Why I stopped reading a blog post on how to brand oneself

And sadly I won’t know if it was any good.

No photoYou’ve probably read so many blog posts on the importance of a LinkedIn photo that you’re tired of the topic. I know I am. So why am I revisiting it? Because the message doesn’t seem to be getting through to enough LinkedIn members.

I recently began reading what had the potential to be a well-done post about how jobseekers should brand themselves in their job search; but then I stopped in my tracks.

Why? Because the author made a most obvious blunder—he had no photo on his own profile. What’s the big deal, you’re asking? Here’s the deal; without his photo, he lost credibility with me. His purpose was totally deflated.

How can someone write about succeeding in the job search without having a photo on his own LinkedIn profile, and be convincing? He can’t. Plain and simple, a profile sans photo doesn’t give people faith in a person. This person came across as a hypocrite.

At this point almost every LinkedIn member has a photo—albeit sometimes of poor quality—so someone who doesn’t have a photo is an odd ball. I can safely say that more than 90 percent of my connections have a profile photo. Nay, 95% at least.

I know this because one benefit of having a photo on your profile is that you become memorable, hopefully in a positive way mind you. Lacking photo makes you memorable in a negative way, and you don’t want that. Right?

Because LinkedIn encourages its members to include a photo on their profile, anyone who goes against the grain is seen as unprofessional. Someone who is unprofessional comes across as unqualified to share information or undesirable to connect with.

Many people won’t even open a profile without a photo. This includes me. I don’t trust who I can’t see. I don’t judge people based on their physical appearance; although, I will judge them on the quality of their photo. But even if I don’t like the quality of their photo, I’ll still connect with them, especially if their Value Headline is strong.

It’s estimated that profiles with a photo are 14x more likely to be opened than those that don’t. This illustrates my point. I remember the days when the lack of a photo was commonplace. Heck, for the longest time I didn’t have a photo; instead I sported a picture of a soccer ball in its place.

A profile without a photo seriously hinders him from branding himself. This is what ruined the reading experience for me. Your first impression on LinkedIn begins with your photo. Do you want to make it a poor first impression by not including one, or a poor photo? Of course not.

I’m not suggesting placing a photo on your profile at all expense. A photo of you at a frat party participating on a beer bong event is not how to brand yourself. A photo of good quality, on the other hand, will brand you.

There’s no excuse for not having a photo. One of my customers showed me his LinkedIn photo, which was taken by his wife with an iPhone. Not too bad. Not bad at all. If you don’t have the means to have a photo taken professionally, this is a good substitute.

“Certainly you could have gotten past the fact there was no photo on this person’s profile, Bob,” you might be saying to yourself. To that I say, If the author is going to talk about branding oneself on LinkedIn, one of the most fundamental component is the photo.

Yes, we’ve read posts about LinkedIn photos ad nauseam, but I couldn’t let this person’s mistake go without saying something. What’s unfortunate is that this post may have been a very good one, nay great one; but because the person didn’t sport a photo, I just couldn’t finish reading it.

Call me shallow if you like, but this goes to show how important a photo is in branding oneself. If this is the 100th post you’ve read on the importance of a profile photo, thanks for bearing with me. If this is your first, hopefully you get the message.

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15 thoughts on “Why I stopped reading a blog post on how to brand oneself

  1. Above The Rim

    Great post Bob! Really, it is about taking your professional brand seriously. If you do not take your brand seriously to have a good professional head shot done, others won’t take your professional brand seriously.

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      1. Nick

        It is the most important part of the profile 🙂 I would stop reading too. No picture = no credibility. As this comment probably doesn’t have a picture on it, then again it’s not on LinkedIn 😉

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  2. Ashley (@asilvertwig)

    This is such truth.

    Personally, I don’t care if someone has a photo on LinkedIn or not but if they are going to write an article about personal branding then their own personal branding should be top notch. That includes not only having a photo but also having a well-written summary and a portfolio.

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    1. Things Career Related Post author

      True, Ashley. As one person responded, it’s not only the verbiage that supports your brand, it’s also images. And as you say, if you’re going to go there, support it with a photo of the man behind the words.

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  3. Eugenia Kaneshige

    Unfortunately, Bob, you’re not the only person in this world who is by his own admission so shallow as to place the inconsequential or peripheral above contents, substance or professional ability. Also shallow are people who will discriminate against women, minorities, the old, the young, the unattractive, the un-photogenic, the overweight, the too thin, and the poorly or inappropriately dressed. A photo makes it easy for them to do so. Perhaps this fact has occurred to those who choose not to fill in the box just because someone tells them they should.

