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Profile Pictures on LinkedIn® Accounts May Impact Staffing Decisions


by Abby Welsh, SIOP Intern

Research found applicants without a picture may not be detail orientated and employers may not consider them qualified for a job.

While qualifications for a job are important for recruiters, physical attractiveness also plays a determining role among many hiring managers.

“When applying for a job, most people don’t include a picture with resumes because employers have the option of scanning through online profiles if interested in what you look like,” Nicolas Salter, as assistant professor at Ramapo College of New Jersey said. “The debate on whether or not you should include a picture of yourself on your LinkedIn® account is an important one when it comes to staffing decisions.”

Research has found that personal pictures can bias staffing decisions. If someone does include a photo, the person is allowing the chance of being judged, but if someone doesn’t upload one, people may begin to wonder why there isn’t one when the majority of profiles have them.

Salter and Tiffany Poeppelman, a scientist at Aptima, sought to learn how having an attractive versus unattractive picture on a LinkedIn® account is perceived as compared to no picture at all.

Their interest in the study stemmed from a realization that there wasn’t much social media research being presented at SIOP conferences, said Salter. Given the state of technology and the prevalence of online applications, the two decided to design a study showing the importance of completing a profile with a photo.

“I can’t stress enough how vital it is to have a profile picture, especially on a site designed as an online resume for hiring managers to view,” Salter said. “It is there for a reason and people should utilize it.”

The study included recruiters who were split into two groups and randomly assigned to look at two online resumes with equivalent content consisting of one profile with a picture, and the other without. While one group viewed a profile with a more attractive picture of a person, the other group looked at one with a less attractive photo. Overall, the results found that people prefer a picture over none at all.

“When we viewed the results from the group who looked at the person with the attractive picture and the resume with no photo, the recruiters favored the attractive person’s resume,” Salter explained. “Then we viewed the results from the second group who looked at the unattractive photo and the profile without a picture and they said both candidates were equally qualified for the job.

A follow-up study was conducted where participants were asked open-ended questions. “Some recruiters said a person without a photo might be considered dishonest, hiding something, lazy or sloppy.” Salter explained. “They also viewed the profile as incomplete, indicating the applicant may not be very detail oriented.”

What the study found was that recruiters think they can look at a picture and know the personality of an applicant before meeting them, Salter added. The tricky thing for applicants is they may not know what kind of photo for a resume account, such as LinkedIn®, is appropriate.

An article by the Miriam Salpeter at U.S. News & World Report suggests steps to consider before uploading a picture. It recommends posting an up-close, high-quality photo, and a nice smile with no distracting accessories.

“Recruiters really value pictures because they believe they can read into a person more,” Salter said. “They may think by viewing a picture they can learn more about who they are by piecing together parts of their resume with the photo, as well as determining their qualification for the job.”

When the participants decided who they would choose for the job, the results showed they prefer a picture versus no picture, but the attractive person was perceived as better qualified.

Salter and Poeppelman’s study was indirectly testing their research on the importance of a profile picture.

“We didn’t want to highlight what the study was about because we wanted them to choose based off of what was on their resume,” He added. “Ultimately, employers prefer looking at a resume with a picture provided.”

Research has found that everyone makes judgments about a person’s profile so Salter encourages people to completely fill out their online account and profile.

“Take social media seriously, because employers are,” he said.