You need a professional photo to best market yourself online. It humanizes you, and differentiates your real profile from Internet bots. Whether it’s LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram, recruiters are looking you up to put a face to your resume. To help you get that corner office, we reached out to Peter Hurley, a New York City-based photographer who actually wrote the book on professional photos, called The Headshot. Below are the five mistakes keeping you from your next gig.
1. You Don’t Have a Good Photo
Your profile picture is the cornerstone of your personal brand, Hurley says. If you don’t have a picture on, say, your LinkedIn page, you can bet HR is Google Image searching for one. Your fraternity involvement on your resume is great. Having that sloppy photo from the alumni tailgate represent you? Not so much.
2. You’re Wearing the Wrong Clothing
If you don’t wear a tie to work, don’t wear one in your photo. Keep your clothing simple—no fluorescent, zigzag sweaters—and in line with your everyday style. Most portrait photographers will let you bring multiple outfits, so you can find what really works for you while shooting.
Step away from the FaceTune app, too. Taking out a blemish or cut—temporary issues—is fine. Editing your headshot to make you look like a pore-less teenager is just downright creepy.
3. Your Expression Is Off
The most common mistake in these: the expression. An ear-splitting grin will make you look fake and overeager. An ‘out-to-lunch’ blank stare is just as bad. Who wants to hire the guy with no personality?
Skip the poses, and stick to a slight smile. Corporate guys can still strike a serious face, but adding just a hint of a grin will make you seem more welcoming and approachable.
4. Your Photo is Old as the Polaroid Camera
Profile pictures do not age like fine wine—just because you took a great shot back in 2007 doesn’t mean people will look past your highlights and popped collar. (Although you can get better looking with age—here’s how.)
Hurley recommends updating it at least every two years, and after every time you majorly change your appearance. A stale picture can suggest you’re behind the times—a red flag in an innovation-heavy market.
5. Your Photo Has Poor Lighting Or a Bad Background
You want people to look at you—not whatever is going on behind you. Find a professional photographer whose work you like, and ask them for a solid background.
It’s important that this is professional, too. It’s great that your buddy has a cool Nikon, and offered to shoot your photo for free. But chances are, your friend doesn’t have the proper lighting equipment to prevent dark undereye circles and sullen skin. Keep that photo for mom—and leave this one to the pros.