Is a LinkedIn profile photo really that important for an Executive Recruiter? Well, I asked one.

So, what does your LinkedIn profile photo say about you?


Often, we hear about the speed of a first impression, or the time it takes to form an opinion about someone, can be less than a second.  Going even deeper, Vanessa Van Edwards, Lead Investigator at Science of People, says, “the face and its expressions, also known as microexpressions, are the window to the soul—if you know how to read them.”

So, what does your LinkedIn profile photo say about you?

I chatted with, Dan, a senior partner at an international professional executive recruitment firm, and asked about the importance of a LinkedIn profile photo. Dan has over 25 years of experience in the recruitment field and has sifted through thousands of profiles and resumes, trying to find the perfect candidate. 

Do people even need a LinkedIn profile?

Yes. It is “THE” only reliable professional tool that recruiters use today. Your profile should be kept up to date and the content realistic. It is very important.

empty linkedin image


What about the LinkedIn profile photo, is that necessary?

About 85% of profiles that I look at, have photos, which was not the case 5 or 10 years ago. It still is a “nice to have” and I don’t make assessments about a person, whether or not they have a photo, because some people are private, or, there may be other reasons they don’t want their photo public. That said, I would encourage candidates to include a professional headshot photo on their profile.

If a candidate does not have a LinkedIn profile photo, do you pass over their resume?

No, I look at all the profiles. I don’t assess a candidate on the lack of a photo, however, the evaluation does start on the content of the photo.

If you have a LinkedIn profile photo, does the type of photo matter?

Absolutely, no question. A professional photo is the way to go because you have a spit second to make a first impression. When I am skimming through hundreds of profiles, the first thing I see is their photo, and it is hard not to make some type of first impression or assessment, based on their photo.

Should you smile in a LinkedIn profile photo?

Yes, for sure, people always wondering if they should smile in a headshot. But, I have worked with some cultures where they don’t smile, in any of their photos. You don’t need a huge, weekend, I just won the lottery smile, but something that shows you are confident, approachable, and authentic.


linkedin professional profile headshot




Do you need a professional headshot or will a selfie do?

Unless you are really good at taking selfies, or have access to a state-of-the-art photo booth, it is highly recommended to have a professional headshot. Take the time, spend the money that you can afford, for a professional headshot. Simply, you will be taken more seriously. Update it every few years, so it represents who you are and how you look today.

People should be more proactive to position themselves on how they want to be perceived, as opposed to “this is a nice photo I have on my phone that I can use”. It is about personal branding, and a bad photo can play against them, rather than, for them.

Selfies versus Professional Headshots

selfie versus professional headshot linkedin profile photo



Are LinkedIn profile photos different depending on the job a candidate is seeking?

Absolutely, and it depends on the job market that a candidate interested in.  An actor will likely have a very different photo as compared to a lawyer. It makes a difference. For example, recently I was conducting a search for a Chief Information Officer and the candidate had a “cartoon caricature” as their profile. Perhaps they wanted to come across as being fun, or they don’t take themselves too seriously, but for this type of job, you need to put in the effort to make yourself presentable and professional.

Do LinkedIn profile photos every “mis-match” with the candidate when you meet them in person?

Some photos make me laugh because they were clearly taken a long time ago, perhaps when they were more in shape or younger, but they don’t influence the content of their experience and who they are as a potential candidate.

However, if a candidate’s photo is very different than how they actually do look, it does make you pause and think. If a candidate is going for an interview, in person, or virtually, and the person does not match their profile, it can be a negative start to the discussion. Really, not the best first impression.

Have you ever seen any “bad” LinkedIn profile photos?

Yes, just yesterday, l was looking at a resume of a candidate applying for a very senior position at a financial firm, and I am looking at his photo thinking, why is he posting this, he will never be taken seriously.

Do any “bad” LinkedIn profile photos come to mind?

I was recruiting for a large international engineering firm and the potential candidate had incredible and relevant experience. However, her photo showed her on the deck of a sailboat, looking disheveled, and with a glass of wine in her hand. Instantly, as a first impression, you think about this person needing to present to a Boards of Directors, high levels of government, an international collation, or interact with senior engineers. If the first image they are portraying to the public is showing them as chilling, relaxing, and drinking wine on a sailboat, you wonder how they are going perform when presenting to various stakeholders such as a private equity group?

Can a “bad” LinkedIn profile photo follow you, or haunt you?

The Internet does not forget. If you post a photo after a few beers because you think it is good, and then the next day, replace it, it does not go away that easily. When I search my name, an old, not very good photo still appears! So, keep in mind, even if you delete photos, they linger around in cyperspace, seemingly, forever!

How do you prepare to meet a candidate, based on their LinkedIn Profile photo?

When I am searching for a candidate, the first thing I will do is look at their photo, and assuming it is a professional one, an immediate impression of the person is made, simply by their photo. A lot can be expressed in a photo. Now, 9 times out 10, I am often wrong, because who knows, maybe they did not want to smile that day, or were not feeling well, but the photo does give you an instant feeling on how that person is going to be. It can dictate my approach depending on if they look intimidating or have a more engaging and down to earth look. First impressions, do exist.

Have LinkedIn profile photos changed over the years?

There has been a shift in the type of photos, probably pushed by the marketers, or newer generation. They need to be relevant to the type of audience that a candidate is trying to attract and how they are trying to position themselves. Appealing to a demographic that is more fun or youthful, not stiff and corporate like you and me.

Did you just call me stiff and corporate?

Yes. I did.


Read more about professional headshots:

  1. What makes a good headshot - Part 1
  2. What makes a good headshot - Part 2
  3. What makes a good headshot - Part 3
  4. General questions about professional headshots
  5. How do you do professional retouching?

Peter Istvan Photography

Peter is a professional headshot photographer. Available in studio, or on location. Serving Parry SoundMuskokaSudburyNorth Bay, Barrie, Toronto, and surrounding areas. View pricing and scheduling.

Peter Istvan