Why You SHOULDN’T Choose Your Own LinkedIn Photo

LinkedIn profile pictures are a source of constant amusement for me. From seeing a grown woman with a flower face-painted on her cheek, to the guy who’d used a felt-tip scribbling of a pixie as his image, to the middle-aged woman who took a selfie whilst sitting on her bed with a host of teddy bears lined up in the background.

What’s going through my mind as I look at them is, “Seriously? Have you really thought about what that’s saying about your personal brand? What kinda wacky-tobacky have you been smoking!?”

I figure there must be something affecting their brains, because those images are fine for Facebook, but considering LinkedIn is a business networking site, they aren’t doing them any favours. However, it turns out there may be a reason for their choice.

Thanks to a recent blog by Photofeeler I learnt about a scientific study called Choosing Face: The Curse Of Self In Profile Image Selection. Its basic premise is that the pictures we think are most flattering are not the picture others think are most flattering.

Here’s the science bit…

The researchers picked out 12 different images of 102 different students from their Facebook pages (a total of 1,224 pictures) They then cropped them so that the face was the same size in each image, as you can see in the examples below.

They then asked the person whose photos they were to select which of the pictures they were most likely to choose for their profile photo on Facebook, a dating site and a professional site like LinkedIn. They were then asked which one they were least likely to choose.

Next, complete strangers were given the same set of the 12 images and asked which they would be most/least likely to choose for that person’s profile photos*.

The result?

The photos people felt were most flattering of themselves were not the ones others thought most flattering. That’s because we don’t see pictures of ourselves in the same way strangers do (which can lead to some unintentionally bad choices, as per my examples). Here’s how it’s explained in the study:

Or as Photofeeler puts it:

Self-selected profile pictures made less favourable impressions than the ones selected by a stranger.

A case in point…

Years ago I went to meet a woman who worked in the learning and development team for a large company. As I always did, I’d checked out her profile on LinkedIn for a bit of background, along with her photo so I could recognise her easily when we met.

What I saw was a picture of a woman with long, dark hair, nicely made-up, with her chin tilted slightly upwards. That was all fine and dandy. But what was drawing my attention was the pair of lips that were kissing the top of her head – especially as the rest of that person’s face had been cropped out of the photo.

When we met, she and I hit it off and as we were discussing LinkedIn and the ways people often shot themselves in the foot, I said, “I wanted to ask…is that your husband’s lips kissing your head in your LinkedIn photo?” She looked puzzled. “There isn’t someone kissing me in my photo.”

“Um…yes there is.” She was sure I was wrong, so I got my mobile out, fired up the app and searched for her name. Sure enough, there she was having a smacker planted on her head.

“Oh! I hadn’t seen that!” It transpired that the photo was taken at a wedding she and her husband had attended. She’d liked how she looked in the picture, so she decided to use it.

Your natural blind spot

Because we’re so used to what we look like, we end up focusing only on our face, blinding ourselves to seeing the photo as others might. (In this case, it also blinded her to the fact her photo cropping was leaving her with what looked like a strange growth on her head.)

It may the same for you, so why not get a complete stranger to check out your profile photo and see what they say? Or you could visit www.photofeeler.com and use its service to achieve the same result. I have and it makes for some interesting insight.

What’s the worst LinkedIn photo you’ve seen (naming no names of course)? I’d love to hear, so why not write a quick comment below? Thanks!

*The study also went into greater detail asking people to rate the photos for how attractive, trustworthy and competent the person was, which you can read more about here.

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