What makes a “good” photo is subjective and somewhat elusive, right?

When you are talking about art photography, yes. What appeals to one person may not make any impression on another. In the case of LinkedIn profile pictures, however, there are some basic principles that apply. I have addressed some of these in my earlier articles here and here, and in response many readers have asked me to post what I would consider “good” LinkedIn profile shots. So here are some great shots of four different men (credit: Adobe Images, not real profiles).

Remember that the tone of your LinkedIn profile photo should match the brand that you wish to portray. If you want to project that you have executive presence, your LinkedIn profile photo should communicate that (see images 1 and 2 below). If you tend toward the creative in your work – regardless of your field, from visual, theater or culinary arts to science, technology or even (in some cases) finance – a more creative photo may be appropriate (see image 3 below). If you are a professional but more about substance than form and rarely wear a suit, you may wish to skip the suit in your profile picture (see image 4 below). In all, your LinkedIn photo and profile generally should be a calling card for who you are if someone were to meet you in “real life” (in a business context, of course).

IMG_0422 (LinkedIn size smiling man in suit)Successful black business man ceo downtown workspace proud confident arms crossedIMG_0418 (LinkedIn man in blue suit)An Indian business executive with folded arms

Remember that your LinkedIn profile picture will likely not be the same size as the original image, so pay attention to the background and finer details with an eye for the ultimate image as it will look when cropped to size. In image 3 above, the peeling paint (and tousled hair) add to the creative look of this shot, but otherwise the above backgrounds are interchangeable and not tied to the image each is hoping to portray. Some people like to have a background with more “visual information” while others prefer a clean, neutral look. Note that neither of the original shots for the first two images were centered, and in the second one the background could have been distracting in the original composition but it nonetheless works for LinkedIn.

Head And Shoulders Portrait Of Mature Businessman In OfficeSuccessful black business man ceo downtown workspace proud confident arms crossed

One last note, as I see this far too often on LinkedIn (and almost as much as a shot of someone with another person cropped out – don’t do that!). Make sure that when you take an image or have one taken of you, that the camera is or zooms in close enough to the subject so that the image does not look blurry or pixilated when cropped. Below is an extreme example, but I see this often with clients who have a spouse or friend take a picture and then send it to me for review. If you are out of focus, you will not project the confidence and presence that you wish to convey. 

IMG_0416 (pixilated enlargment man in suit)

This last image has another issue, of course, which is that it was cropped very close and has a very light background, so the person looks more like a talking head than a professional candidate.

If you would like to compare the do’s and don’ts of LinkedIn profile pictures, you can also visit my prior articles on LinkedIn photos here and here.

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, author, resume strategist and member of Forbes Coaches Council. She is founder of Segal Coaching, author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals (available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and through local booksellers) and a frequent public speaker in New York, Connecticut and beyond.

 

At least once a week, I am asked to comment on a LinkedIn profile picture. As an executive coach with a prior background in art (in addition to law), I base my opinion not only on good taste but also on the principals of photography and design.

I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to give my readers an opportunity to view and contemplate some LinkedIn-sized and styled pictures before giving my recommendations and highlighting insights that each one can teach us about our own profile shots. In this post, I have included many of those prior images and more.

There are some of the obvious points, such as good focus and high enough resolution, that we can all see (if we are paying attention). But what else could we do to make our images even better?

If you clicked on a LinkedIn profile for this person with the image below – full disclosure: all of these are samples from Adobe Images, not from real profiles – would you be inclined to connect with him or her?

I give some feedback below that can help you understand how to look at images more objectively and improve your own profile picture on LinkedIn.

AdobeStock_129949762 (cropped at podium)

Some people like to have “action shots” that show them in leadership roles. To that extent, the image above works. However, pointing off to the side of the image takes the viewer’s eye in that direction as well, and away from one’s image and profile generally. It also makes this person look closed off rather than approachable. Further, the words in the background are distracting and do not add any credibility (compare, for example, someone on the Tedx stage). That said, an action shot that is professional and well-done can sometimes work well.

African American businesswoman

A lot of things are done well in this picture. It is generally well-cropped – it could be a bit tighter at the top – and the person is dressed professionally. However, she does not look happy in this shot, and the lighting on her hair and background is distracting. This is the most common type of picture that I see, i.e., one that makes the person look “good enough” to be happy with the picture but nonetheless does not show him/her in the best light (literally and figuratively). Some people don’t like to show their teeth, but you can smile more with the eyes in that case.

