There are a lot of great reasons for you to be on LinkedIn. Increased exposure in your industry. New professional connections. Tons of business-focused articles and advice. Enhanced job search capabilities for candidates and recruiters. A fun way to look busy when your boss walks by.

But whatever you’re using LinkedIn for, you need to know one very important thing: We are totally judging your photo.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re not talking about a beauty pageant scale of 1 – 10. We’re talking about where you rate on the scale of professionalism and the continuum of confidence. A business Yelp, if you will.

It’s about trust

Like it or not, everyone who comes across your profile is mentally giving you a quick 1 – 5 star rating based on what they see. Can we trust you? Do you seem friendly and relatable? Are you someone we want to do business with?

Five stars gets the go-ahead. One star gets a laugh. And possibly a screenshot sent to a friend. “Look at this sideways LinkedIn profile pic! LOL. Quality Control Manager indeed!”

Screw up your LinkedIn photo and you could very easily sabotage your opportunity to be taken seriously as a potential candidate, vendor, consultant, or partner.  

If you can’t get your profile pic right, why on earth would I trust you with my business?

What are you projecting?

LinkedIn has a new look. It’s sleek, it’s smooth, it’s clean. Your profile pic is now a perfect circle. Or a sphere from hell, depending on what you’ve chosen to upload.

With every LinkedIn user profile getting a makeover, now is the perfect time to ask yourself, “What is my profile picture really saying about me?”

We’re glad you asked! And we’re happy to answer.

Photo bombs

Not the fun kind, where an adorable puppy springs into view at the last second. ‘Cause those are great! No, we’re talking about the disastrous profile pics that end up saying all the wrong things.

If you spend any time at all on LinkedIn, you’ve seen plenty. Maybe you even have one yourself. Here are some of the most common photo mistakes and what they are saying to the world.

The Party Pic

Using a festive party pic for your LI profile? Confetti? Champagne? Wedding? Clubbin'? We’ve seen it.

What it says: “I don’t understand what a professional work photo is. I may have trouble separating business from pleasure. Aren’t my fly duds awesome?”

Fix it: Think of social media like a classic mullet. LinkedIn is your business in the front. Let Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. be your party in the back.

The Wardrobe Malfunction

Tube top? You look naked. Good business cleavage? No such thing. Shirtless? Not unless you’re in the physical fitness business. In Hawaii. And even then, it’s really TMI.

What it says: “I have trouble determining what is professional. I’m okay using my looks to get by. I’m overconfident, or afraid that I don’t have enough other skills to attract attention.”

Fix it: Put on an outfit that feels a little too conservative for you. Run it by your grandmother. Or better yet, your great-grandma. If she says you look neat, spiffy, or dandy, you’re probably a go. If skin is taking up more pixels than fabric, go back to your closet and try again.

The Crowd

Hey! Great photo of you guys on that hike. Or at that concert. Or with your shirts off. But which one is you? It may be obvious on your end, but we’re just confused.

What it says: “I have friends! People like me! Also, I didn’t consider my audience. I’ve made basic assumptions about what they should already know. But look! Friends!”

Fix it: Go solo. Nix the friends, family, kids, and pets. We’re not looking to connect with them. And if we are, you should be concerned. 

The Crop Out

You’re not fooling us. We can see that extra arm. The stray hairs. The half of a face that’s not yours.

What it says: “I’m okay with only going halfway. Details are overrated. Besides, it’s all about me.”

Fix it: Stop cropping your loved ones out! It makes us feel sad for them. Find a picture of you. And only you.

The Selfie

Close up. Extended arm. In the mirror. With your laptop cam. On vacation or in your best suit, it doesn’t matter. We can spot a selfie a mile away.

What it says: “I have no friends. I don’t understand that this isn’t professional. I’m too shy or afraid to ask someone to take a decent photo of me. I think you won’t notice I took this myself. I’m selfie centered.”

Fix it: Have your picture taken, either professionally or by a friend. It takes five seconds. Less, maybe. And it makes a world of difference.

The Car Selfie

Gonna be completely honest here. We are utterly perplexed by this surprisingly popular photo tactic. If someone can explain the thought process behind it, we will be forever grateful. In the meantime, unless you own a car dealership or actually drive for a living, this is a definite no.

What it says (just guessing): “I feel safe in small, confined environments? I really like seatbelts? My camera fits nicely on my dashboard? I like being in the driver’s seat? This profile pic is a total wreck?”

Fix it: How can we say this gently? GET OUT OF THE CAR!

The IT Fail

Bad crop. White Space. Microscopic size. Grainy. Blurry. Sideways. Upside down.

What it says: “I’m not capable with basic technologies. I don’t check my work. I hate LinkedIn, anyway. I’m only on here because my boss, wife, boyfriend, etc. made me sign up. I don’t adapt well to change. Don’t connect with me.”

Fix it: Always check to see what your picture looks like after you upload. If it sucks, re-do it. Unless you really do hate LinkedIn, in which case this is the perfect way to let us know.

The Grump

Why so serious? The steely eyes. The pursed lips. The angry expression. Do you think it makes you seem more credible? It doesn’t. To tell the truth, you’re scaring us. Seriously.

What it says: “I want to look very important. My work is very important. People need to take me seriously, dammit. I’m rigid, bossy and hard to work with. This is not a laughing matter.”

Fix it: We will still respect you if you smile. We promise! Relax. Lean back. Drop the shoulders. Show us your pearly whites. Or at least stop grimacing.

The Full Monty

When a headshot just isn’t enough. Oh no. You had to go full body. Whyyyyyyyyy?

What it says: “I want to stand out and be different, but I’m not quite sure how. My resume and skills aren’t enough. Maybe a photo where you can barely see my face will do the trick.”

Fix it: Head and Shoulders— it’s more than just a shampoo. It’s your new mantra.

Glory Days

Using a flattering, outdated picture? This works great! Until we Skype or meet in person, that is. Please don’t be offended if we don’t recognize you from your senior portrait.

What it says: “I’m too lazy to upload a new photo. I’m unhappy with who or where I am now. I prefer to live in the past. I’m not a fan of change or innovation. I miss my perm. I miss my hair.”

Fix it: Take a self-help class. Meditate. Exercise. Have a beer. Whatever you need to be comfortable in your own skin. You’ve worked hard to get where you are. Don’t hide it.


No profile photo? Really? In this day and age, when literally everyone is carrying a camera around with them at all times? Unless you’re the invisible man, this is unacceptable. Get ready to be passed by.

What it says: “You don’t need to know what I look like. Why do you need to know what I look like? I don’t understand social media. Why are you looking at my profile, anyway? Are you with some secret spy organization? Go away!”

Fix it: It’s as easy as it sounds. The longer you go without a profile picture, the more opportunities you are missing. So get that photo up there! And make sure it’s one that inspires confidence and trust in your abilities— not a case of the giggles.

Terrible LinkedIn Mock-up Photo by me, Kristi Birkeland (Class of ‘89, yo!)

What's wrong with this picture?? 1.) It was taken before email existed. 2.) It’s dark, speckled, and off-center. 3.) I’ve cropped my little sister out (but not entirely). 4.) You’d never recognize me if we met today. 5.) It kind of makes you want to get a perm (Don’t do it!).

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