Communicate Online for Business? It's Time to Update Your Headshot


You have a meeting or a date with someone you’ve never met in person before. What’s the first thing you do? Of course, you Google him or her. Nine out of ten, their LinkedIN profile picture pops up and it’s a selfie or a grainy vacation picture of them. From this very first impression, you judge them a little, but how could you not? Selfies are for Facebook and Instagram. If you want to be considered as someone going places in your industry or want more callbacks when you apply for a new position, your visual image needs to say just as much as your resume – replace your grainy selfie with something that makes the person looking at you actually want to meet you.    

Whether you hire someone to take new head shots for you or you do it yourself, here are a few things to keep in mind when replacing your current profile picture on LinkedIN:

1. Go Pro or Do It Yourself. Like getting a haircut, which you can certainly do yourself, the end results of shooting your own profile picture will vary. A professional photographer knows how to adjust lighting, how to capture your best-side (we all have one), and how to edit away any blemishes or lines (and do it in a way that you don’t look like you’ve escaped from a wax museum). Hiring a professional will cost more than an expensive haircut, but it will be worth every penny. If, however, you’re running low on funds, you can certainly try it yourself: it’s best if you have a true digital camera, a tripod, and know how to set the self-timer. No harm, no foul, you can always delete them if they’re not what you want.

2. Pick the Correct Background. If you work in the financial, medical or legal industry, white or gray should be the preferred background color. It will make you stand out, but if you think white is boring and/or you’re in what might be considered a less conservative industry, try a few shots in front of a mural, garden fence, some funky wallpaper, or on top of a hill or a building with your cityscape in the background. Just make sure your face is on focus and the background is slightly blurred, so you stand out and not what’s behind you (this is where having a professional do it, or at least using a true digital camera like an SLR will help you). 

3. Dress to Impress. Choose clothes that accentuate your natural features and bring out the color of your eyes or skin tone. Everyone has a shirt or dress that makes them feel amazing and that co-workers or total strangers always comment on positively. This is exactly what you should choose to wear (just make sure it’s not too revealing – think a work event, not bar-hopping) since the way you feel directly translates to how well you look in photos (now you know why models always look so unhappy…). The outfit  must also reflect your industry. If you work in the banking/accounting industry, a button up or jacket with a business casual shirt is standard, but even if you work in a creative industry, pick something that you’d wear if you were going to a big meeting. If at all possible, avoid black/navy fabrics, as it’s easy to see lint on them, and very bright fabrics, as they can reflect a strange color unto your skin.

4. Choose Light Makeup. When applying makeup for your profile picture, think minimal and classic, like Jackie Kennedy or Audrey Hepburn. Makeup should bring out your natural features and not conceal who you are. Apply foundation, blush and eyeliner with a light hand. For lips, use Chapstick to make lips look naturally soft without being too shiny. It’s easy to add makeup in the editing process, but it’s hard to take it out. If you don’t typically wear makeup, a good moisturizer, a little mascara, and Chapstick will do the trick. Minus the mascara, this goes for guys too. 

5. Move Around During Your Shoot. Everyone’s nervous in front of the camera. The best way to shake those nerves is to move around. This is also a good way to find your best side. Start by looking at the camera straight on, then turn to the left, right, and look at the camera. Put your hands in your pockets, then on your hips, and just have a good time in the limelight. The more you’re able to relax, the better it will translate on pictures. If you have time before your shoot, put some music on and stand in front of a mirror and try the above-mentioned poses. This way you will know what looks good and what you need to do in front of the camera.

6. Replace All Your Social Media Pics. These days we have many online profiles that can be accessed by any Tom, Jane or Harry. Once you have a professional picture that you’re proud of, make sure to update not only your LinkedIN profile, but your Twitter and Gmail profile pictures (or anywhere you interact for work) as well, so you can be reached by industry peers through any of these mediums. People often look different in pictures, but using your professional picture will help them find you more easily. Save the selfies for your friends; they’re the ones who appreciate them most.

A recent LifeHacker article reported that recruiters spend an average of six seconds and 19 percent of their time looking at your profile picture. With online profiles becoming the primary way that people connect, personal branding has become a major trend over the last few years and it’s worth spending a little time thinking about putting your best face forward in the professional world. It could help you land that next big promotion or date!