna White couldn't better showcase a product.
10. Spellbound by The Claw!
Here we see you, a senior tech manager by day, wearing a tense smile at some tradeshow event dinner table and having a giant bony CLAWHAND practically embedded into your right shoulder. That clawhand apparently was attached to the arm of the (cropped) person next to you. I seriously can't stop staring at that giant bony clawhand. It is mesmerizing, and I just really wish we could show the actual photo of this example, for my words are surely failing to capture the guilty feeling of terror and delight gawking at that inhuman appendage threatening your life.
11. Charlie, you're no angel
So, I have to ask, what's with the pointing your index finger straight up with your thumb cocked in the classic Charlie's Angel pose? I'm gonna ask you to ask you to holster that weapon and face the camera for a take two sans the action pose.
12. Waldo, I see you
To reduce the risk of my client discovering that I'm calling out his photo, I won't mention any details beside the most important one: You are poking your head out of a thick cluster of big green tree leaves! And you seem to be wearing a black shirt that makes your head, centered in the photo but not a close-up, seem like it is floating in all that flora. I bet Dian Fossey would not have ever dreamed up that move.
13. Three penguins walk into a bar...
I've known one or two plumbers in my day, and I cannot for the life of me recall anything significant about penguins and this line of work. Hence, the head-scratcher of a profile photo of three seemingly happy penguins standing next to each other like they are discussing the day's lunch plans. Really cute photo. But unless those Antarctica birds are renowned for their drain-clearing skills, a LinkedIn user is baffled by the sight of them.
14. No, we can't
Our pal, the executive marketing consultant, is going out to the world with his face (presumably) Photoshopped onto the famous Rosie the Riveter icon from World War II, replete with the "We Can Do It!" slogan. Look, I know memes are everywhere, and you're just having a little fun. But I'm drawing a hard line in the sand here. If you're in meme mode, the reference can't be older than your father.
15. You see what I did there?
I don't care if you are a creative services designer or Ansel Adams, never, ever post that photo of you aiming your camera. Just... no. It doesn't work. You've simply accomplished blocking your whole face from view with that bulky camera covering your mug. No one thinks that move is clever. Or cute. Or anything but kind of lame. Sure, if you're at a wedding and someone is trying to snap a pic of you, and you have a big camera in your hands—nope, forget it, even then it's not funny or interesting.
16. Look, it's a bug
So there you are, an IT Specialist with some 10 years of working world experience, showing us a close-up of some brown tiny creature impaled on your toothpick. Apparently, this assault occurred while hiking as the blurry background includes your face but not your eyes, a backpack over one shoulder and green foliage behind you. Look, I don't mess with IT guys as I like my system to remain unhacked, but I gotta call you out, bro. You've found a unique intersection of gnarly and weird, and I'm scared of you.
17. I'd rather be hiring someone else
Who doesn't love Snoopy? And Snoopy's face in the center of what looks like a Frisbee with the phrase "I'd Rather Be Sailing" written on a drawing of a life preserver? Irresistible, I say! Just don't ever lose your senior product developer position, as I'm going out on a plank by guessing that image as your profile photo won't win you a lot of call backs, come job-searching time.
18. Silhouettes are dramatic
Let's figure this one out. There you are in full side profile from the waist up, 100% silhouetted by the bright sun directly behind you, holding up in both hands what looks like a heavy SLR camera. And I mean 100% silhouetted; your form is entirely pitch black. You must be a big-time professional photographer! Ah, wait. A lead product developer at a big software company in Boston? Uh, that explains it.
19. My name Is Maximus Decimus Meridius, and I will have my vengeance—in this life or the next!
Rome is awesome, it really is. That Coliseum is incredible. Even senior product support engineers are overwhelmed at that incredible feat of engineering and piece of history. So, I get it that you were so stoked to have your photo taken in front of that great ancient edifice that flung your arms high over your head for the photo. Rome! VICTORY! At least if you're going to give us a favorite vacation shot then please, I beg you, take a quality one. Not this one where we can't make out your face and you are standing in a cluttered street littered with those annoyingly tiny European cars.
20. Because white water rafting is a lot like life
I have to end on another vacation shot. I assume it's a vacation shot unless you architect your IT solutions while fighting off Class 5 rapids. What I "love" about this photo is the long view. We see you and your five friends all sitting together on that blue raft with your oars hovering over those boiling brown waters. Of course, we don't see YOU at all. Why would that be important on this business networking website?
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If you want the more serious take on this subject, click over to this evergreen piece about personal branding by William Arruda. His first point says it better than all my ramblings ever could. Unless all the members of LinkedIn read this piece and respond accordingly, I'm sure I'll have the fourth installment up before too long.