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6 Ways to avoid LinkedIn profile picture mistakes

Thank you to Stacy Smyk-Santiago, one of our certified career coaches, for this article!

What should I choose for my LinkedIn profile picture? You may not think it matters much or that your “stock” picture will get you by, but you only have seconds to make a first impression.

Studies have shown that people respond in dramatically different ways to slight picture variations which affect your connection rate, recruiter contact, and possible sales. The following illustrates how to avoid common profile picture mistakes.

No picture at all

At first you might not be comfortable posting your picture since you do not put it on a resume; however, LinkedIn is a creative, dynamic platform about connection. Without a picture, it’s reasonable to think that you’re hiding something, not fluent in the technology, not serious about connecting, or just not a big-value professional.

Too casual or personal

You may be connected with many of your friends and family members, but remember this is a professional networking platform. Personal pictures like trips with the kids or your photo cropped from a close pose with a significant other are for Facebook, not LinkedIn. Also note that it’s not cute or amusing to represent yourself with a shape, animal or symbol. Yes, it exists and no, I would not hire you.

Not conservative

A conservative, professional picture sounds obvious and yet it eludes so many people. Let me provide some examples of non-conservative: Low cut shirt, tight dress, unshaven face, spaghetti straps, loud colors, sexy pose or smile. Now here’s what you do want: Modest meaning appropriate clothing coverage, professional clothing fit, neutral color clothes that do not distract from your face, and a pose that says “I’m a confident, highly skilled professional” not “I love long walks on the beach.”

No smile

Are you going to hire someone who looks pissed at the world or devoid of enthusiasm? Most jobs require some type of interaction whether it is external customer service or internal employee support. If you don’t look friendly, happy to jump in with positive energy, why would someone want to work with or manage you? A smile goes a very long way. When you take your profile picture, think of something truly happy and flash a genuine smile.

Dark background

It’s time to ditch the old-school dark grey textured backgrounds. Instead, go with a white background or well lit, warm, modern professional space. This will help to demonstrate that you are current and up to date with trends. Depending on your career field, you could use a snapshot of you in action delivering a presentation which can help convey charisma and other soft skills that you do not want to simply claim about yourself in writing.


It’s tempting not to bother with taking a recent picture. Who has time? But please do not use a picture from 20 years ago as it will only shock someone when they meet you in person. If you want to uphold a reputation of integrity and transparency, then take a current picture.

For more info, check out this short summary of a fascinating picture experiment a consultant conducted in his classroom here.

Hallie Crawford and Stacy Smyk-Santiago
Certified Career Coaches

P.S. Be sure to check out our LinkedIn Consulting Program where you can learn how to effectively leverage your LinkedIn account for your job search and ongoing professional development.