Your Photo on LinkedIn – Breaking a Cardinal Job Search Rule?

Do you have a LinkedIn profile? I certainly hope so since this is the first place recruiters go to find their ideal candidates. SilhouetteDo you have your photo on that LinkedIn profile? Again, I hope so – as today it is expected that you should. If you don't, get a professional pic up there now! What you don't have on LinkedIn says more about you than what you include.

But did you know that only three-plus years ago a big debate broke out over whether or not it was appropriate for LinkedIn to let its users have a photo anywhere close to their career qualifications?

Today most professional resumes still don't include photos, exceptions being professional bios in the entertainment and public speaking fields, maybe a high-level executive resume. This job search "rule" is due to the Human Resources concern over liability regarding interviewing a candidate based on appearance, race or age.

(Maybe it's time to change this rule, too? Please share your comments below.)

In doing research for this post, I found an interesting article, "A Photo Is Worth a Thousand Words" by Adam Nash on the LinkedIn blog. In this article the following announcement was made: "We’re excited to announce that starting tomorrow LinkedIn members will have a new option available: the ability to add a professional photo to their profile." (9/27/2007)

Business publications raced to cover this revolutionary change in how HR and recruiters might be swayed on whom they would choose to interview. In fact, Bloomberg BusinessWeek printed the following: "As recently as an August interview, LinkedIn's co-founder and president, Reid Hoffman, said 'photos and business don't go together,' partly because images could unduly influence recruiters. To lessen that threat, LinkedIn is letting HR reps turn off the feature so they can screen candidates without regard to age, race, and appearance."  (9/27/2007)  — Turn it off? Hmmm…. Does that ever happen?

ZNet conducted an informal survey asking the public if adding a photo was a good or bad idea. Results: 70% said it was good, 30% said bad.

The Wall Street Journal published an article about recruiters using social networking sites (e.g., LinkedIn and Facebook) to check job references on candidates before getting their permission, before even referring them to an interview with an employer. (I believe this topic warrants another post.) They went on to say, "LinkedIn, which already has a similar recommendation feature, plans to announce today that it will allow users to add photos to their profiles – a feature that could help make job seekers more recognizable to industry recruiters who may know them." (9/27/2007)

What a lot of hoopla! What do you think – can having your photo on LinkedIn enhance your chance for illegal discrimination? There was concern about this in 2007 – has that concern faded away in 2011? Or maybe everyone has just come to terms with the fact that there is no privacy anywhere since the Internet has become everyday SOP – notably where job search is concerned.

I would particularly like to hear from HR professionals and recruiters on this topic: How do LinkedIn photos on candidates' profiles affect your decision to conduct interviews? Pros and cons, please!

Wishing you career success in 2011!



SPECIAL NOTE: I am honored to be a member of the Career Collective, a group of careers experts who each month share their advice and tips to enhance the management of your career. Please link to their blog posts below. Your comments are invited and much appreciated. Please follow our hash-tag on Twitter – #careercollective - as well as follow each expert's individual tweet on this month's topic of "Job Hunting Rules to Break." You'll be amazed at all the free career advice and knowledge that is available to you from these professionals in the careers field!

Juice Up Your Job Search, @debrawheatman

It's not your age, it's old thinking, @GayleHoward

Want a Job? Ignore these outdated job search beliefs, @erinkennedycprw

Job Search Then and Now, @MartinBuckland @EliteResumes

Break the Rules or Change the Game?, @WalterAkana

The New: From The Employer's-Eye View, @ResumeService

Job Search: Breakable Rules and Outdated Beliefs, @KatCareerGal

Job Hunting Rules to Break (Or Why and How to Crowd Your Shadow), @chandlee @StartWire,

Shades of Gray, @DawnBugni

3 Rules That Are Worth Your Push-Back, @WorkWithIllness

Your Photo on LinkedIn – Breaking a Cardinal Job Search Rule?, @KCCareerCoach

How to find a job: stop competing and start excelling, @Keppie_Careers

Be You-Nique: Resume Writing Rules to Break, @ValueIntoWords

Modernizing Your Job Search, @LaurieBerenson

Don't Get Caught With an Old School Resume, @barbarasafani

How Breaking the Rules Will Help You in Your Job Search, @expatcoachmegan

Beat the Job-Search-Is-a-Numbers-Game Myth, @JobHuntOrg

25 Habits to Break if You Want a Job, @CareerSherpa

15 thoughts on “Your Photo on LinkedIn – Breaking a Cardinal Job Search Rule?”

