Social Media Recruiting

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover: Screening Candidates Through Social Media

When using social media to screen candidates, a picture can be worth a thousand words. As LinkedIn® expert Brynne Tillman has shown us, having a good profile picture is a great first step in creating a candidate-centric profile on LinkedIn.


portishead1 / E+ / Getty Images

JDP—an employment screening and background check service provider—recently analyzed 2,000 active LinkedIn profiles in July 2018, which spanned more than 11 industries (each formally recognized by LinkedIn search filters). JDP sought to better understand profile picture trends in technical execution, style, and characteristics like facial expression and attire. It also ranked the industries with the best LinkedIn photos.

JDP looked at the following metrics when analyzing profile pictures:

Stylistic choice. For matters that involve a subjectively-valued choice by the subject, like what attire to wear, what facial expression to make, and whether or not to upload a photo to begin with.

Technical execution. For matters of technical execution, like framing, lighting, and resolution, JDP established pass-fail grades and overall grade averages per industry.

  • Framing—Is the photo either symmetrically framed or artfully askew? Is it a selfie? Is it taken from a high, flattering angle? Does it fill the circular frame?
  • Lighting—Is the face well-lit? Is there adequate contrast between subject and background? Is there a glare on the skin or eyeglasses? Are filters distracting or distorting?
  • Resolution—How sharp is the picture, particularly when clicked to view in full size? Any pixelation or blurriness?

Which Industry Has the Best Profile Picture?

JDP found that professionals in the marketing, advertising, and PR industries have mastered the profile photo, scoring the highest in its analysis, with an average of 11.6 out of 15 points.

Real estate professionals rank well too, with an average score of 10.6 points. Those in HR and recruiting, perhaps the most active industry on LinkedIn, are close behind with an average score of 10.3 points. These industries are all known for valuing outward impressions and brand equity.

What Does Your Picture Say About Your Profession?

The JDP analysis also discovered most people say “Cheese!” for their LinkedIn photos—76% of the photos analyzed feature a full, toothy smile. Professionals most likely to be grinning ear to ear work in the health, wellness, and fitness industry, and in HR and recruiting.  Of the remaining 24%, it’s evenly split between tight-lipped smiles (12%) and no smiles (12%).

What looks best with a smile? Business casual attire. Nearly half (42%) of profiles include professionals in business casual attire. Other styles are split between social (26%) and formal (24%) attire. The most formal dressers tend to work in fields that want to project confidence, seriousness, and intelligence—like finance, banking, and government.

Fashion Faux Pas in Profile Pictures

Some faux pas in the professional sphere include using a selfie for a profile photo or using a photo that was obviously cropped from a group shot. Poor framing and shabby photo execution also underscore a DIY effort, which could be a turn-off to some. Government workers and retail employees fall victim to this the most, at rates of 25% each.

As JDP notes, “We’re in a Golden Age of photography; the tools are as advanced as ever, the impulse to capture is relentless. Many people—especially hiring managers—have little patience for amateur photo blunders. A photo is still worth a thousand words, even if it’s now the norm to have a thousand photos of yourself! Make sure your online representation reflects your best qualities, and that it’s focused, bright, friendly and professional.”

To learn more about the JDP analysis, click here.