Gone are the days where a good cover letter, a nice haircut and a firm handshake determined whether you’d make it into the next round of interviews. Now, employers can find you online and check you out before you’ve even got a foot in the door. This means that, in the tech-savvy world, your LinkedIn profile picture will often be your first impression.
The photo you consider your best may not be one that presents you as authentic, likeable, or trustworthy to others and, essentially, these are the qualities people are looking for in an employee, consultant, or even a friend. If these qualities aren’t found in your LinkedIn profile picture, you may be shuffled right into the discard pile.
A litte background on the psychology behind a great LinkedIn profile picture
Guess how long you have to make a good first impression? 40 milliseconds. That’s right – 40 MILLISECONDS! Research by Psychological Science shows that we judge people within a fraction of a second.
That’s not enough time to read your title, let alone your carefully thought out resume. It’s only enough time to take a look at your profile picture.
Your LinkedIn profile picture matters and can be the difference between being ushered into the yes pile or ditched into the no pile.
“Online PR means managing your reputation,” notes Larry Kim, founder of WordStream, Inc., the leading provider of AdWords, Facebook and keyword tools used by over a million marketers worldwide, “but it also means crafting your online persona to present the best impression when and wherever people find you online.”
There’s some great (and surprisingly interesting) info later in this piece about how and what people find appealing in photos but the key takeaway from this post is that there is a website called Photofeeler that does it all for you.
Photofeeler: How does it work?
Photofeeler basically asks a whole bunch of strangers to rate your profile pics based on how smart, likable, fun, trustworthy, confident, and authentic you appear.
It’s completely free – by “voting” or offering your own opinion on others’ photos, you earn credits, which you can then spend in order to receive feedback on your potential LinkedIn profile picture.
Here are the steps:
- Sign up for a PhotoFeeler account. This entails creating a username and password, linked to your email.
- Upload a photo to your account. At this point, only you can see it.
- Earn credits by voting for others’ photos.
- Once you’ve earned enough credits, start a test on your photo.
- Select a voter demographic.
- Select the number of votes you’d like to receive.
- PhotoFeeler users within your chosen demo will now be able to view your photo on the Voting page. Here, they’ll provide feedback.
- Once you’ve received the number of votes requested, the photo becomes private again.
Here’s an example I ran using two professional shots.
In this example, you can see the photo at the top rated me as being significantly more competent but the one on the right rated much higher on likability.
But I wanted to test this process properly so I uploaded a recent shot of me on holiday in New Zealand.
It’s a disaster – seriously check it out.
Social Media Marketer and resume expert, Kevan Lee, dissects the research done by the Department of Psychology at University of York in his blog. This research sought specific facial features and tics amongst 1,000 facial images, in order to uncover how these faces were first perceived by viewers and why they gave favorable or unfavorable impressions.
Researchers identified 65 different facial features which most influence first impressions, particularly determining whether the person in question seemed dominant, youthful/attractive, or approachable. They looked at the “head area,” “cheekbone position,” and “nose curve,” amongst other facial regions to judge what affected these perceptions.
Although you can’t change your face, you can certainly alter your LinkedIn profile picture by taking into account some of the study’s findings. Profile pictures that impressed people most included:
- Asymmetrical composition
- A smile showing teeth
- A jawline with shadow
- A squinch (slight squint)
- Unobstructed eyes (no sunglasses)
- Head-to-waist or head-and-shoulders composition
- Light-colored button-down shirts or dark-colored suits
If you want to nerd it out on the science behind it all, you can review a more in-depth analysis of the study’s findings here.