    LinkedIn was created as a tool for recruiters (who pay for its services), and LinkedIn pushed photos by declaring a profile “incomplete” if it lacked one. This is the same threatening tactic some companies use when soliciting information about previous compensation or “required salary.” No one with negotiating experience would tell the other side what their desired salary is before they knew an offer was at least imminent, but many are intimidated by recruiters who tell them that if they don’t fill in every box on an application it shows they can’t follow instructions.

    Thanks to LinkedIn, companies no longer have to pick up a phone or bother with a face-to-face interview in order to weed out less “desirable” candidates. Tests have shown that recruiters will go through a candidate’s contacts pausing on the most attractive ones. Forgive me for being cynical, but I don’t think LinkedIn pushed photos with a pure heart and the candidate’s best interests at heart.

    A photo on LinkedIn is an unqualified benefit to attractive, photogenic, white males in the age range that the recruiter or his client believes is ideal. IMHO, it’s one of the worst things that the internet has done for children of a lesser god.

    Instead of encouraging people to go along with the arbitrary format that LinkedIn created primarily for its own benefit, why not encourage people to stop judging a book by its cover? Which would you rather have—a good-looking career coach, or one who can show you how to work around people’s deliberate and unintentional prejudices, biases, and hidden agendas?

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    1. Things Career Related Post author

      Eugenia, you’re correct that employers and recruiters have the ability to eliminate people from consideration based on their looks and gender, and this is truly a shame. However, jobseekers make up a small portion of worldwide LinkedIn members. So LinkedIn has set the rules to encourage professional networking.

      That said, most people don’t want to network with those they cannot recognize and trust. There’s an old analogy floating around that goes something like this, “Imagine a group of people networking in a room, and they’re all wearing paper bags on their heads. How welcoming would they be?” I didn’t make this up, but I think it rings true.

      Without a face to the name, I couldn’t take this man’s post seriously. To me he didn’t exist, especially in talking about personal branding. Am I shallow? Perhaps. But you have to admit there is some truth to the importance of a photo. After all, you have one.

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      1. Eugenia Kaneshige

        While it’s true that my profile has a photo, Bob, I barely looked at yours–until after I read your article. It’s a deliberate attempt to avoid my own unconscious biases, which is essential for good decision making. Few people would argue that one should pick the best-looking vendor, spouse, employee, or political candidate, but studies show that’s what most people do.

        I’ve never been one to follow the crowd blindly, but with my name already revealing the fact that I’m an Asian woman, a photo doesn’t add additional ways for people to discriminate against me. I’m not very photogenic, however, so I hired a professional, who knocked about 20 years off my age with retouching. Not only would that be perceived as deception upon my meeting a client in person, but it would be a disadvantage in consulting or coaching. Executives don’t want to be coached by someone half their age.

        It took a couple of years and hundreds of dollars to get a photo I thought would be an asset, and that photo is already dated, so if you ask me if it was worth it, I would have to say no; my business has come from people becoming familiar with my content—such as the 7-page piece I wrote on all the mistakes one can make when attempting to get a professional photo. Unless you’re gorgeous, sell your experience, not your face!

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  4. ekaneshige

    While it’s true that my profile has a photo, Bob, I barely looked at yours–until after I read your article. It’s a deliberate attempt to avoid my own unconscious biases, which is essential for good decision making. Few people would argue that one should pick the best-looking vendor, spouse, employee, or political candidate, but studies show that’s what most people do.

    I’ve never been one to follow the crowd blindly, but with my name already revealing the fact that I’m an Asian woman, a photo doesn’t add additional ways for people to discriminate against me. I’m not very photogenic, however, so I hired a professional, who knocked about 20 years off my age with retouching. Not only would that be perceived as deception upon my meeting a client in person, but it would be a disadvantage in consulting or coaching. Executives don’t want to be coached by someone half their age.

    It took a couple of years and hundreds of dollars to get a photo I thought would be an asset, and that photo is already dated, so if you ask me if it was worth it, I would have to say no; my business has come from people becoming familiar with my content—such as the 7-page piece I wrote on all the mistakes one can make when attempting to get a professional photo. Unless you’re gorgeous, sell your experience, not your face!

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  5. Denny McCorkle (@DennyMcCorkle)

    Me, too. If no photo, then I will not connect on LinkedIn.

    And…..sometimes a LI profile includes a photo with minimal and generic detail in their profile. No connection happens there either.

    Additionally, this causes suspicion, especially after I right click on the photo for a Google image search and discover the same photo on multiple LinkedIn profiles….a fake profile to block.

    Have you seen these, too?

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  6. D. Rathjen

    Good points. Just wanted to point out a slight editing error you may want to correct:
    “At this point almost everyone LinkedIn member has a photo—”…

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  7. J. Taylor Sink

    Deflated = defeated.

    Bob, what is your opinion on using an avatar rather than an actual headshot to brand yourself? Some people are rightfully concerned about privacy.

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