Are you “shadow face” on LinkedIn? An “egghead” on Twitter? Do you use a symbol or a picture of your dog as your avatar? Now is the time to rethink your plans about your online image. According to LinkedIn spokespeople, people are seven times more likely to click through to learn more about you on LinkedIn if you have a photo uploaded on the site.
Think about it — if you have no picture, don’t you think people will wonder why?
Here’s how to choose a photo for your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other avatars:
1. Use a current, close-up picture of your face. Choose (or take) a close-up picture of your face. Dress professionally, so any clothing that appears in the picture enhances viewers’ impressions of you as someone they would want to hire. Avoid avatars including your dog, your fiance or your children.
There are other options for avatars — cartoons or illustrations, logos, QR codes — all are clever, but none are as personal as a picture of you.
2. Post a high-quality picture, taken in good light, and make sure it’s sharp and clear. Most avatars appear very small on screen. If the photo is taken in poor light or is at all blurry, it will not represent you well. Ideally, you’ll have a professional photo taken, but if that’s not feasible, do your best to create as professional-looking a portrait as possible.
3. Pay attention to the background. Avoid distracting backgrounds. Make sure there isn’t anything too busy preventing people from focusing on you. Look at other avatars, especially if you use Twitter. Scrolling through, it’s always easier to identify avatars with where there is a sharp contrast between the subject and the background. You may want to create a backdrop to distinguish you from the crowd.
4. Don’t wear a distractingly large piece of jewelry or other accessory. You want people looking at your face, not the large, geometrical shapes dangling from your ears or neck. Sunglasses or a hat may have been the order of the day, but if no one can recognize you in your photo, it’s useless.
5. Evaluate the picture. In my book about social networking for career success, I suggest using a picture of you smiling, looking friendly and personable. If your picture resembles an ax murderer or someone you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark ally, don’t expect to garner many interview invitations.
6. Unless you are an actor or actress, there’s no need for an overly dramatic pose. Try to appear as natural as possible, keeping in mind “natural” does not need to mean what you look like after a ball game. You may want to arrange to have your hair professionally styled or cut and consider having an expert apply makeup if you plan to wear it. You want the photo be be recognizably you, but you on your best day. (Note: if you post a new photo and everyone says it looks great, but they don’t recognize you—you need to start over!)
7. Choose an avatar and stick with it. It’s easier for people to keep track of their social networking contacts when their avatars are similar across the board.
8. On LinkedIn, your picture may be a JPG, GIF, or PNG file. (File size limit is 4 MB). When you upload it, you have a choice to make it available to your connections, your network, or everyone. Select “everyone.” Remember, if people can’t see your avatar when they land on your profile, they’ll wonder why not.
Following these tips will help you come across as professional and personal all at once, which can only help your chances of landing a job.