THE BLOG
01/23/2015 04:31 pm ET Updated Mar 25, 2015

5 Reasons to Have a Photo in Your LinkedIn Profile

Many LinkedIn profiles lack the headshot that is part of a "complete" profile (as defined by LinkedIn). When I talk with job seekers about why they don't have a photo, the words vary, but the message is the same: I'll be eliminated from consideration because of how I look -- too old, too young, wrong sex, wrong race, etc.

Do You Avoid Discrimination by Not Having a Profile Headshot?

Doubt it! The discrimination will happen regardless. The question is the timing of the discrimination.

When I give talks about using social media for job search, I typically run into resistance from some job seekers who don't want their faces visible online. They may already have an almost-complete LinkedIn Profile, but they haven't added the photo.

Typically, they say they prefer to be invisible/unrecognizable because they are protecting their privacy and avoiding being discriminated against because of their age, sex, race, etc. I understand and sympathize with that concern.

However, if someone doesn't want to hire me because of my age (shown by my gray hair), they won't hire me whether they see my gray hair in my LinkedIn photo or in person. So I believe I'm saving my valuable time by making it clear who I am. Then I can focus my efforts where the benefit is more probable.

Why Profile Head Shots Are Necessary

I've observed five important reasons to have a good head shot photo visible on your profiles:

1. Credibility

To be successful today, most professional jobs require knowledge and skill with social media. Profiles without photos are usually either not very active or just plain out-of-date. And very few employers want to hire someone who is so demonstrably clueless.

In addition, many "spam" social profiles exist to sell products or collect information, and those profiles usually either have no photo or the photo is obviously a model or someone extremely attractive in a very professional-looking photo. Recruiters, in particular, are not interested in fictional profiles.

2. Recognition

Someone who already knows you from your past or a recent networking meeting will, hopefully, recognize that photo and know who you are. Also, that friend from your last job (or the job before that) who is looking for you will find you in the long list of people who have the same -- or a very similar -- name.

3. Visibility

According to LinkedIn, complete LinkedIn profiles (which means the profile has a headshot) are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn than incomplete profiles.

4. Personal Appeal

Any profile is more appealing when a person's face is associated with it. LinkedIn has said that entries in LinkedIn search results with photos beside them are seven times more likely to be clicked than entries without photos. So that recruiter looking for someone with your job title will probably not click on your name unless there is a photo beside it in the search results listings.

5. Personal Branding

When used with your professional activities in social media, your photo represents your brand -- your personal logo -- particularly when you use the same photo for all of your professional social visibility.

What Makes a Successful Profile Photo

LinkedIn has specific requirements, so I recommend starting with LinkedIn. Then, as recommended above, use that photo for your other professional social profiles. The LinkedIn User Agreement specifies that members should not "upload a profile image that is not your likeness or a head-shot photo."

Be choosy when selecting the photo to use for your professional social profiles. For most of us, that means:

  • Use a headshot of yourself, not something or someone else.
  • The image should be recognizably you.
  • The pose should be relatively "grown-up" -- not mugging for the camera.

LinkedIn wants a simple headshot of you, in a relatively business-like pose. It doesn't need to be an expensive-looking professional photo, but you should be alone in the photo -- no pets, children, or other distractions. The exception is when your career/job involves those pets, children, etc.

More About LinkedIn's Photo and Profile Requirements:

Bottom Line

A professional social profile without a nice headshot of you hurts you much more than the lack of one helps you avoid discrimination. So don't skip it. I think of the photos we have in our social media profiles, particularly LinkedIn, as akin to personal logos. I recognize the photos of many colleagues and others from their profiles in the various social networks, and I look for those familiar faces in other settings, both online and off.

Susan P. Joyce is president of NETability, Inc., and the editor and chief technology writer for Job-Hunt.org and WorkCoachCafe.com. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan is also a visiting scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management. In addition to HuffingtonPost.com, Susan contributes to AOL Jobs, LinkedIn, YouTern.com, NextAvenue.org, and BrazenCareerist.

This blog post was originally published on WorkCoachCafe.com.