I know most of you haven’t given it much thought but if you stay with me for a few minutes I hope I can help you understand just how important this matter really is.
First, let me ask you about your LinkedIn profile. How’s it doing? Is it completed with all your history and accomplishments listed? Are you getting head-hunted out of the blue at least once a month? Does LinkedIn say your profile strength is at an All-star level? That’s awesome! Good for you! Hold up a minute though, there’s one thing LinkedIn’s fancy algorithm just can’t determine and that is just how horrible your headshot really is. All it knows is that you have one. You could have a shot of Homer Simpson up there and it wouldn’t care. The truth is it really does matter, a lot.
Having a profile picture on your profile is important but even more important is having a professional headshot. Anyone can grab a picture of themselves from their buddy Larry’s wedding reception, crop it down to just their face and slap it up there. I’ve seen this over and over and over again. The wedding shot is actually one of the most popular sources of LinkedIn profile pictures. It’s amazing how many I see up there. I’ve even seen people put up a picture of themselves practically wasted smashing beer cans on their head (yes, it’s posted below). With that image in your head, ask yourself this question; if you were the owner of a new start-up and you were looking for skilled talented people to add to your company and this guy applied, would you actually short list him and arrange an interview?
Would you hire this guy………for any role?
I’m sure you’ve seen on the news a short while ago about the news reporter that was verbally assaulted on the air. It’s become known as the “FHITP” scandal. The reporter, who had had enough of that treatment on the daily, took it upon herself to confront the people that made the comment and those in the area that were involved with the prank. One such person embraced the attention but instead of owning up to doing wrong, made it even worse by enthusiastically supporting his friend’s actions. All the while the camera was rolling and it captured his spirited opinion. Well, the guy was recognised alright, recognised by his employer and they unceremoniously fired him. Poof, a six figure job gone. Why? because of his behaviour and how that represented his employer. It was the image that held enough weight for him to loose out.
Why do I mention that story? Well if an employer can weed out undesirables before hiring them in the first place, there are potentially fewer headaches later on. Your headshot speaks volumes about you personally and people base decisions on that initial visual perception. Your profile may talk up how skilled you are in your field of study but your profile picture says a lot about your personality. It says how you present yourself to others and especially, to the employer’s customers. Recruiters are doing the same thing. Employment website, TheLadders, who describe themselves as “a comprehensive career resource dedicated to advancing professionals’ careers” and who specialize in “helping job seekers and employers connect to fill $100K+ jobs”, recently ran an eye tracking study and discovered that recruiters and hiring managers spent nearly a fifth of their time, (19 per cent) on a LinkedIn profile looking at the profile photo.
So what makes a good professional headshot?
OK here’s the quick in and out list of what your profile picture should look like. I’ll put it down to two lists, the simple do’s vs don’ts approach.
- Clean background – Avoid noisy backgrounds with clear details. Either a white background or a completely blurred out background works best. The less noise in the background, the easier it is for the viewer to focus on you and not be distracted by the guy in the elephant costume behind you
- Proper posture – A professional headshot photographer is going to know how to position you so that you look your best. It’s impossible to know how to position yourself to look your best -unless you’re a professional model. What we think we look like to the camera never turns out that way. Some quick coaching from a pro will get you into the right position quickly
- Lighting – Without light, a photographer can do nothing, it’s what we work with like a potter uses clay. Lighting can make or break a shot. It sets the tone, the mood, the emotion. That being said, nowhere on earth is there a place that has great indoor lighting. Again, a professional headshot photographer is going to know how to light you properly
- Dress for success – Dress for the role that you are working in. If you’re in advertising, a button down without a tie with jeans works great. Going for the CEO role, wear a suit, no exceptions
- Which one are you? – Is there more than one person in the picture? If so, how are people supposed to know who is you? It should be a picture of you, just you and no one else. And no, blurring the other people out or scribbling over their faces doesn’t count
- Bad cropping – While there is room for artistic license in portraits, headshots should stick to a shot of you from the upper chest to the top of your head. More than this and your face will shrink making harder to see you. Less than this and you end up not getting the whole picture of who you are
- Over dramatic lighting – Yup going to lighting again. Because it’s that important. It was fun to hold a flashlight under your chin while telling a scary story at camp but it doesn’t work for your headshot
- Shadows – This is similar to lighting as it’s bad lighting that causes it. Harsh overhead lighting causes harsh shadows on the face. It’s not flattering and makes you look old and tired
- Vacation shots – Must I really go here? It’s great you had a fabulous time in Mexico but that shot of you in your swim suit or bikini by the pool doesn’t shout “I’m a perfect candidate for the director’s position”. You’re expected to represent your company like the executive you are
It’s a short list I know. But trust me there is so much more to it than just what’s listed here. A professional headshot photographer taking your profile picture will be a very smart investment in upping your profiles polish. It’s an investment that you’ll use for at least 5 years.
I'm a kick-ass professional headshot photographer in Toronto specializing in headshots based on psychology and human interaction. If what I've talked about here is making sense and you've looked at your current headshots and realize that it could use an update from a pro, send me an email or give me a call at 647-728-7971. Let's show them the best you.