Why updating your profile picture may be the most important thing you can do for your career

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If you’re searching for a new job, considering a career change, or just want to shine professionally, you need to update your personal profile picture, and fast.

The world is going through financial contractions due to the coronavirus crisis that means competition for jobs, tough already, is only going to get tougher.

In Spain alone nearly 1.1 million jobs were lost in the second quarter of 2020.  As they say in this El Pais article, “..a fall on this scale was not even seen during the worst periods of the financial crisis that began in 2008.”

So, no longer can you rely on a few hastily typed lines in your professional profiles and a picture that was taken on a beach after a few evening refreshments with the sun bouncing off your forehead.

The harsh truth is that people, and particularly recruiters in this context, make judgements based on your profile picture. Research shows that when recruiters view your Linkedin profile they spend 19% of their total time looking at your profile picture.

This isn’t to say that all recruiters are vain, image obsessed people, but rather they are making certain, sometimes unconscious, fast judgements on possibly hundreds of candidates, and you don’t want your image to be the reason you don’t land the role.

Judgements they are making:

  • Is this a real account?  We know a photo doesn’t provide such conformation but it does add additional confirmation and a good photo adds reassurance.

  • Who is this person: Smiling is good  - this person will be fun to work with and if you combine this with a professional photograph you are saying this person is fun and is competent and takes their job, in this case looking  for a role, seriously.  The beach photo may say fun but it  may not say competent.

  • First Impression: It shouldn’t be this way but it is. You want your profile photograph to say that you will be a cool person to work with.   Non-verbal communication makes up over 60% of all communication and photographs are part of that.  I’ll let the cliches speak for me here:

        -   First impressions matter

         -   You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (A required lesson because people do)

         -   A picture speaks a thousand words

So, here are our top tips for taking a professional portrait photograph:

Use  a professional photographer

This one is a no brainer.  A professional photographer will look at you and know how to make you look your best.  You will be lit well, have make up applied where necessary (I’m looking at myself and other shaved head guys here - we need to dull that shine!)

...and you will get great shots  that you can use across all your  online platforms.  

Don’t be this person:

It need not be expensive either. You can get great portrait photography from €149 in Barcelona for example.


Seems simple right?  You just turn the corners of your mouth up?  But research shows that people trust, on average at double the rate, people who smile and show their teeth.  So, show those gnashers they could land you that  job.

Don’t wear sunglasses or squint

We are back to trust here and non-verbal communication.  Studies show that sunglasses wearers have a 10% less likeability factor.  If you cover your eyes with your hair, or there is some shadow across your face then your competency and influence scores go down as well.  The eyes have it.

Dress well for your industry

This is context dependent.  How do the leaders in your industry dress, check them out on Linkedin and work backwards. If you are in doubt then go a little more formal as studies show people will perceive you as 43% more competent than if you are wearing your favourite 1990’s band t-shirt and that shell necklace you bought on holiday.  If you are a rock ‘n roll coder then different rules may apply but if you are using Linkedin, think about your best outfit.

Props are generally a no go

Posing with your beloved fur baby may work wonders on a dating profile but it just  says ‘weird’ on a professional profile, unless you're a vet or a dog walker, so think neutral backgrounds, colour can work based on your skin tone and available light.

If you need some help updating your personal profile picture then don’t hesitate to give us a call or contact us down below.

Phil Kurthausen
Words and stories

Phil is the storyteller at Takeaway Content. He is a writer, journalist & lawyer and the guy who will use word magic to entrance and engage your customers.

Wendy Kessler
Co-founder - Head of content strategy

Wendy is the project manager at Takeaway Content. Fluent in English, Spanish and French, she is really easy to talk to and she's an expert in content strategy.

Phil Kurthausen
Words and stories
Wendy Kessler
Co-founder - Head of content strategy

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