Your LinkedIn Photo, After Getting Found, Nothing Is More Important

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While we’ve always been told not to judge a book by its cover…

When we see a new face, our brains decide whether a person is attractive and trustworthy within a tenth of a second.[1] 

Alex Todorov, an assistant professor of psychology at Princeton, said,

“We decide very quickly whether a person possesses many of the traits we feel are important, such as likeability and competence, even though we have not exchanged a single word with them.” 

Todorov and co-author Janine Willis conducted several experiments on approximately 200 people. In one experiment, they asked observers to look at 66 different faces for either 100 milliseconds, 500 milliseconds or a full second.

These experiments stemmed from earlier research conducted by Todorov investigating the outcome of a political campaign.

In the earlier research students found a direct correlation “between how competent a campaigning politician’s face was and how great his margin of victory turned out in the final election.” Todorov said,

We might assume that our judgments are founded on deliberate and rational thought processes, but observers had made their judgments about politicians based on a one-second look at their faces.[2]

In a world where candidates are googled before they are even considered for an interview, your LinkedIn photo has never been more important.

Scary isn’t it? However, there is no reason to be afraid because a tool exists that enables you to select a picture that creates the right impression.

The tool is PhotoFeeler, which can be found here

PhotoFeeler is a great way to test different photos

I discovered PhotoFeeler while reading an article written by Christine Georghiou.[3]

I was intrigued by Christine’s article so I went to the PhotoFeeler site. I found I could easily upload my LinkedIn photo. There is also an option to upload your photo from Facebook or a photo on your PC/Mac.

Twenty people evaluated my photo. As you can see below, I was viewed as competent and influential but when it came to likable, there was room for improvement.

I was able to get the evaluation for free by evaluating photos from 20 other people. You can save time by purchasing reviews. I believe the first 50 reviews are $7.00.

When I tested my photo, I went to the bottom of the web page and “Tweeted” about PhotoFeeler while also sharing it on Facebook and LinkedIn. I believe that may have resulted in my photo being evaluated more quickly.

How To Create The Best Possible LinkedIn Profile Picture

In Christine Georghiou’s article, The 7 Factors That Increase The Psychological Impact of Your LinkedIn Profile Photo, Christine shares her recommendations for the optimal photo.

Smile so your teeth are visible

  • Research shows a closed mouth smile makes you appear half as likeable as someone who shows their teeth.
  • Laughing while smiling increases likeability even more, however what you gain in likeability is offset by what you lose in competence and influence.
  • Christine suggests spending a few minutes in front of the mirror so you can practice smiling before your photo is taken.

Always Squinch

  • A squinch, or slight squint, increases the perception of competence and influence.

Emphasize Your Jawline

  • When the outline of the jaw is visible all the way around, studies have shown that it increases influence, likeability, and competence scores.

Dress Appropriately

  • Studies found formal dress increased perceived competence and influence scores more than all other tested factors.
  • For example, men in a light-colored button-down shirt with a dark suit jacket and tie scored higher than those dressed in bright or trendy outfits.

Look at the Camera

  • Tests show the more people look at each other, the more they like each other. This is also true when looking at a photo of someone.
  • When sunglasses block people’s eyes, hair, glare, or a shadow, their photos get lower ratings than people who looked at the camera.

Head and shoulders or head to waist shots are best

  • It turns out that face-only close-ups bring likeability scores down and full body photos negatively impacted competence and influence.

 Avoid photos that are too dark or saturated with color

  • Photos that are too dark or have high color saturation brought scores down.
  • Experts recommend putting yourself in front of light filtering in through a window, or posing in a lamp-lit room to give your photo a warm glow.

Consider a bright background color

  • While she couldn’t offer a clear set of guidelines for choosing colors for your profile picture, Christine suggested testing alternative ways of making your profile photo stand out with a bright background color.
  • Of course, testing below usually takes a professional photographer or a Photoshop expert, but it is worth considering.

Best wishes in your job search. Remember, this is a strategy that pays off and is worth the effort you will put into it.


Clark Finnical is a Career Expert and the author of 

 Job Hunting Secrets (from someone who’s been there)

LinkedIn Strategies to Take Your Career to the Next Level , 

 12 Lies Told To Job Seekers,

 How to Stand Out: From All of the Other Candidates

What No One Told You About Job Titles and Your Job Search  

The Job Loss Mind Game: What Really Happened And What You Need to Do Now


[1] “Snap judgments decide a face’s character, psychologist finds;” News at Princeton. August 22, 2006; Chad Boutin

[2] Ibid.

[3] Christine Georghiou. The 7 Factors That Increase The Psychological Impact of Your LinkedIn Profile Photo

Featured Image Copyright: ‘’ andreypopov / 123RF Stock Photo


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