Your LinkedIn profile pic – three things that work and five things to avoid

This article was produced for the wonderful networking group, Women in Rural Enterprise (WiRE), for their newsletter.

LinkedIn aims to be different from other social media. Describing itself as “the world’s largest professional network”, its mission is to “connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful”.  For those of us using LinkedIn, the key word in both the description and the mission statement is “professional” – and this is what you should aim for in your photo.

There are three types of photograph that could work well for you on LinkedIn:

  • the full face shot
  • the pic of you with your product or service
  • the quirky pic

The full face shot – where you look directly at the camera and smile – is the easiest and the safest.  Done properly, it is very effective. You will come across as a reliable, straightforward and consistent business person. Options include cropping in close or going further out to include whole head and shoulders.  (If you include shoulders, then wear business attire rather than sportswear or holiday clothes…).

I have gone for the full face shot because I tend to be cautious on social media and I feel it suits my social media ‘personality’.  Here I am, on the left below, and here are two WiRE members who, I feel, have used the full face shot successfully: Emily Whitehead and Kate Young:

LinkedIn a LinkedIn b LinkedIn c

Me                                                Emily Whitehead                       Kate Young


The pic of you with your product or service – it is great to be photographed with your product or providing your service as the photo then illustrates your business. Two WiRE members who do this to great effect are Ruth Downing (who, incidentally, takes LinkedIn profile photos for people) and Sarah Lewis:

LinkedIn dLinkedIn e

Ruth Downing                       Sarah Lewis


For the quirky pic you need confidence, courage and creativity … Get it right and it works brilliantly.  Get it wrong and you leave your audience puzzled and confused.  But why not try it anyway? You can always take it down if you change your mind..  Here are two more WiRE members  who have pulled it off perfectly:

LinkedIn fLinkedIn g

Helen Culshaw                      Philippa Davies


Whatever you decide to do, here are five things to avoid:

  1. a cropped picture of you taken from a group shot. However careful you are there always seems to be someone else’s arm or hand included…
  2. busy backgrounds which have nothing to do with your business
  3. two of you in a pic (which one are you?)
  4. a pic of you holding a wine glass, g & t, cocktail, pint, etc (unless you sell it)
  5. you on holiday….in sunglasses….at the spa….at the races….on a night out…

You get the picture.

Judith Poulteney MA FCIPD is a specialist careers consultant and interview coach who produces interview-winning CVs, covering letters and LinkedIn profiles. She would like to thank the WiRE members who agreed to her using their LinkedIn profile pictures for this blog.    01785 284849,   07837 917803


Example 8: Effective networking

Jane is self-employed and knew the value of networking events for her business – but she never felt she was getting the best out of them. She explained to me that she felt unsure how to describe her business to others, face-to-face, in a way that was interesting and understandable – yet concise. We spent an hour and a half identifying what she did (features) and how it helped others (benefits), gradually reducing the information to a few key sentences. Jane can now state these with confidence and feels that she is a much better ambassador for her business at networking events and elsewhere. Cost: £57.50.

Example 7: Business proposal

James had the opportunity to pitch for some business for his company and wanted some objective comment. He spent some time with me restructuring his presentation and practising the “words, music and dance” until he felt confident and well-prepared. Four hours: £180.

Example 6: Job Interview practice with/without video

Peter had a management job interview which involved making a ten-minute presentation to the interview panel (which he was asked to prepare in advance). We went through some of the questions in a practice interview but he also had several dry-runs for his presentation which was the thing he was most worried about. We filmed his presentation and he was able to fine-tune it and manage his time. This took around four hours: £180.

Example 5: Job Application

The cost for help with a job application is determined by the length of the application. Some are many pages and are competency-based which mean that a lot of personal information is required. Generally speaking, a short job application needs around two hours and a long job application around four hours, so £90 to £180.

Example 4: CV

CVs usually need to be concise – usually a maximum of two A4 sheets and often one sheet only. A CV also needs to be accurate. The skill is in knowing what to put in and what to leave out – and this can be time-consuming. With Alastair’s CV, we started from scratch, which took a total of four hours: £180. Editing and updating a good CV would cost less. Like most pieces of writing, we worked on and off with this over a few days – rather than doing four hours at once; the result is usually better this way.

Example 3: University practice interview with video

Helen had a two hour session with me practising answering interview questions with video feedback. Some of these were technical questions relating to her subject while others centred around aspects of leadership, teamworking, communications, ethics, knowledge of the course and the university, and so on. I helped Helen gather a range of examples from her own experiences to illustrate her points. Total: £90.

Example 2: UCAS personal statement – from scratch

Tom wanted help on his UCAS personal statement from scratch so we started with an hour together identifying his knowledge, skills and experience – and all other information about him that could be included in his application. We also gave thought as to why he wanted to study the particular course (law, in this case) and how he could best ‘sell’ himself in writing and make his application interesting to the university admissions officer. After agreeing a broad structure, Tom went away and wrote his statement (at this stage we didn’t concern ourselves too much with the length). Thereafter, Tom and I worked by phone and email and honed the statement to the most important points – ensuring readability, interest and impact – and within the 4000 letters and spaces permitted. This took three hours: £135

Example 1: UCAS personal statement – comments on a draft

John had drafted a personal statement and asked for comments. He emailed it to me and I provided an A4 page of comments for him to consider. These ranged from where information was well-written to where there was too much information, too little information, lack of clarity, spelling or grammatical errors, and so on. The feedback took an hour. John submitted a second draft with his changes and feedback on that took 30 minutes. Total cost: £67.50.

Six steps to liven up your CV and get you noticed.

Far too many CVs lack personality, verve and vitality.

These six steps will inject liveliness and enthusiasm into your CV and grab the attention of employers.
1. Layout: Clutter is claustrophobic. Make sure there is plenty of white space to allow your reader to ‘breathe’. Achieve this with clear headings, spacing between paragraphs and an open font (like this one). Bullet points are brilliant.
2. Lively words and phrases: use verbs and adverbs with movement and feeling. Say what you ‘enjoy’, ‘look forward to’, are ‘good at’, ‘find rewarding’, ‘have achieved’. This is a much livelier and more interesting way of writing about your work than merely stating what you do – such as ‘deal with’, ‘handle’, ‘administer’, ‘file’, ‘manage’.
3. KISS – the old adage Keep It Short and Simple: two pages is the maximum for a CV – one page is even better.
4. Use plain English: plain English is saying what you mean using short sentences, simple language and words with fewer syllables. It does not mean writing like a child but it does mean the reader can understand something the first time they read it. Your prospective employers will quickly read your CV on paper or on a screen – so make it easy for them. Use plain English and your CV will be crystal clear and concise.
5. Be relevant: we all have stories to tell – but your CV is not the place to tell them. Don’t give all the background – give the outcome or result. An employer is going to be interested in how you make a difference. If it’s a customer service job – write about how you improved customer service. If it’s a team leader’s job – write about how you increased the productivity and morale of your team.
6. Activities and Hobbies: we tend to use ‘safe’ outside interests – like reading, cinema, football – because we don’t want to be controversial. That’s sensible. You can, however, add detail to an interest that will catch someone’s eye and make them think of you as someone with a bit more about you. For example, ‘enjoy reading, particularly books on famous leaders’ or ‘enjoy running and am preparing for my first half marathon next month’ or ‘chair the school PTA and raised £5000 this year towards a new minibus’.


Follow these six steps and transform your CV! Good luck with your job hunting…