Here are my tips on what makes a good profile photo for LinkedIn:

  1. Put up a head shot, either full or 3/4 face – so people can easily identify you (top of shoulders good)
  2. Make it in color – black and white is for artistes and public figures. Otherwise people want to see the color of your hair and eyes and clothes.
  3. Smile! – surveys show that recruiters and hiring managers tend to click much more on smiling people than serious people – you’re more fun to work with perhaps?  People do like to like the people they work with.  Your smile can be open or closed mouth – it’s very important that your eyes smile, too.
  4. Have a plain background, preferably white or light gray or possibly light blue – otherwise you get lost or your hair gets lost and all we see is your face instead of your fabulous haircut.  If you are all gray or white-haired or really blond, you can do a darker background.  Then you need to wear lighter color clothing so you’ll stand out.
  5. Wear clothing that represents who you want to be seen as in the workplace – for many men, a tie is not required, but I would do a jacket and a collared shirt.  Blue is the color of communication so a nice blue collared shirt with a dark grey suit jacket is perfect.  You’re an executive in an artistic endeavor, and to go for non-profit, this is an appropriate look as well.  Even for a corporation on the smaller side.  For senior executives, a suit and tie are musts, unless you’re in a more casual industry like technology. Women have more leeway – suit, dress, jacket and top.  Be careful with jewelry – a little goes a long way, unless you’re in the jewelry or fashion business.  Look at what others in your industry are wearing – that’s a good guide.

I recommend having someone professional take your photo.  For a couple hundred dollars, you’ll get an image that presents you at your best.  And when you’re looking for a job, you need to show your best self.  If a couple hundred dollars is too much, then beg a friend to take several of you against a light background and using the above tips.   Also check in your town to see if there’s someone local who offers a “LinkedIn Special.”  A professional photographer in my town offers a $50 LinkedIn head shot special once a quarter, and the product is excellent.

By all means, do not use a selfie.  I really don’t know anyone who looks great in a selfie even if they think they do.  When I look at LinkedIn, I can usually tell who took a selfie, and who used a photo from a wedding, vacation, or conference.  The latter photographs could be OK if they meet the above criteria.