All about image: What does your LinkedIn photo say about you?

For many professionals, LinkedIn is the social media of choice. Its popularity has skyrocketed in recent years, as professionals from all walks of life have looked to network more effectively and increase their online presence. Available in 20 different languages, the business-oriented social network has acquired hundreds of millions of users over the last decade. Professionals recognise the opportunity to connect with existing business contacts, make new ones, promote their skills and how they can use social media for job hunting.

There's little doubting that a strong LinkedIn photo can support job applications, or help secure freelance work for the self-employed. Employers are able to find suitable candidates online, read about their skills and experiences, and potentially make an approach for interview. But conversely, getting it wrong can have the opposite effect. If your personal page has typos and grammatical errors, or you've embellished your educational or professional record, this could come back to haunt you. Then of course there is your LinkedIn photo- choose the wrong one at your peril!

Choosing an appropriate LinkedIn photo

Some people love nothing more than posing for the camera, whereas others avoid having their picture taken at all costs. But irrespective of your stance, there's no doubting that a professional-looking photo is an important aspect of your personal brand. For those seeking new career opportunities, it helps break down initial barriers with potential employers and/or clients, giving you a real-life persona. Once they know what you look like, you become more than just a name on an application form, CV or social account.

It's important to make the most of this photo opportunity. Being well-presented and having a nice smile won't get you a job in itself - or at least, it shouldn't, unless it’s a modelling contract. But there's plenty to lose, more than ever in the online era, managing your online reputation has never been more important. Choosing an inappropriate LinkedIn picture can ruin your chances of being selected for an interview, or considered for a work placement. Employers carry out research on job candidates, and if they don't like what they find, they'll look elsewhere.

The last thing they want to see is a picture of you out socialising in fancy dress, or chasing round the garden after your pet dog. Nor do they want to see you pouting at the camera - or more likely, your mobile phone - for a 'selfie'. Your LinkedIn photo should not be a window into your social life - this gives off all the wrong signals. Any photo that would entertain your friends is best-avoided, you can only make a bad impression with your business contacts and any employers who may happen to visit your page.

LinkedIn photo best practice

So what should your LinkedIn photo look like? First and foremost, it should be professional. This means you are appropriately dressed and groomed - as you would be for a normal working day - respecting business etiquette. You should wear your normal work clothing - whether this is a suit, uniform or simply smart-casual dress - in keeping with the expectations within your industry.

The size of your picture is also important. Conventionally, your picture will be a thumbnail, featuring your head and shoulders. Your preferred image may look great as a full-body snap, but if it doesn't work when cropped and rescaled, you need to choose another. It makes sense to avoid busy backgrounds, or have other people in the frame. Lighting is also important, as above all else, you need to be clearly visible.

It is still possible to demonstrate your personality through your LinkedIn photo you can do this by relaxing and smiling. This is your chance to make a positive first impression, so you want to as appear likeable and approachable as possible. Your picture mustn't end up looking like a prison mugshot!

It's also important for you to keep your LinkedIn photo up-to-date. Choosing a picture of your 20-year-old self from the late 1990s isn't much use if you're heading for 40. This is unlikely to go down too well with employers when you attend an interview. Your LinkedIn photo should show you as you are today - aiming to present you in the best possible light when you're using Linkedin to network and find a new job.