Your Profile Picture Matters During Your Job Search. Learn How to Get a Perfect One

With an extensive amount of job search activities taking place online, having a good profile picture can make you stand out from the pack of applicants.

While choosing a candidate based on looks is obviously not allowed, a profile picture does have an impact and does influence the selection process.

Since you have some control over your profile pic, you need to make sure it’s creating a positive impression on recruiters and hiring managers.

Keep reading to learn more about its importance and how to have a great profile picture.


When you’re applying for a position, it has become common practice for hiring managers to search for candidates online. That means they will likely find many of your social media accounts and briefly check them out.

Studies say it takes only 100 milliseconds to draw a conclusion about you from your profile picture. This first impression can be completely different depending on your expression and other aspects of your picture.

In one such study, participants were given photos of two people and asked to pick which person had higher levels of extraversion and trustworthiness.

The results were interesting. When just slight facial expressions were modified in the photos, the conclusions drawn by participants were quite different.

profile picture job search

Recent research shows that your profile picture goes a long way in affecting your friends’ reactions as well. For instance, if you ask a friend to do a favor during your job search, they’re much more likely to do it if they like your profile photo.

Since a picture is only a moment in time, it can’t possibly capture our entire personality. Therefore it is vital that you pick a photo that puts your best professional foot forward.


Scientists have seen in study after study that we often judge ourselves a lot less harshly than we do others. This principle is called “self-enhancement.” And we do this by believing that we’re more objective than our peers. In a sense, we believe that we think more clearly than other people.

Because we believe we’re being objective, we don’t often pick the photo that does us justice.

We judge photos of ourselves differently from how other people do. This happens because we know too much about ourselves and have insider information which others do not. We have stored up so much information about who we are and how we think we look over the years, that we have trouble being objective.

A perfect example could be those photos you took while on your hiking trip. Once you got to the top of the mountain, you were feeling proud and confident that you made it to the top. And so you might choose one of those pictures assuming others will be able to see the pride, confidence and determination, that you were feeling. Unfortunately, what we’re feeling in the moment often doesn’t translate into the photos themselves. That leaves a lot of space for others to interpret the photos as they see.

Additionally, we may have difficulty getting past our feelings about ourselves. If we have a feature we dislike, we might enhance its importance in our mind. Therefore, when looking at a photo, familiar thoughts might enter our mind and we might discard any photo that we believe highlights our flaws.

This tendency influences which photos we choose. Although a certain photo might have our best smile and a great composition, we might get rid of it because we feel like it shows our perceived flaw. And contrastingly, if we have a favorite feature, we might trash any photos that don’t highlight it even if they’re not the best photos in the bunch.


In an effort to help people get the perfect professional profile photo, PhotoFeeler conducted an 800 profile pic study and got 60,000 ratings of their perceived influence, likeability, and competence.

The photos went through an extensive process in order to control for variables like darkness and brightness in order to give the most accurate results.

So what were the study’s takeaways?


  • Take off the sunglasses. In the study likeability dropped for profile pics with shades.
  • On the other hand, eyeglasses actually increased scores in perceived competence and likeability.
  • Eye obstruction from hair, glare, or a shadow didn’t drop a photo’s likeability. But its ratings on competence and influence did suffer.
  • Slightly squinted eyes got higher scores for competence, likeability, and influence. It’s been shown that wide open eyes denote fear while “squinched” eyes portray confidence.


  • Photos that have a shadow line outlining the jaw increased scores across the board.
  • If a photo didn’t have any smile, likeability took a huge drop while perceived competence and influence also fell.
  • Smiling delivered higher scores across the board. Interestingly, a closed mouth smile boosted scores about half as much on likeability and didn’t affect competence or influence.


  • Formal clothing increased ratings of competence and influence dramatically. This is an important tip for job seekers.
  • A bust (shoulders & head) or torso (head to waist) shot is preferable. Face-only close-ups dropped likeability scores and full-body shots showed a drop in competency.
  • In a surprise, PhotoFeeler’s study showed that where the photo was taken had no statistical impact on results.

Photo Editing

  • If a photo is too dark like one that mimics nighttime or a darkroom, the likeability scores dropped.
  • On the other hand if the colors are too highly saturated, likeability, competence, and influence scores all dropped.
  • Black and white photos did not produce any statistically significant results.

best profile photo for social media job search


As we’ve seen, your profile picture plays a huge part in your online presence.

And if you’re looking for a new job, spending some time finding the best picture is well worth the effort. As salesmen and marketers have known for a long time, image is important. So now that people are able to see what you look like online with a simple search, investing time into your profile picture is not vanity, it is pragmatism.

You can either implement the tips in this article by yourself, or hire a professional photographer to help.

And if you want insights into what your profile photo says about you, try an analysis by the PhotoFeeler tool.

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