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How to Select the Perfect Profile Picture

Ahh, the profile picture. It’s the subject of such consternation. Our photos are so vital to our online presence that we can worry over them for hours, whether we are presenting ourselves to friends and family on Facebook, potential employers on Linkedin, or romantic connections on any number of dating sites. Head shot or full body? Serious or funny? Black and white or color?

taking_profile_pictureFear not! ModSquad is here to guide you through the perilous quest for the perfect profile picture. As one of the leading providers of work-from-home part-time jobs, we know a thing or two about what makes a good impression when dealing with professionals. Malcolm Gladwell describes in his book Blink, it takes about two seconds to create an initial impression upon a viewer. So if a potential hiring manager is the one gazing upon your lovely visage, you’d better be sending the right message.

Let’s start with the eyes. They’re said to be the window to the soul, and they’re one of the key elements you must focus on when composing your shot. Don’t cover them up with shadow, hair, or sunglasses. If you normally wear glasses, though, keep ‘em on; they actually make you seem more competent and likable.

And perfect the art of the squinch. Wide-open eyes could make you look frightened; just slightly squinting your eyes lends you an aura of confidence and control. Finally, where do you direct those peepers? Women should look directly at the camera, while men should focus just off-camera. (Hey, we don’t make up these sexist guidelines. We just report them.)

When framing your shot, resist the temptation to go for the extreme close-up. Default to a head-and-shoulders or head-to-waist portrait. You’ll want to extend your jaw just a bit to define the jawline; like a bawdy reality show, it tests well with viewers. Dress as you would in a professional situation; dark suits over lighter tops send a strong message. And keep the background free of distractions. Your picture can be taken indoors or outdoors, in a variety of colors (some folks keep testing new background colors, but we’ll assume you have a life); as long as there’s nothing severe in your background, you’re good to go. And be sure to make the photo asymmetrical; use the “rule of thirds” to divide your photo, and line up your eyes with one of the lines.

Now, a list of no-nos for a professional profile picture. It may seem daunting, but look at it this way: As long as you’re not starting off with a mug like this one, you’re already one step ahead of the game.

  • No red-cup party pictures. Sadly, this needs repeating.
  • No pictures from years past. Who are we kidding here?
  • No kids or animals. Are you bringing them to work? Then leave them out of the shot, too.
  • Got an artsy side? This isn’t the place for it. Now get to work and crunch those numbers, Picasso.
  • Spare the travel or hobby photos. There are other ways to share your personal passions and worldliness.
  • Smile. Even if you have RBF, shake off that sullen look.
  • Keep it professional. “Hot looking” and “taken seriously” mix like oil and water.
  • Professional photos can be great, but always be sure to consider the source!

Different profile pictures work on different social networks. While a more relaxed image certainly works on Facebook, remember that this image (and others that you make public on those sites) will still be viewable to anyone who can figure out how to work The Google. So feel free to display your relaxed self, but use common sense. Does that photographic evidence of poor bacchanalial decision-making really need to be presented to the world at large?

And while you’re tweeting away in the middle of the night, take a gander at the picture you’ve selected on that site. Does it match your audience? If you’re using Twitter to promote yourself as a brand, or as part of your position within an organization, stick to the guidelines above. Otherwise, feel free to be a bit less restricted with your chosen image. Regardless, remember that this profile pic is small, so you’ll probably want to go with a head shot that’s properly cropped (don’t be one of those saps whose head is cut off at the top). And while you love your family and friends, leave ‘em out of the picture. Again, space is at a premium, and you need to be easily identifiable.

So, to recap, for the best professional results:

DO THIS: Dress the part. Smile and show some teeth (just check to make sure there’s no food stuck in there). Squinch your eyes, but don’t cover them. If you wear glasses, feel free to keep them on in the photo, unless you got them on New Year’s Eve and they spell out a number.

NOT THIS: No cropped-out pals, no party pics, no animals, no tourist shots, and no unfriendly (or, for that matter, overly friendly) poses. If you’re tempted to show off your cosplay or dark-magic attire, resist; maybe save that gem for the in-person interview.

Of course, if you’re the richest person in the world, you own 400 businesses including your own airline, or you’re just someone with a particular set of skills that you’ve acquired over a very long career, feel free to break these rules. You’ve earned that right. And chances are you’re not out there looking for work-from-home part-time jobs.

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