Is Your Headshot Killing Job Opportunities?

Is Your Headshot Killing Job Opportunities?

Martin Yate, CPC

Headhunters and human resources professionals ask two critical questions prior to any kind of interview: Do you have the skills for the job, and are you suitable for the company?


I see more social media headshots than most, and five out of every ten make me want to laugh, cry, or lose my lunch. I see headshots that are too close (you want to minimize wrinkles or acne), too far (I need to see your face), too sexy, grinning like a congenital imbecile or scowling like a mass-murderer. Primarily though, I see headshots that simply are not suitable for the work they need to do.

In recent studies, up to 90% of human resources people say they check out social media profiles, especially LinkedIn and Facebook, before inviting a candidate in for an interview. This means the wrong headshot can kill your chances of even talking on the phone stone-dead. Is your headshot killing your opportunities for job offers before you even get the opportunity to interview?

Every Picture Tells a Story

Like it or not, your headshot tells a story, so take a look at yours to see if it is telling the story you want it to tell. This has become a critically important part of establishing a credible professional image. As humans we are a very visual species, and in this new digital age, your headshot is invariably the first visual impression you make on headhunters and potential employers.

A profile with a headshot will get many more clicks than a profile without one, and how professional and accessible you appear will impact the impressions of the recruiters who decide your interview fate.

It’s safe to say that the people who come to your profile will form an opinion of you based on your headshot before they read anything you have written.

Your next job interview could well be decided on how well your headshot to portrays the professional you.

Are You Trying to Get Hired or Dated?

We all nurture different personas at work and at play. With a social media profile, this is done with your clothes and facial expression, and communicated through your headshot.

You have to be able to separate these work/play personas, and recognize that a killer headshot for your profile could be the kiss of death for your LinkedIn profile. Being seen as both professional (which implies competent) and friendly will encourage acceptance of the claims made within your profile, whereas a too casual or too sexy shot will call your judgment into question.

Can You Get Away With a DIY Headshot?

I look frightening in most photographs. It’s not that I look exactly like a creature from the crypt, it’s just that I’m naturally shy and a casual snapshot will usually catch me looking terrified.

We all look better relaxed and smiling, and the beauty of digital cameras is that the shooter can keep shooting until you relax. While you want to come across looking like a friendly professional, the headshot doesn't have to be taken by a professional. Because we almost all need new headshots for our professional lives, a headshot photography partner shouldn’t be that difficult to find.

Summer Is the Best Time to Upgrade Your Headshot

Summer is the best time to upgrade your social media headshots. You look happier and more relaxed because it’s summer, and for paler skins any kind of tan makes you look healthier.

Your Headshot & Headline

In initial database searches, the first things recruiters see are your headshot and headline. They get a headshot and a 120-character thumbnail description about you. Your headline works as brief biography of the person behind the headshot.

You have just these 120 characters to say who you are, so your headline should include the Target Job Title from your primary resume and the keywords that most succinctly capture what you do. You will then have about ten words with which to describe your key skills.

For maximum impact, use the highest-frequency keywords you discovered during the TJD (Target Job Deconstruction) process recommended in the Knock Em Dead books.

Martin Yate, CPC, author of Knock 'em Dead: Secrets & Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World, is a New York Times and international bestseller of job search and career management books. He is the author of 11 job search and career management books published throughout the English speaking world and in over 50 foreign language editions. Over thirty years in career management, including stints as an international technology headhunter, head of HR for a publicly traded company and Director of Training and Development for an international employment services organization.

Career Topics
Job Interviews