The above picture has the same issue with the distracting lighting in the background, although the lighting on the individual is better. This woman has chosen to have her hand in the picture, which sets it off as a more individualized shot and may be appropriate for certain fields where someone is asked to connect with people emotionally. For example, a therapist or a fiction writer may benefit from an image like this. By contrast, a litigator who needs to show an ability to meet challenging situations head on would not want to have an image that is too “approachable” or “soft.”

sailing man captainsailing man captain

Some people like to highlight their hobbies in LinkedIn profile pictures. Here’s my response. First of all, if you crop too closely (first image of two), you lose the entire point of the picture, and the various design elements end up looking distracting. This is the same point I would make to those who put up a photo with another individual cropped out of it (such as a shot at a wedding, with a spouse or significant poking into the side or corners of the image). The resulting image is similarly distracting and does not communicate that you are a serious, focused candidate.

In general, being too dressed down or too dressed up (think tuxedo for men, for example) may also give the impression that you are not willing to adapt yourself to a work environment but instead have your own agenda which will always or often trump the employer’s. So only if (1) one has an independent source of income, and LinkedIn is not a significant source of career or business leads or (2) these details are actually related to one’s career or business (e.g., if the man above were involved in marine work), would such a LinkedIn profile picture make sense. This is where the “LinkedIn is not Facebook” distinction comes into play. LinkedIn is about work, not pleasure, so wear your work face (presentation, wardrobe, etc.)

I should add that if you look closely at the man’s face, the top half of his face is in shadow and the bottom half is in sun. Once you notice this element of the photograph – as some of your LinkedIn viewers will do – the uneven lighting is quite distracting and casts a soft shadow (pun intended) on your attention to detail. In this image, it is not as pronounced as in other photographs I have seen.

Beautiful young adult lawyer business woman professional in a suit at the courthouse

There is a lot I like about the shot above. It is clean, interesting and engaging. But don’t miss little details. The red nail polish, that is, has got to go. It is out of character and distracting, and it shows a lack of attention to detail.

shutterstock_146589713 (resolve)

This is a good shot in many ways, although the person is not looking into the camera, and the cropping is quite close. In an artistic field (for example), this may be appropriate, but not in a corporate setting.

Asian man portrait

When I look at the above shot, I can’t help but wonder if the individual dresses like this all the time and if it conveys his “true self.” Not all of us need to be in suits, and some people prefer LinkedIn to express how they will show up every day. If that is your personal brand, then this sort of image may work. 

Waitress serving food to visitors

In this shot, the person’s shoulders are off-kilter, which is distracting and could subtly take away from her credibility. The background is also overwhelming – especially the lights – as is the lipstick. If this person were my client, I would suggest she try again with a new shot.

woman with brunette hair standing posing

For this last one, I would say watch the sleeveless look as well as the posture and “pout.” Again, LinkedIn isn’t Facebook. Would you wear it for a meeting with the CEO? If not, it’s not the right look.

Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership development coach, author, resume strategist and member of Forbes Coaches Council. She is founder of Segal Coaching, author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals (available on Amazon.com) and a frequent public speaker in New York, Connecticut and beyond. 

Image credits above: Adobe Images.

You have 120 characters in your LinkedIn headline. (No, not 140. That’s Twitter.)

120 characters to sell yourself to the world. Yes, I said sell. LinkedIn is not where you find enlightenment. It is where you find clients, contacts or a job. If you are not already, you need to be crystal clear on the distinction, whether or not you like it.

Important Update in 2017: Following Microsoft’s acquisition and restructuring of LinkedIn, many of the features have changed. For example, only a portion of your headline and the first few words of your summary are visible in many cases until someone clicks to see more. This makes is critical to have the essential information that reflects your value proposition – or otherwise draws people in – right at the top. You can check this out for yourself by accessing your own profile through various devices.

So what should it say?

Should you opt for something short, try to get in as much as possible or meet somewhere in the middle? How “out there” should you be with your job search?

I hear these questions from clients every week, if not every day. One of the main goals as a résumé writer is to help my clients see how they appear to a third party, especially a potential recruiter, hiring manager/partner, interviewer or other job search facilitator. We are often so wrapped up in our own stories that we forget how we appear to the outside world.

Take a look at a range of possible headlines below, which could easily describe the same individual at various points in his/her career. Depending on how he/she wanted to be perceived, some of these headlines are clearly more effective than others.

Can you immediately tell which ones?

– Scroll down for commentary –

Capital Markets Attorney, Counsel | Derivatives | Global Funds | Dodd Frank & EMIR

ISDA/Derivatives Attorney

ISDA Attorney | Derivatives Counsel

ISDA Attorney | Derivatives Counsel | Hedge Funds

ISDA Attorney and Derivatives Counsel at [Name of Employer]

ISDA Attorney at *

ISDA Attorny [sic]

Contract Attorney

ISDA Attorney Seeking New Opportunity

Attorney Seeking a New Opportunity

Versatile & Business Savvy Senior Attorney with 20+ Years of Effectively Resolving Complex Issues and Managing Risk

