LinkedIn: Choosing the perfect profile pic

Source: CBS

These days, few recruiters won’t read your LinkedIn page before they call you in for an interview. Because of this, your first impression happens when they click on your profile and see your photo, not when you meet face-to-face. “The reality is people make assessments about us, including our competence, confidence and even experience, in about 2.2 seconds. That’s not nearly enough time to really get to know us, see what we can deliver or even read our whole profile, for that matter,” notes LinkedIn’s Connection Director Nicole Williams.

Story length: 433 words; Access the full story here.


Brenda Berkelaar, The University of Texas at Austin

Brenda Berkelaar (The University of Texas at Austin) suggests some key “Takeaways” on the story:

Learning how to take “the perfect profile pic” for LinkedIn™ makes a lot of sense. Posting a good profile photo is part of impression management, whether managing our digital “front stage”[i] or “accesoriz(ing) our digital bodies.”[ii] At an individual level, tips and tricks offered by articles like this are remarkably similar to common interview advice: Wear professionally appropriate clothing. Convey energy. Smile. Show-up. Communicate your brand. Show you’re a good good fit.

Except that from an organizational communication perspective, we’re not just concerned about individual actions and choices. We also consider how accumulated individual actions shape our world(s) and the way we live. As we increasingly feel pressure to construct and curate the digital ideal of the professional worker, we forget that our choices reinforce the growing expectation that people should have a digital presence.[iii] Even if people wish to be digitally present—and not everyone does[iv]—this expectation places additional burdens on workers. Time, energy, and relationships may be jeopardized as people increasingly manage professional digital identities outside of traditional work times, spaces, and contracts. Resisting the growing expectation is itself problematic, since research suggests that employers view the absence of online information as troublesome, and may not interview or hire workers who are digitally absent in favor of those who are digitally present[v].

In addition to emerging collective expectations, we also need to consider possible effects of digital collectives and online social networks. Online, contexts collapse and networks are visible in different ways. Employers don’t just look at LinkedIn. They Google™ you, searching blogs, Facebook,™ Pinterest,™ Twitter™, or whatever else rises to the top of the search results.[vi] To be effective, one’s digital image must be managed across the Internet. Plus, we need to consider the impressions our connections portray. Research suggests that when evaluating a person, information seekers also judge people on the basis of their friends’ profile photos: We’re “known by the company we keep” [vii] (Did my friends take the “perfect profile pic?”).  Information posted by other people and generated by computer systems also influences online evaluations.

So when organizational communication scholars look at advice on “taking the perfect profile pic” they see more than a photo, they see shifting world(s) and collective effects. What’s an individual to do? We don’t know yet. But we’re figuring it out.

Read more “Takeaways” from Brenda and other scholars here.


[i]  Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York, NY: Doubleday.

[ii]  danah boyd, p. 46 in Coutu, D. (2007). We Googled you. Harvard Business Review, 85, 37-47.

[iii] Berkelaar, B. L. (2011). Social media use in employee selection: Ethics and organizational reputation in 21st century hiring. Paper presented at the Social Media for Social Purposes Conference, Center for Corporate Social Responsibility at Copenhagen Business School, October 31 – November 1.

[iv] The absence of information is not necessarily indicative of problematic employees. People may not wish or be able to be digital present because of personal privacy preferences, genuine personal safety (e.g., stalkers), or limited access to the Internet.

[v]  Berkelaar, B. L. (2010). Cyber-vetting: Exploring the implications of online information for career capital and human capital decisions. [Unpublished Dissertation]. Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.

[vi]  Tucci, V. (2010). Viewpoint: Are a & i services in a death spiral? Issues in science and technology librarianship, Spring 2010. Retrieved from

[vii] Walther, J.B., Van Der Heide, B., Kim, S.Y., Westerman, D., & Tong, S.T. (2008). The role of friends’ appearance and behavior on evaluations of individuals on Facebook: Are we known by the company we keep? Human Communication Research, 34, 28-49. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.2007.00312.x

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