  1. I believe the tide is turning on this. Now with the advent of social media, it is expected that you will see a face. With the way things are today, an employer wouldn’t have to go too far to track a person down through Facebook or Twitter, Flickr, MySpace, or one of a hundred other similar social networking sites if it was important to him or her to make some sort of initial connection. In my philosophy of making a recruiter’s job easier, I would (and do) actively encourage my clients to include a professional photo on Linkedin. Recently, a small business owner told me that she wanted to view job candidates’ Facebook profiles before she viewed their resumes as it was the closest thing she could get to seeing the authentic person, not the glossed up version. It’s an interesting world and one for which people need to be prepared to keep up with the competition.

  2. I don’t think that people are any less likely to be discriminated against or to get that interview or even be hired because of how they look – than at any point in time. We all make judgments based on first impressions on what we see. But the internet has changed the game and you’re foolish not to play by the current rules. Go get the photo — it doesn’t have to be done by a pro, either. Just make sure you look your best!

  3. I agree, Gayle and Rosalind, that it’s easy for employers to find faces on the Internet. However, when the photo is on a LinkedIn profile, it’s unavoidable unless that feature is disabled. And we all know that LinkedIn is the first place recruiters go. There are still employers who don’t want their HR personnel to see a person’s race or age until a job interview. Thanks for your comments!

  4. The bottom line is that it is NOT illegal for a recruiter to see a candidate prior to an interview. If this was the case, you would not have career fairs.
    Whether they see a candidate’s profile picture on LinkedIn or meet in person, the hiring manager will have an idea about the candidate’s appearance, age, race, etc. before inviting the prospective candidate to an interview or making a hiring decision.
    I find it ironic that you are prompted to include a picture on LinkedIn as part of your percentage of profile completion, although co-founder and president Reid Hoffman said, “Photos and business don’t go together.”

  5. Thanks for the post Meg. The US is one of the few places where EEO issues come up when including a picture. In many countries in the world it is requested when submitting a CV. I always recommend that they post a strong, professional and on brand photo – just another way to “connect” with your target audience and make an impact.
    It’s great to be a part of this wise group of career professionals!

  6. All great comments, this is an interesting topic I hadn’t thought about before in terms of LinkedIn. A photo with an online account equals trust, and people are less likely to trust anything online without seeing the actual person behind the information. It’s like saying you stand behind what you are saying, a stamp of approval and authenticity. Photos can make racial, age, weight & appearance discrimination really quick and easy to do, but if people don’t celebrate diversity and are doing that you don’t want to be working for them anyhow!

  7. Hey Meg!
    Terrific post! I wholeheartedly agree.
    Social media has changed the game! With so much information available on line, not putting a photo on our LinkedIn profile is simply a silly nod to an old precaution. I think folks making comments here make great points. I do want to point to Ed’s in particular. It’s typically the case that hiring managers see candidates before hiring anyway!
    So, forgoing a picture has been unnecessary for a long, long time! I think people need to let it go!

  8. Hi – this is an interesting piece and reflects the changes that are going on in our societies.
    There are many parts of Europe where a photo is still expected with a resume and is part of the standard Euopass CV format. I would advise all my clients to post a professional photo on all online platforms as part of their brand creation. In fact, am slightly suspicious of any one who doesn’t. As recruiters, there are many ways of establishing a person’s age if we choose to.
    The internet and social media have changed all the rules!

  9. I think it’s ridiculous to expect people to have a photo on LinkedIn, and is very without question discriminating to expect it! You’re not expected to have one on your resume, so why should it be expected on LinkedIn. It should be all about your qualifications not how you look on LinkedIn! I also don’t think whether or not you have a photo has anything to do with trust!

  10. Posting your picture on LinkedIn is, in my mind, an easy way for a potential employer to look at your picture and on a subconscious level make a judgment. We all know this happens – why perpetuate the problem of age discrimination. (I am in my mid 50’s and happen to look younger); however, there are many people my age who are not photogenic.

  11. Olivia, I hear your concern. I used to feel the same way. But, unless you withhold considerable employment experience, most hiring authorities will be able to make a good guess at your age without seeing your picture. As a Boomer like you, I’m glad I stayed away from smoking and sunbathing in my youth – my appearance benefits from that now. Your LinkedIn photo really makes your profile complete – just make sure it’s a prfessional shot!


Leave a Comment