I’m not the first, and I’m sure I won’t be the last here on professional publishing platforms to notice the variety of headshots that we use to represent ourselves.

While each of us is unique and our business might not require a suit-and-tie approach, there are still a few pictures that have stopped me in my tracks … and not for a good reason.

Headshots are one of the first things we see, and they can make or break deals before we ever have a chance to strut our stuff, either by having someone read what we so painstakingly wrote or by meeting us in person.

First impressions and all that, right? So, while I don’t want to come across all grouchy and persnickety, it might be time for us all to take a look at how we present ourselves to those who don’t know us.

Let’s start with cleavage. Yeah, that. I’m saddened by the number of (usually) attractive young women who show more than they probably need to. If you’re pretty and you have great cleavage — lucky you! But showing it off here could easily be misunderstood … what exactly are you trying to say? At the very least, it could be distracting. At the very worst, you could be shunted aside in favor of a competitor who appears to be more professional. Appears to be. Might not be, but that all-important first impression sure can help us … or hurt us.

Muddy, hard-to-see shots. Out of focus? Don’t use it. Messy, disorganized, over-busy background? Don’t use it. Dark skin against a dark background, something I just saw on LI with the face so shadowed I couldn’t tell if it was of a man or woman? Light skin against a very light background, so you merge with it? Will we be able to see you clearly, or are you a ghost? It’s just a photo, but we’re drawn to it, so please help us see you in the right light.

Others in the picture — why? If you’re selling an experience for a group, great. A crowded picture of happy guests could work well, but where would YOU be in it? Maybe something like that could be the background banner, but not your personal picture. Others in your picture probably should not include your SO, your kids (unless you’re showing family values that align with your business purpose), or animals, unless they are part of what you are involved in. Yes, you might look friendly, but what do those others have to do with your being on LI looking for business? Are we hiring you … or all of them along with you? (Trust me, you don’t want to hire my little dog, Gibbs, unless you need a nonstop doorbell …)

And speaking of the top banner space that is currently a blue star-streaked default space on LinkedIn — why is that still on your profile? Why would you waste such prime real estate and not have something extra that promotes your work / your company? You could WOW us with a great banner instead of boring us with that generic blue space.

Offbeat pictures might work if your company and your message are intended to show us something radically different from the norm. An attorney who poses with a clown or a fire-eater at a carnival might not be showing the professional side we could expect … unless the attorney actually represents offbeat kinds of clients! Of course, showing us a stern, unsmiling face might also work against someone. Who would dare to talk to a person who appears to be too authoritarian?

A picture of your company’s logo. Again, WHY? Why are you hiding your own face? We want to see YOU, not your company’s logo or product or anything that isn’t you. I don’t do business with companies; I do business with people in companies. Let me see the person I might be working with, please.

Simple questions, here:

  1. What do you want us to FEEL when we look at your picture? Amused or amazed? Interested in knowing you? Certain we don’t want to know you?
  2. How old is the picture? Would we recognize you if we met you today?
  3. Does the picture represent you in your present moment at your present company?
  4. What does your expression convey? Friendly? Approachable? Likable? Stern? Angry? Sad? Distant?

I’ve seen all those in #4 and more here on LI and on other platforms, and I’m still surprised by some; I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

Now, is mine the best it could be? Nope, although it is a picture that doesn’t make me look like an old hag, so I continue to use it. I’m hunting for someone who can make me look friendly, approachable, and professional, the way I think this one does (feel free to weigh in on that) but maybe even better. Stay tuned; I’ll find that person soon!

What would YOU add for others to learn from on this topic? The old adage “It takes a village” comes to mind. We all know stuff — let’s share it.

And for WAY more on the topic of using LI successfully, check out these three articles, all published today (10/03/18) from Andy Foote, D.B. or “DB” Wienke, and Mark White.

It’s an LI learning festival today!

Click HERE for a free copy of my brochure “Colons, Commas, & Dashes, Oh, My!” that might help you with some words or punctuation marks in the American grammar style.

(Originally published on LinkedIn October 3, 2018)


  • Susan Rooks

    The Grammar Goddess | Editor / Copy Editor | Corporate Educator | Blogger | Cruciverbalist | Happy Woman

    Grammar Goddess Communication

    I help authors of anything business-related shine by finding and correcting their typos before they publish. My clients, who are bloggers, best-selling authors, web content creators, ghostwriters, even professional résumé writers, write nonfiction books, annual reports, blog posts, and tech articles. Their articles have appeared in a wide range of publications and venues including CNBC, Huffington Post, Inc., Forbes, and regional magazines. My only goal is to help all writers look and sound as smart as they are!