Guest Author: Peggy McKee
Recently, a job seeker asked me this: “If it’s not a good idea to include a photo on your resume, why is it a good idea to include it on LinkedIn? Doesn’t the photo on LinkedIn invite the same potential discrimination issues as including it on the resume does?”
This is a tricky issue. We’ve all been told over and over again never to use a photo on the resume, and there are good reasons for that. Anti-discrimination laws in our country have resulted in many Human Resources departments throwing out otherwise great resumes if they include a picture. Companies are so afraid of being sued that they avoid the slightest appearance of bias by eliminating any resume with a photo right off the bat. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing—your skills and accomplishments should be what gets you the interview, not your looks.
On the other hand, what’s the first thing a hiring manager will do after receiving your resume? See if he can find out more about you on LinkedIn. What’s on LinkedIn? Your picture.
You could easily argue exactly that line of reasoning for eliminating your photo from LinkedIn, also. Just like on your resume, you want the focus to be on your accomplishments, not your physical appearance. A LinkedIn profile photo seems questionable.
Here’s where I think the difference lies:
The resume is always completely and exclusively targeted toward your ability to perform a particular job, and your looks have nothing to do with that (unless you’re an actor!). Anti-discrimination laws are targeted to job applications, which a resume is.
But, LinkedIn is first and foremost a networking site. Even though LinkedIn is an extremely valuable tool for your job search, not everyone on LinkedIn is looking for a job. They’re using LinkedIn to build their contact list, join groups that relate to their current careers, and see what the competition’s up to. When you make networking the focus of your LinkedIn activities, it becomes clear that you need to include a photo, because we (all humans) bond more with a face than with the typed text. LinkedIn users expect to see a photo, and it looks a little odd if you don’t…like you’re trying to hide something. A photo makes other users more comfortable connecting with you, which is one of your primary goals.
So, never include a photo on your resume, because you don’t want to sabotage yourself in the HR screening process—and graphics don’t usually mesh well with Applicant Tracking Systems, anyway. But always include a professional (business-appropriate) photo on your LinkedIn profile. Not only is it expected, it’s a valuable part of your online credibility and networking success.