Each week, TopResume’s career advice expert, Amanda Augustine, answers user questions like the one below from Quora and the Ask Amanda form. A certified professional career coach (CPCC) and resume writer (CPRW), Amanda has been helping professionals improve their careers for over 10 years. Have a question for Amanda? Submit it here.

Q: What are some tips for picking the right LinkedIn profile photo?

Do I REALLY need a profile picture on LinkedIn and, if so, what are some tips to choosing the right photo? — Richard L.

First off, kudos for understanding the importance of having a LinkedIn profile. Whether you’re looking for a new job or wanting to expand your network of contacts, LinkedIn has become an essential tool for the career-minded professional.

While including a headshot on your resume is frowned upon by employers, uploading a photo to accompany your LinkedIn profile is now commonplace. In fact, studies have found that your LinkedIn profile is 40 percent more likely to be clicked on if it contains a headshot. However, not just any profile picture will do. It’s important to pick your LinkedIn profile photo strategically so that it helps, rather than hurts, your job prospects.

Use the tips below to pick the right LinkedIn profile photo that will benefit your career.

Use a high-resolution image that meets the new size requirements

Since LinkedIn’s update and redesign in December 2017, the ideal profile picture size increased from 200 x 200 pixels to 400 x 400 pixels. However, it’s OK to upload a larger picture as long as it’s square, no larger than 8MB in file size, and does not exceed 20,000 pixels in height or width. If you select a LinkedIn profile photo that is less than 400 x 400 pixels, you can assume the image will look teeny tiny or blurry.

Select a current photo of you

It may sound obvious, but your LinkedIn profile photo should be a picture of you — and only you. Your dog or your children may be adorable, but your LinkedIn profile picture is not the right place to show them off. Also, avoid using a group picture where the viewer would have to guess which person is you. Using a photo where you’ve tried to crop out the other folks in the image isn’t good either. Chances are, you’ll end up either cropping off too much of your own image or leaving in an arm or another body part of another person. The end result is an unprofessional photo that should not represent you to a network of potential connections.

In addition, make sure your LinkedIn profile photo is up-to-date and reflects how you typically look — think hairstyle, glasses, makeup, etc. — on a regular basis. While you may love that photo of you from your cousin’s wedding 8 years ago, chances are you don’t look exactly the same anymore. There’s nothing worse than setting hiring managers up with false expectations because of an outdated LinkedIn profile picture and then showing up for the interview looking completely different.

A little filtering never hurt anyone

While it’s never advisable to edit your photo so that your image doesn’t look like you, a little photoshopping is OK. For instance, slight changes to the tone and lighting and the softening of blemishes can improve the overall look and feel of your photo without drastically altering your image. If you’re interested in testing a few tweaks to your image beyond your phone’s edit features, try an app like FaceTune.

Consider your facial expression in the picture

Your goal is to appear professional, yet approachable, so it’s important to select a photo for your LinkedIn profile where you genuinely look happy. You should be smiling in your picture with your eyes, if not with your whole face. Remember, this picture is often the first time a prospective employer will see your face. Make sure it makes the right first impression.

Not sure if your profile picture will send the right message to prospective employers? Consider testing it with Photofeeler. This free app tells you how you’re coming across in pictures — if you look attractive, smart, trustworthy, fun, confident, and so on.

Your face should be the focal point of the image

Stick with a standard headshot for your LinkedIn profile photo where your face takes up approximately 60 percent of the frame. Crop the picture from the top of your shoulders to just above your head so that your face fills the frame and places the emphasis on your smile.

Avoid using an image that is too close up or too far away. Prospective employers and those in your professional network are not interested in inspecting your dental work, and a photo of you standing on top of a cliff, while pretty impressive, won’t help them identify you at an event or interview.

Make sure the background isn’t distracting

While there’s nothing wrong with choosing a LinkedIn profile image that has an interesting background — especially if imagery is relevant to your line of work — make sure it’s not so interesting that it takes center stage. The background should complement your headshot, not draw all the attention away from your face.

Avoid bad lighting

As with any photo, you want to be cognizant of the use of light. Don’t use a photo where there are dark shadows hanging over your face. In addition to making it difficult for someone to recognize you, a LinkedIn profile photo with weird shadows looks unprofessional.

If you’re short on funds or simply not interested in investing in a professional headshot, try taking a selfie in a renovated dressing room at Marshalls or TJMaxx. These rooms tend to have simple, white backgrounds and great lighting to show off their merchandise. If you choose this option, be careful with the angle of your camera to ensure you don’t catch your arm in the image. When done well, the viewer should have no idea that you took a selfie to produce your LinkedIn profile photo.

Dress for the job you want

If you work in an office setting, avoid using your wedding photo for your LinkedIn profile picture. The goal is to dress in an outfit you’d typically wear to work. If you’re searching for a new job, consider the companies you’ve added to your list of ideal employers and select your outfit based on the company culture of those organizations. For instance, if you find that you’re gravitating toward tech startups, you’d likely opt for an outfit that’s a bit more casual than what you’d select if you were targeting traditional financial institutions.

Related: How to Dress for the Job (and Company Culture) You Want

Add a LinkedIn background photo that complements your profile

For a background photo, select an image that is 1584 x 396 pixels in dimensions. Similar to the background of your profile photo, your LinkedIn background image should complement your personal brand without stealing its thunder. If you are an entrepreneur or freelancer, you may choose to create a custom image using tools like Canva to incorporate your logo or the name of your business into the image. If you’d prefer to go with an existing image, check out the selection on Stocksnap, Pixabay, and this site, which are free to use.

Your LinkedIn profile picture isn’t the only thing that should stay up to date. See where your resume stands with a free resume review.

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