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, friends, and others from their profiles in the various social networks, and I look for those familiar faces in other sites and settings.
Do You Avoid Job Discrimination by Not Having a Profile Head Shot?
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, these cautious job seekers 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 those concerns.
Will not having a photo on their LinkedIn Profile avoid discrimination? No! The discrimination will happen, regardless. The only question is the timing of the discrimination.
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 feel that I'm saving my valuable time and energy by making it clear who I am. If someone doesn't want to work with me because of my age, I don't want to waste my time on them. By having my photo visible, I can focus my efforts where the benefit is more probable for me.
Why Profile Head Shot Photos Are Necessary
I've observed five important reasons to have a good head shot photo visible on your profiles:
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 Profiles without photos are usually either not very active or just plain out-of-date.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 services or to collect information. Those fake 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, don't want to waste their time with fictional people.
Someone who already knows you from your past, other social media, 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.
Someone who follows you in other social networks will find, and probably follow, you in new social networks. So, the reach of your social media visibility will be expanded and connected, and your "social proof" will be strengthened.
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." Pretty clear.
Be choosy when selecting the photo to use for your professional social profiles. For most of us, that means:
- Use a head shot photo 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.
- Use a photo with a relatively business-like pose.
- No pets or children or other distractions should be in the photo.
For more, read LinkedIn's Profile Photo Guidelines and Conditions. Note that they may remove non-compliant photos, and they limit the number of times you can attempt to use non-compliant images.
A professional social profile without a nice head shot photo of you hurts you much more than the lack of one helps you find a job or avoid discrimination. So, don't skip it.
Read the LinkedIn User Agreement for more details on how LinkedIn works and what they expect of members. And, for more on using LinkedIn for job search, check out Job-Hunt.org's free Guide to LinkedIn for Job Search.
Follow me on Google Plus for more job search tips!
Susan P. Joyce is president of NETability, Inc. and the editor and chief technology writer for Job-Hunt.org. This piece first appeared on WorkCoachCafe.com.