Professional Profile Pictures – Dos and Don’ts

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Taking a decent and appropriate profile picture is easier said than done (the struggle can be seen above). Getting the right balance of friendly and professional is hard enough in real life – so how do you capture it in a photograph? Your professional profile picture is one of the first things a potential employer sees, and making a good first impression is vital. It is common knowledge now that most employers will search for you online and browse your profiles before they meet you or even consider your application. Your photograph is very important, so make sure you have one, and that you’re in it. Studies show that LinkedIn profiles that feature a profile picture are seven times more likely to be viewed by employers than those which do not. Sometimes the smallest thing will turn off an employer and give you an air of unprofessionalism. So here are a few pointers on what makes a profile picture good or bad.

1) Having other people in your photograph with you is not a good idea. You want to be the only person in the frame for your profile picture, otherwise it is unclear which one you are. Cropping your friends out of the photograph is not a solution, as a cropped image is always detectable.

2) Speaking of light, make sure your photo is not shrouded in darkness. It’s a good idea to take your photo with some natural light on your face, so open the blinds or put on the camera flash…or risk frightening your potential employers.

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3) Photo manipulation editing and mystical effects are almost always inappropriate for your professional photograph. If you are a photographer or graphic designer, it is best to leave these in your portfolio. Or hidden away from the world.

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4) Some photos are appropriate specifically for the career you want, such as a medic being photographed in a laboratory. Make sure the photo is relevant to your field and try to have as few distractions as possible in the background, but it is still better to play it safe and stick with a plain background.

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5) Do not upload photographs from the night-time, and absolutely not of yourself when you are inebriated, or holding alcohol. Even if you think your face looks nice and professional, any image including alcohol or even food is a professional no-no, so it is best to keep it on Instagram.

6) Your profile image will give an employer a good idea of how you will fit into professional life, so dress and appear in your photo just as you would in the workplace.

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7) Your face must be in focus! Blurriness is a visual turn-off, as is being off-centre. You are the subject of this image so make sure you’re the main focus.


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For the perfect profile picture:

  • Make sure your face is visible
  • Groom and polish yourself
  • Dress smartly
  • Stand in front of a simple, clean background
  • Have somebody else take your picture, or use the ‘self-timer’ button; just make sure you don’t take it at arm’s length. ‘Selfie’-style is bad style.
  • Keep it at headshot-frame; only include your head and shoulders in the shot, there is no need for any more and your thumbnail should be recognisable at a distance
  • The photo should be recent – turning up to an interview looking completely different from your photograph will make it difficult for the employer to (a) recognise you (b) trust you (c)view you as an up-to-date candidate
  • Act natural, you can and should smile!

A study of employer’s eye-movement showed that, when viewing somebody’s profile, 19% of the time was spent looking at the profile picture, so it is essential that yours shows you in the best professional way possible. Intern Avenue members get help along the way with creating their profiles which employers can find and headhunt. Join today and make your internship hunt faster and easier!


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