Choose the right Facebook profile picture

man taking selfie

Facebook has built one of the most powerful social networks on the web, with countless opportunities to connect with old friends, remain current with the news, and engage with exciting visual content. Aside from these uses, did you know that Facebook can also serve as a professional networking tool?

If your Facebook profile were part of your resumé, what element would potential employers look at first? Your profile picture. While it’s odd to think that a simple image can make such a difference in your professional life, your Facebook profile image can carry far more weight than you might think.

For the modern-day professional, a good Facebook profile is about far more than just getting likes and comments from friends. In recent years, the explosion of social media sites has given prospective employers the ability to see the “you” that you present when you’re not wearing your interview finery. When that hiring manager searches for you online (which happens more frequently than you might think) and finds your Facebook profile, which photo will he or she see?

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You’ll need to give this question a lot of thought. Visual elements carry the most weight when job recruiters are analyzing candidates’ online profiles. On average, these individuals will look at your profile picture for 19 percent of the time that they spend on your page.

So before you head to your next job interview, you should take time to iron your clothes, print out extra copies of your resumé, work with prep questions … and iron out your Facebook profile. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so you’ll need to choose the right Facebook profile picture if you want to look as professional as possible.

Using your Facebook profile picture, you have the power to proactively craft your online image. What does it look like right now?

The wrong photo can make a bad impression

Your Facebook photo paints a unique picture of who you are as a professional. Though you may want to come off as a trustworthy, competent individual who would make a great addition to any team, your profile picture can easily portray you as anything but this. If your Facebook profile photo makes a bad impression on your job recruiter, then you may not receive a call back about your application at all. As such, you should avoid all of the not-so-great profile picture choices that can really throw a wrench into your job plans, including the following.

1. The party picture

It goes without saying that photos of you slumped over a toilet, scantily dressed on a dance floor, or in some other state of indelicacy will probably detract from your professional image. Similarly, any profile photo you post that ends up looking like an alcohol advertisement probably isn’t your best bet, either. Pictures such as these may seem hilarious to your friends and former college buddies, but hiring managers definitely won’t find them as entertaining.

Take any party photos down from Facebook before they become a permanent part of your online reputation. If such memorable moments are a regular part of your social activities, then you should consider doing a Web search for other recorded indiscretions that might ruin your job prospects.

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2. The pet/child picture

Your Facebook profile picture is yours, not someone else’s. While family and friends may find it cute when you use a snapshot of your pet or child, it won’t exactly scream “professional” to anyone looking to hire you (you will also run the risk of oversharing private information about your family). If none of your Facebook profile pictures are of you, then you should reconsider. Let recruiters see your face and leave the other photos in private albums.

3. The Halloween costume picture

Halloween photos can create a slippery slope when you use them as Facebook profile pictures. Did you go out in a clever but politically incorrect costume this year? Photos of that getup might get a few giggles from your friends, but your soon-to-be ex-manager isn’t likely to be as amused. When you’re dealing with your online reputation, it’s best to play it safe and avoid using gag pictures like these for your profile photo.

4. The too-serious picture

Your Facebook profile picture should make you seem pleasant and approachable – like someone that other professionals would want to see on their team. Never post a photo in which you look unpleasant in any way. An expression that is too-serious or lacking confidence can be a real deal-breaker for hiring managers. To entice their attention, try to come across as vibrant and friendly as possible in your Facebook profile picture. Yes, this also means that you should stay away from black-and-white shots.

5. The selfie

Selfies may be fun, but they don’t exactly say “professional” to recruiters that are viewing your Facebook profiles. This isn’t to say that you can never post a self-portrait to your Facebook, but they aren’t exactly the profile pictures that you want to show to prospective employers. Never waste an opportunity to make a good first impression on a recruiter by using a bad selfie.

6. The default image

Many professionals choose to simply go with the default Facebook image as their profile photo. But if you haven’t uploaded a good picture of yourself, how is the hiring manager supposed to determine which profile is yours and which belongs to the several other people with the same name? Time to nix the anonymity and upload a Facebook profile picture that depicts the real you instead of a question mark.

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Photos that put you in the best light

Here are a few types of photos that can help you win over hiring managers:

1. The family picture

As a job seeker you want to portray yourself as having an engaging, active, and vital identity. A nice profile picture of you with your family suggests that you lead a content, full life outside of work—without inviting the hiring manager to dig more deeply into your personal matters.

2. The professional headshot

It’s hard to go wrong when you use a headshot as your Facebook profile picture. This type of shot is simple, clean, and elegant. If that one picture is all the hiring manager sees, it will cast you as a positive individual who values integrity, responsibility, and professional decorum. You can capture this image of yourself with the help of a professional headshot photographer, or, if you’re adhering to a budget, a photographer friend.

How to craft the most professional Facebook profile picture

Exactly what is it that makes a Facebook profile picture great for professional use? Lighting? Eye contact? Composition? The answer is all of the above, and more. You’ll need to carefully craft your Facebook profile photo if you want to come off looking credible and professional to your potential employers. Here are a few elements of an effective Facebook profile picture:

  • Framing: Yes, headshots make great profile photos, but yours needs the right framing to take it from ordinary to extraordinary. Never choose a picture that shows too much of your body and not enough of your face. Remember that hiring managers will first see your profile picture as a 160×160 image. How can you expect to draw them in if your image isn’t a close-up shot? Always choose a Facebook profile photo that shows no more than your head and shoulders.
  • Attire: You wouldn’t show up to a professional office in workout clothes or a bathing suit. Appropriate Facebook profile photo attire should follow the same rules of decorum. You don’t have to wear a suit in your photo, but you should avoid any attire that could come off as unprofessional to a recruiter. It’s also important to style your hair in a professional manner and wear your glasses in a way that doesn’t obscure your eyes.
  • Background: The background of your Facebook profile photo shouldn’t draw anyone’s eye away from your face. Complicated backgrounds with dark shadows can confuse the eye and make you stand out less than you should. For the best result, try snapping a picture with a monotone background that won’t be so distracting from you, the focal point.
  • Attitude: Body language is important, even in a photo. The attitude that you give off in your Facebook profile picture can make or break your chances at getting a call back about a job. Eye contact is the most important way to make yourself look approachable in your photo. Your pose is also an important element of body language. Relax and keep your head straight in your photo; tilting your head will make you seem less confident than you are.
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Why is a good Facebook profile photo so important?

The Facebook profile picture you choose will have an impact on so much more than a job recruiter; it helps convey your professionalism among friends and on pages across the entire site. The bottom line is that you never know who’s looking at your Facebook page — which is why you should assume that everyone is. Become a master of Facebook’s privacy settings, and check back in from time to time when those policies are updated. If you’re looking for a job, take a few minutes to consider your profile from an outsider’s perspective. Does it portray you in a way that you wouldn’t want to cultivate in your prospective employer’s office? If it does, do a little redecorating; your career and your reputation will thank you for it.

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