Do You Need To Lighten Up?

No this isn’t a call to suddenly become full of the joys of spring whilst you are searching for a new job. However, the results are in and it would appear that I definitely need to Lighten Up and you may well do too.

Let me explain. Various people of late have been talking about a website where you can upload your profile photograph(s) and get feedback from others on your picture against three criteria:

  • Competence – do you look like a competent individual?
  • Likeability – do you looking friendly?
  • Influential – do you give off an air of authority?

The prevailing wisdom, supported by some research, is that we are more likely to feel drawn to people who are likeable rather than those we necessarily see as competent or influential. So what does this mean for the job seeker? Given that our online profiles, whether they are on LinkedIn, Twitter or anywhere else that we open to the general public, are now seen as a key part of the complete job search campaign, then I think we need to be very aware of it. The research shows that when people are skimming through lists of people who are returned as matching their keyword searches (think recruiters searching LinkedIn) they are more likely to click on those that they perceive as “Likeable.”

Personally I hadn’t given it very much thought and had always gone for a serious looking (professional?) image to use on my profiles albeit that I had long since forsaken the collar and tie look! However, I asked someone whose opinion I value to review my LinkedIn profile recently (you can see it here Paul Duxbury) from top to bottom.

Their feedback was invaluable in terms of many areas of the profile but there was one thing that they commented on above all else. You guessed it! My profile picture! Their comment was that they thought that I looked “seriously, seriously serious” and that I was bordering on looking a little intimidating! Not quite the image that I wanted to project but given that I don’t especially like pictures of me smiling I had decided to go with a serious looking one from the professional photo shoot rather than the more relaxed looking picture.

With that feedback and after a little thought I decided that I would change my profile image to one with a hint of a smile and uploaded it to LinkedIn and the various other social media sites thereby ensuring a consistent personal brand.

I then decided to upload my original profile picture and my new picture to the site I mentioned at the start of this post which is PhotoFeeler which is free to use and you gain credits to have your photo voted on by voting on others. There is also an option, which I haven’t used, to buy credits so that you can get quicker results.

I was not too surprised, given the feedback I had received, that my original image was perceived as competent and influential but didn’t score too well on the likeable scale. However, what did throw me was that my new image was not scoring much better. Now fortunately one of the options on the site when you are scoring/voting on pictures is that you can leave a comment. When it came to my new picture there were quite a few comments that it was far too dark. Easily solved! Open the picture editor and lighten the picture, which is exactly what I did.

I then uploaded the new “lightened up” image to PhotoFeeler and waited for the scores to come in. A dramatic improvement with the feedback being that I look competent, influential and likeable!

It may only seem like a small thing but given the increased use of visual marketing in so many areas getting our online profile picture right when we are looking for a job is crucial. So many decisions can be made on the basis of a cursory glance and whether we like it or not we have to deal with it. Friends and family might tell us that they love our profile image and think it really captures us. But what about people we don’t know which for the most part is the group that recruiters belong to?

Therefore given that it’s free to use, in exchange for helping a few others, what have you got to lose. Check out what people you don’t know think of your profile picture by trying out PhotoFeeler.

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