Senior Business Savvy Attorney

Experienced lawyer seeking engaging legal employment

Attorney, actively seeking employment

VP, Legal

Vice President and Associate General Counsel

Associate General Counsel

Financial Transactions Attorney

Corporate Finance Professional and Attorney | Investment and Corporate Banking

Attorney | Advocate

Attorney

Financial Services and Trading Counsel

ISDA Counsel and Negotiator

Experienced Derivatives Attorney and Published Novelist

Attorney/Writer/Humorist

Clearing, Dodd-Frank & ISDA Attorney

Fixed Income and Derivatives Attorney, Contracts Negotiator

ISDA, Prime Brokerage, Securities Lending, Repurchase, and Futures Negotiator

Derivatives Attorney

ISDA/Futures/Derivatives Attorney

Financial Transactions Attorney

Senior Derivatives/Regulatory/Capital Markets Attorney

– Commentary –

Clearly there is much more to say than I can cover in a short blog post, but here are some general thoughts to guide you:

First, consider your audience. You’ll see that I highlighted some headlines above. Two of them are “hybrid” (the last two headlines highlighted in red above) in that they straddle multiple roles – legal and writing. This can be effective if you are actually selling yourself to both audiences, and you do not believe that presenting yourself as a hybrid will do damage to your brand. It should, in fact, support your brand, because it reflects how you present yourself in daily life. Again, LinkedIn is not about self-actualization or gratification, it is about presenting yourself to the world in a professional context.

Second, an incomplete headline (or one with errors) is probably the worst thing you can do. It reflects extremely poorly on you, because it implies that you will lack attention to detail in your daily work as well. The first two highlighted headlines above display this lack of care. In the first, the attorney did not realize that LinkedIn prompted an employer, so it simply ends with “at….” (The added asterisk is mine.) In the second, the word Attorney is spelled incorrectly! I would not trust you to draft a contract to purchase a popsicle stick, let alone a multi-million dollar transaction, if you can’t even spell your headline correctly. Yes, I have actually seen typos in headlines, although more often they are in the summary or elsewhere on LinkedIn.

Third, if you have a temporary job, you are not a “temporary person.” You do not need to sum up your current employment. Instead, your headline should indicate who you are, not your present role. To that end, I would avoid a headline like “Contract Attorney” at all costs.

Fourth, don’t sound desperate. I see many headlines that announce an individual is “seeking employment,” even in some cases for individual who appear to be currently employed. While I cannot say that there is no case in which this could be appropriate, in most fields, including law, you should eliminate this from your headline. There is an old adage that it is easier to find a job when you have a job. The same applies here. As a hiring manager, I would rather hire individuals who are self-confident in who they are and what value they add than those that appear they will take the next best “new opportunity” that presents itself. Among other reasons, I would not be convinced that, once hired, the person would stay.

Fifth, don’t try a subtle, back door approach that imitates #4 above. By that I mean a headline like the following:

Versatile & Business Savvy Senior Attorney with 20+ Years of Effectively Resolving Complex Issues and Managing Risk

If you read between the lines, this person also is clearly on the job market. There are so many things wrong with this headline that I don’t even know where to start. Here are two:

(1) It has a lot of words without saying much.

(2) Words like “20+ Years of…” scream résumé, so they announce your job search. In the case of this individual – this is a real LinkedIn headline – he also has clients who may be turned off by this presentation. You are always writing to your current situation as well as your target next role (if any). The headline also screams “keywords” although it is not clear that they are the right words.

(Note: You may also not want to highlight your implied age by stating 20+ years – a separate issue that I’ll cover in another post. In the résumé business, the unwritten rule is to go with 15+ years, although there are clearly exceptions.)

Sixth, always remember keywords. While you generally don’t want your current employer to know you are looking for a new role, you also want to have a headline that describes what you do and will cause you to be located when a recruiter or other individual conducts a keyword search, if possible (even if you have no intention of leaving – who knows what dream job awaits?).

This is another reason why “seeking employment” does not help much. If you have “employment” and “attorney” in your headline, you may come up in searches for “employment attorney” but not in searches for your substantive experience (e.g., derivatives, contracts, etc.). This can be cured somewhat with a robust summary or other sections of the LinkedIn profile, but the headline is a stronger place for this identifying information.

Seventh, a difficult situation arises when you are trying to sell yourself in many ways.  Sometimes you do not want to pigeonhole yourself as a particular type of attorney, especially if you are looking to transition or branch out. This is when you should consider whether to write a “tighter” or “looser” profile, i.e., one that identifies you more as an expert in a specific area or one that paints a broader brush.

In summary, it is your headline, so you should be comfortable with it. There is no one right answer. After considering the above, also consider what your gut tells you. Would you be comfortable presenting your headline across the various audiences that will see it? Will it raise your confidence level and appropriately broadcast your professional self to the world? I suggest you take a look at your headline again with all of these hard and soft factors in mind to find the one that is right for you.

Copyright 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.