Swipe right: Upgrade your LinkedIn Profile Picture

Li profile pictures

There are thousands of websites claiming to help you improve your “tinder-game”, and these usually revolve around improving the pictures you choose to represent yourself with. These pop-psychology hints give some pretty common sense advice – often their “golden advice” consists of  making sure the picture is well lit and in focus.

Well, obviously!

One of LinkedIn‘s first suggestions to improve your search-ability and increase profile views is to include a LinkedIn profile picture. But it can’t be just any old photo.

linkedin profile pictureIt has to be a good one. A nice one. A photo in which your smile doesn’t look fake (a LOT harder to achieve than it sounds). But how do I make sure it’s a good photo?


With Tinder co founder Sean Rad discussing possibilities of Tinder being the next business networking tool and savvy tradesman using Tinder to “kill two birds with one stone” (“if you need any electrical work done and want a reliable tradesman, contact me. Or if you just want a spark in your life, say g’day”),  personal life and work life photos are ever blending  – Do I choose a photo in a suit? What about from a cocktail party? I looked pretty good hanging ten in Hawaii…is that alright?


Maybe those Tinder gurus, who tap into human psychology to maximise their dating potential are onto something.


Business Dating

 Look at it like a date. A “business” date. Sizing each other up, your LinkedIn is a virtual handshake. We all know no one likes a wet fish handshake, so what does your profile picture say about you?


First Impressions Matter


Not the noise you make when walking in wet shoes. Renown New York based photographer Peter Hurley released It’s all about the Squinch!, a 15 minute video back in 2013 showcasing his new look – the Squinch.

I couldn’t help but think of Zoolander.


Swipe right: upgrade your linkedin profile picture
ZOOLANDER, Ben Stiller, 2001. © Paramount Pictures/ Courtesy: Everett Collection.


The squinch is similar to a squint…but not as squinty. I’d say the look is captivating, as long as it’s not overdone. Certainly don’t over-do this on your LinkedIn, but the dramatisation that photographer Karaminder Ghuman gives below aptly demonstrates the usefulness of this technique.


Swipe right: upgrade your linkedin profile picture



 We all have sent photos with double chins to our friends as a joke – but we should really try to avoid this in our professional photos. Peter Hurley’s most watched video on Youtube It’s all about the Jaw! shows before and after shots of people and how they stand and place their jaw in photos. The difference really is magical. They are somewhat exaggerated but you’ll be able to get the point. (check this out!)


Men, wear a beard

…maybe. Like all statistics (but especially sociology) this one should probably be taken with a grain of salt. Researchers Sarah Van der Land and Daan G. Muntinga from the Erasmums University Rotterdam and University of Amsterdam, both in the Netherlands, sorted men by their job types to see the impact of a beard in a LinkedIn profile picture and the candidates prospects of being invited for a job interview.  In summary, if you had a job in a field which required “expertise”, a beard “significantly increases a candidate’s perceived expertise” – which then could be “significantly related to the likeliness to be invited for a job interview”.


For the other two categories, jobs that are related to attractiveness and trust, wearing a beard did not massively increase the perceived expertise and invitation prospects. This is likely due to the perceived prestige and knowledge historically attached to beards (think scholars, philosophers and kings).


Women, wear glasses

…also maybe. With the same caveats as above, women who wear glasses are more likely to be perceived as having more expertise thus helping their chances of being hired in fields with a large required knowledge base.



Based on a study by researchers from Bryn Mawr College, Shahid Beheshti University and the University of Pennsylvania, different types of profile pictures are correlated with differing personality types. These personality types are broken into five categories: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness.  For example, agreeable and conscientious users display more positive emotions, while users high in openness prefer more artistic or aesthetic photos.


So how should I shoot my photo?

 Well it depends what personality type you would like to show:
Open Icon

Openness: Open to experience/Intellectual engagement.

  • Most likely to have profile pictures other than faces.
  • High aesthetic quality in photos.
  • For photos with faces, users high in openness are low in emotion, with little artistic or aesthetic quality.
  • Generally wears glasses.
  • Higher in negative emotions (anger).


Mind Map icon

Conscientiousness: that is the personality trait which correlates with orderliness, planned behaviour and self-discipline.

  • Have only yourself in the profile pictures
  • Smile or show a “positive mood”
  • No black and white photos


Party icon

Extraversion: the trait marked by engagement with the outside world.

  • Colourful profile pictures
  • More likely to be young or have younger people in their photos
  • Use the photographic technique of “rule of thirds”
  • Don’t wear glasses (glasses correlating with introversion)
  • Visible positive emotions, however less so than conscientiousness.


bonsai tree icon

Agreeableness: social harmony and cooperation.

  • Photo is low in sharpness, blurry and bright.
  • Respects the rule of thirds.
  • Color and emotions are highest in this trait
  • Strongly correlated with smiling, joyous and positive emotions.


hacker icon

Neuroticism: negative emotions and emotional instability.

  • Anti correlated with colofulness.
  • Simpler images
  • No rule of thirds.
  • Don’t represent faces.
  • Displays a lack of positive emitions.


So it depends upon your job.


For myself, I would want a profile picture high in openness, conscientiousness, extraversion and agreeableness. Obiously, I would want a profile picture low in neuroticism. So what would this look like?


Swipe right: upgrade your linkedin profile picture
My attempt at growing a beard


I’ve aimed for aesthetic quality for openness. For conscientiousness I’ve given an almost smile. Extraversion? Well, i’m young, I’ve used the rule of thirds and I’m not wearing glasses. For agreeableness I have a blurred background.  I’ve also tried to have my jaw noticeable with a slight beard shadow…and even though I felt like Zoolander I’ve given my best crack at the fabled squinch.

If you’d like some help with the wonders of social media and what it could do for your business, or perhaps you just want a second opinion on that profile photo, call or email us at Digital Marketing AOK.  We like to start with coffee.




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Simone Douglas

Simone is co-founder and Senior Principal Solutions Architect of Digital Marketing AOK. Simone offers over 17 years in corporate management roles encompassing generalist HR recruitment and development of small to large teams across multiple sites, industry sectors and states. Experienced in a variety of social media platforms and their complimentary applications, social media strategy, risk management, disaster recovery and associated HR policies and processes.