CV Breakdown: Profile Picture - Part 2 - Choosing the Right Profile Picture

CV Breakdown: Profile Picture - Part 2 - Choosing the Right Profile Picture


In part one of this short series we outlined some advice on the pros and cons of using a picture on your CV. Regardless of your ultimate decision though, you're definitely still going to need a good quality, professional picture for your LinkedIn profile or any other online presence you might have.

So say cheese everyone, because today we're going to tell you how to look your best when you take that photo.

How should a good profile picture look?

Wear the right outfit

The best advice is to wear what would be considered as professional in the field you're working in. In many cases this will be business formal, stick to plain patterns and stay away from garish colours and you'll look competent and professional.

Many workplaces have become less formal over the years too so men can generally wear light coloured shirts with a dark jacket and no tie while just a shirt or blouse works well for women. It can also help to contrast your outfit with colour of your background to stand out.

Just remember not to be too casual. Oh, and no comedy t-shirts either.

Remember to smile

Gone are the days of the stone faced executive portrait. These days we'd definitely recommend smiling in your profile picture, not only does it make you seem more likable and approachable, it's also a natural response to smile when we meet someone for the first time, so why not smile to greet prospective employers in your profile picture?

Stick to a shot of the head and shoulders

You want the focus to be on your face so no long shots or full body shots. If you're standing too far back in the photo it can be very difficult to get an idea of who you are.

Go for a neutral background

Going for a bare, neutral background is generally the best way to go. This way you don't have any distractions that will detract from your face

Get your lighting right

Different types of lighting can transform you into a completely different person. For example, if the lighting is too low you could be cast in a gloom that gives an almost threatening look. Too bright and you end up with a harsh glow.

If you don't have access to professional lighting, using natural light from a window on an overcast day can be a good start, this is a good way to get a natural look.

If this isn't possible though, try and get lighting that illuminates both sides of face equally. If all else fails you can tweak the brightness in editing, most smart phones and computers come with basic picture editing software for you to experiment with, but don't over edit and add too many filters or you'll look unnatural.

Stand at a slight angle to the camera

There's something slightly unnerving when we see a head and shoulders shot looking at us straight on, it often tends to give off police mug shot vibes. Present yourself at a slight angle to the camera and you'll look a lot more approachable.

What you should avoid

No selfies please

You're not on a night out and it tells an employer you've not really put any thought or effort into your picture.

Being too casual

Pictures that are fine for social media are generally not OK for a professional LinkedIn or CV profile picture. So no holiday snaps or pictures of you dressed casually.

Be the sole focus

Never post a group shot, you should be the only one in frame and be easily identifiable.

Don't use an old photo

We know you're very proud of that photo you took 10 years ago and understand you looked really good in it, but you really need an up to date picture. Try to get an updated photo every two to three years for your professional profile picture.

Don't use a low quality camera

This is thankfully becoming a lot more rare than it used to be as even the simplest smartphones now have pretty decent cameras. Always make sure the pictures are good quality though, nothing says unprofessional quite like a grainy or pixelated image on a profile.

If you're feeling brave you can submit some practice shots to a variety of photo review sites for free and unbiased feedback from the public. Sites like Photofeeler let you upload your professional photos to be judged on how influential, competent and likeable you look so is a good testing ground for photos before you post the finished product.

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