Why your profile picture is so important

First impressions count; we all know this. And we only get one chance to make a good first impression. Perhaps in person, your charm and use of language can camouflage your faults, but in the online world your first impression is made with your face – your profile picture.

In a way, the picture you choose to display defines you as a person and your reputation, and when creating a profile on a professional network such as LinkedIn it becomes crucial to have the right picture to portray the right image. Just as you would be careful to make no spelling or grammatical mistakes on your virtual CV, the picture you post needs to be just as well thought-out.

LinkedIn is the third-largest social networking site and the world’s largest professional network, with more than 332 million members in more than 200 countries, of which 12 million are located in the Middle East and North Africa.

People are hired through the network. Others strike up negotiations and deals, and it all begins with the one picture that can leave your fellow industry professionals with a good impression of you.

Therefore, there is no reason, in this day and age, for people to have no profile picture – or worse still, a picture that suggests you’ve just come home from painting the town red. It is 2015 and technology brands are launching 4K-compatible cameras that magnify pores on faces and smartphones that have 41-megapixel cameras – and yet some people still have photos that look like they were taken on a Nokia circa 2002.

I have seen profile pictures where a woman is leaning next to a bedroom cupboard (suspect), with one leg crossed over; other pictures are so pixelated they resemble a bad jigsaw puzzle that you do not want to solve. The most laughable ones are the selfies in a restaurant or a bathroom, which only becomes acceptable if you are looking to be recruited as a janitor or a chef.

Is it really that difficult to wear professional attire, stand in front of a white wall and smile? If smiling is difficult, that’s fine – just make sure it doesn’t appear to look like a mugshot. Phone a friend to help out if recreating a photo shoot will be too expensive.

As simple as it sounds, there are two reasons why people click on your profile – the company you work for and how you look. If one of them doesn’t cut it, chances are people will skip past your profile.

Think of this: would you go into your first face-to-face interview looking the way you do on your LinkedIn profile and be confident you made the right impression?

If I have touched a nerve, or you are slightly offended, it means you are one of the candidates I have been describing. Research conducted by LinkedIn last year found that having a profile picture makes your profile 14 times more likely to be viewed by others.

Here are five important things to remember when taking your profile picture:

Attire: It depends on the industry you are in. Professionals in the fashion industry will want to show off their suave and stylish wardrobe with the latest fashions, whereas a law firm employee should wear a suit or a dress shirt. It doesn’t really matter about the lower half of your body, as your picture should be of your upper body.

Simplicity: This word speaks volumes. Keep it simple.

Background: Where you take the shot should be clean, not distracting and should not take your limelight.

You, and only you: By this I mean, there is no need for kids, family members, friends or pets to be in the picture at all. It confuses the viewer and it no longer makes it about you.

Personality: Smile, or at least look approachable and polite. No one wants to connect with someone who looks like they have an attitude.

There are more than 4 million companies registered on LinkedIn with company profiles that post jobs on their page. It is the place that is most likely to have industry professionals and stakeholders looking to bring some sort of benefit to your career.

Either do it well and become the best you virtually, or not at all and deactivate your account.

Ibrahim Ahmed is a Dubai- based PR manager with five years’ industry experience in the Middle East


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