Just as with face-to-face meetings, your first impressions online are important. If you’re looking for a job on LinkedIn, your photo is a key representation of your personality and professional presence and perhaps the most important first impression you can make!

Sure, your job history, endorsements, and other credentials are important to proving you are a viable candidate. But before LinkedIn recruiters see this information, they’ll see that profile photo.

And, whether they mean to or not, recruiters often make initial judgments about a candidate by their profile photo on LinkedIn.

It’s all about making a good first impression

First impressions say a lot about a person. And, profile photos are the quintessential first impression on the internet. You want to use yours to your advantage.

When you send an invitation to connect on LinkedIn, your profile image is the first thing the recipient sees. If the recipient already knows you, the photo spurs recognition. In cold interactions, this photo helps the recipient get to know you even though you havent started a conversation yet.

Let’s take a look at what makes an incredible LinkedIn profile photo. You’ll learn why it’s important to have one if you’re looking for a job and what you can do to make yours stand out.

Why your LinkedIn profile picture matters

It sounds like common sense that you should have a quality profile photo on a job recruiting site. But you’d be surprised at how many people don’t think about it.

LinkedIn users think their job credentials, description, and portfolio are enough to catch a recruiter’s attention. After all, shouldn’t your qualifications determine your potential as an employee?

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Sure, in an ideal world, your achievements and strengths would define your employability. But on the internet, you’ll need a little more leverage to rise above the competition.

Your profile picture is a great tool to make your LinkedIn profile stand out.

It shows the recruting world you’re you

Think about it: You’re you and there’s no one else like you. Your LinkedIn photo is a truly unique part of your profile. If you post the right one, you’ll stand out in the minds of recruiters as a potential employee.

On the other hand, using a low-quality photo (or omitting one enitrely) can harm your reputation from the get-go.

If a recruiter finds your LinkedIn profile and there is no image, how do they know whom they’re connecting with? When we see another person’s face online, it helps us feel more familiar with them. This is especially true with people we don’t already know … like recruiters.

Having a poor-quality photo is even worse than not having one at all. If you don’t have a photo, recruiters may assume you’re currently setting up your profile and haven’t had time to post one yet. The benefit of the doubt works in your favor … if they’re willing to look past the missing photo to see your credentials.

However, a poor-quality profile picture can greatly impact your first impression in the worst way.

What will the recuriter think?

If you post a poor-quality or inappropriate picture on your profile, recruiters may assume you’re less capable than you are.

After all, if you can’t get a good photo for your professional online profile, how can recruiters guarantee you’ll go the extra mile when you’re part of their team?

If you’re wearing something inappropriate or look disheveled — or if your picture features inappropriate behaviors like drinking or doing drugs — recruiters will take this into account when they look at your professional credentials.

Ultimately, first impressions are crucial on LinkedIn. Without the right profile image, you could risk your first chance of creating a positive foundation with recruiters, which could cost you important connections or job opportunities.

Tips for an Incredible LinkedIn profile photo

Fortunately, taking a great LinkedIn profile photo doesn’t have to be a challenge. In fact, following a few tips can help you take your online professional presence to the next level. With the right photo, you can make a lasting impression with recruiters from your very first interaction.

Tip #1: Dress appropriately for your profession.

What kind of job do you do? Do you have specific dress code requirements? Do you wear a suit and tie to work every day or do you have a uniform?

Ideally, your profile photo on LinkedIn should feature the style of clothes you wear on the job. This tells recruiters a lot about how you will present yourself on the job.

For example, a person who works in an office as an accounting executive may wear a suit and tie in their LinkedIn photo. A nurse or medical professional may wear their scrubs, letting recruiters know they’re part of the healthcare industry.

On the other hand, wearing the wrong clothes will also say a lot about your professional image. If you’re applying for high-level executive positions and your LinkedIn photo shows you shirtless, holding a large bass from your latest fishing trip, it could hurt your first impression.

Tip #2: Smile!

Again, the driving force behind good interactions with recruiters online is your first impression. What sends a better first impression than a warm, genuine smile?

By looking directly into the camera and smiling, you’re letting your true personality shine through. A person’s eyes and smile say a lot about them and highlighting these in your LinkedIn profile photo can help you connect with recruiters better.

Tip #3: Save your vacation photos for Facebook.

When you set up your LinkedIn profile, you may feel tempted to post a family portrait, a selfie with your spouse, or your favorite picture of you and your friends. After all, LinkedIn is a social networking platform, right?

Unfortunately, recruiters usually don’t care about your recent trip to Disney World. Sure, you’re proud of your son for graduating high school, but you don’t need a picture of you two after his ceremony as your LinkedIn profile photo.

When you take your LinkedIn photo, take it alone. Don’t include your partners, friends, kids, or spouses in your professional profile imagery. Your LinkedIn profile is essentially your online business card. When you pass out business cards, would you also hand out pictures of your kids?

Tip #4: Hire a professional photographer.

If you’re really serious about posting a great headshot on your LinkedIn profile, it could be wise to hire a professional photographer.

Today’s smartphones make it easier than ever to take quality self-portraits. It’s very possible to take a quality headshot on your phone without professional help.

If you’re looking for an entry-level position, using a selfie for your LinkedIn profile photo is fine. On the other hand, high-level executives and field experts may need professional headshots to take their online presence to the next level.

Final thoughts

Whether it’s online or in person, first impressions are crucial. If you don’t make the right impact when you meet someone new, it can change your future interactions for the worst.

Profile photos are important for any social media account (especially if you’re building your personal brand), but there’s less room for error on LinkedIn.

How you present yourself in your profile photo could say a lot about your job performance to potential recruiters and sway their decision to reach out. In some cases, your photo may be the deciding factor between the recruiter taking a look at your credentials or passing you by in favor of a competing job seeker.

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