The Surprising Science Behind Your BEST LinkedIn Profile Picture

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LinkedIn Profile Picture

Believe it or not, your LinkedIn profile picture can heavily influence how your profile as a whole is perceived by potential employers and business connections.

Assuming your LinkedIn headline, LinkedIn summary, and/or resume are on par with other candidates, the specific Linkedin profile picture you choose can mean the difference between getting the job and not.

So, what does it take to make a positive first impression with your LinkedIn profile picture?

We researched characteristics the best profile pictures have in common, and tested photos based on perceived competence, likability, and influence of the subject. Based on our findings, here are the key LinkedIn profile picture elements to include (& what to avoid).

1. LinkedIn Profile Picture Do: Squinch

linkedin profile picture squinch

Wide open eyes can make the subject appear scared or timid, like a prey animal (thus the expression “deer in the headlights”).

Slightly squinting your eyes, or squinching, is what we all do naturally when we genuinely smile. So practicing the squinch even when you’re posing for a professional headshot will make viewers automatically perceive you as more confident and likable.

2. LinkedIn Profile Picture Do: Define your jawline

We found that photos with a defined shadow along the jawline significantly increase perceived confidence, likability, and influence of the subject.

Don’t worry: If you don’t naturally have a Henry Cavill jaw structure, some *slight* shadowing in Photoshop should help you to achieve this definition.

3. LinkedIn Profile Picture Don’t: Wear sunglasses

linkedin profile picture dont wear sunglasses

The eyes are the windows to the soul.

Concealing your eyes (even with magical Warby Parkers that are the perfect expression of your posh hipster elegance) hinders your LinkedIn profile picture from doing its main job — proving you’re likable and genuine.

4. LinkedIn Profile Picture Don’t: Dress casually

Even if your desired job wouldn’t call for a full 3-piece suit on the daily, recruiters expect to see a LinkedIn profile picture that oozes professionalism.

We saw a huge increase in perceived competence and influence with subjects wearing dark-colored suits.

5. LinkedIn Profile Picture Do: Smile

linkedin profile picture smile

Smiling with teeth has a huge positive impact on all three of our tested traits, especially likability (makes sense, huh?).

Important note: A huge, laughing smile can reduce perceived competence and influence, and make make viewers think you’re younger and less experienced than you actually are.

6. LinkedIn Profile Picture Don’t: Go wild with the editing

It’s really easy to go down the photo editing bunny trail, and make so many tweaks that the final product looks nothing like the original, and not entirely human, tbh.

Use restraint and moderation while editing your LinkedIn profile picture and avoid oversaturation and high-contrast lighting.

7. LinkedIn Profile Picture Do: Test your photos

linkedin profile picture test photofeeler

Even if you think you’ve checked all the boxes for a perfect LinkedIn profile picture, we found that people are still terrible at knowing which pictures are their best.

Self-selected profile pictures make less favorable impressions than ones selected by a stranger. And your friends and family are just as bad at picking photos of you, so they can’t help you either.

So we’re scientifically-proven to be prone to accidentally choose profile pictures that could give a bad impression — costing us that job interview, networking opportunity, or even thousands of dollars off of a salary offer.

Feedback from strangers is the answer.

Photofeeler tells you exactly how you’re coming across to strangers in your prospective profile pictures. It’s praised by users as a great way for testing and optimizing LinkedIn profile pictures.


Go to now and give it a try!

Looking for more tips on improving your LinkedIn profile? Check out these resources:

LinkedIn Premium (Cost & Is It Right For YOU?)

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