The LinkedIn Headshot: $$$ in the Bank

3 min read

“Look confident, but not cocky. Assertive, yet approachable. Smart instead of sexy, unless you can pull off both – and only if it’s subtle sexy.” These are exact quotes from a recent article in the WSJ (see below).

This blew me away. Because it’s true.

As an executive search consultant, I know the power of a well-done LinkedIn headshot photo. It can literally make or break a career. I know. Several years ago, my photo was of me riding on a bucking bronco at a rodeo. Cool pic, but not the sort of person you want to trust your talent hunting to, right? I hired a professional photographer and now I have a more…well, I will let you be the judge.

On-screen first impressions with the advent of the social media era (and dating!) are critical. First impressions are everything. It used to be the first impression was when you walked into a room – you know, the better you look the more money you make. The tall, dark, and handsome ones got all the jobs. Now it is different. No one really knows if you are tall, short, skinny, or fat. All they see is that HEADSHOT!

My take:

  • No selfies: Bad move. What you may think is really cool, may not be what professionals think. They could be much older or younger than you. Don’t get cute. Not worth the gamble.
  • Don’t be a CF (you know what this is): Pay a professional photographer $500 to come to your house or office and spend a few hours taking photos in different poses and settings. Take a few at a desk, casual by the fireplace, and then outside with a nice flower or garden backdrop. Some can do a camera shoot at the beach or somewhere unique where you feel special. Empowered. Go for it.
  • Go to a specialist: There are photographers who specialize in headshots. And not the portrait guy at the mall. He’s your passport photo guy, not your headshot expert. My guy also did music videos so he knew what he was doing. He had perspective. Experience.
  • Branding: Make sure your headshot is in direct alignment with your personal and professional brand. A rodeo shot is great if you’re a wrangler, but I’m not a cowboy. Bad idea. Nor would a cowpoke have a photo with a tuxedo on! I actually spent a good hour talking with my photographer so he could get to know me better. His goal was to capture my personality in the photo. He quickly picked up on the fact that I’m serious about my work and I think he captured that no-nonsense philosophy in my photo. Everyone won’t like it, but it’s me. And people like authenticity. My photographer told me that sometimes he will tell a client to smile and sometimes not to. It depends on the image the client wants to present. I chose not to smile because I needed to project an image of trust and power. People depend on me to build and grow their organizational talent. It’s a serious business. I’m not doing this for Instagram clicks.
  • The Statistics Don’t Lie: LinkedIn measures everything. They report that bios with headshots get 21 times more views than those without. Now factor in if you have a professional photo. Users get nine times more connection requests too.
  • Men & Women are different: A CEO cited in the WSJ article reports that men can get away with a much more casual look than women. He has seen male applicants with hoodies, and if done right, can get away with it for a technical position. A female would have a harder time pulling that off. They would be considered not serious.

Photographs are very individual and everyone should do what they are most comfortable with, but you just never know if that missed click because of a missing or poor headshot could have been that dream job. Maybe I should redo my headshot?

Hmmmm. Let me know.

Article inspired by “The $1,000 Headshot Can Really Pay Off” published in the Wall Street Journal on August 11, 2022. Page A10


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