Why you M-U-S-T have a LinkedIn profile photo

I had a somewhat heated debate last week, with a client who flat-out refuses to post a photograph of herself on her LinkedIn profile.

She said, "I don't want to be so 'out there' on social media."

I said, "That's the entire point of using social media, especially when you're using it for career growth or job search."

She said, "I don't want to be discriminated against based on my age or appearance."

I said, "You're going to be discriminated against based on the absence of the photo."

She said, "They should be interested in me based on my skills, not what my photo looks like."

I said, "LinkedIn is a tool designed to facilitate conversation between people. It's far easier for people to become interested in having a conversation with you if we can see who we're talking to."

She says, "It's not like recruiters aren't going to contact me if I don't have a photo."

I said, "It is actually just like that. In fact, LinkedIn studies have recently shown that a profile with a photo has 11 times more probability of being viewed than one without a photo." 

Eleven times.

Digest this information for a moment.

You have an 11 times greater shot at being discovered by a recruiter, hiring manager or person of influence via LinkedIn, if you simply include a photo.

So do that. 

What should it look like?

There are no absolute laws of LinkedIn profile photoes, but the photo should show definitely your face and eyes clearly. Again, you want to present yourself as someone with whom your target audience wants to begin conversation. 

No profile shots, no full-body shots. Face and eyes, front and center.

It should be what I call "appropriately professional." This means the photo should position you, in appearance, as someone who will fit right in at the type of place you're aiming for. Thus, if you want to work as a corporate manager in a super conservative firm? It's probably best to go with a professional headshot, in professional dress.

However, if you know you want to work for a freewheeling ad agency where flip-flops and jeans are about as jazzy as it gets, you'll want to present a slightly more casual appearance.

(Note the italics -- this is code for "Don't look like a bum.")

Essentially, you want to look like someone who is going to be a strong cultural match at your next employer. One of them.

Bottom line - Your LinkedIn profile photo is part of your professional brand. Make sure it aligns with the messaging you wish to convey, and the environment in which you want to work.

And, most importantly...?

Make sure it's there.