Hello, Dolly!: Choosing a Professional Profile Picture

A few weeks ago, Dolly Parton set off a stream of Internet memes that will now be forever known as “The Dolly Parton Challenge.” Celebrities like Padma Lakshmi, Ellen Degeneres, and Janet Jackson all joined in, posting their four-photo collages of potential profile pics across LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Tinder to cheekily poke fun at how we adapt our social media personas to different platforms. The Dolly Parton challenge may seem silly but when we look closer at the visual rhetoric, the social challenge showcases how a medium can and should influence how you present yourself. When job hunting, the first thing recruiters notice is your profile picture, and while an impressive background and eye-catching resume can temper a poor photo, capturing a positive first impression with an appropriate profile picture is too easy to pass up. Below are some tips to help guide you in choosing the perfect professional photo.

  1. Current: The most important rule of thumb is that the photo reflects who you are. Use a current photo from the past few years, so that if a recruiter met you at a coffee shop they would be able to recognize you.
  2. Avoid Weird Filters: Filters can be a wonderful addition when you want that extra dose of confidence or want to experiment with lighting on other platforms, but for sites like LinkedIn, it’s important that potential employers and recruiters know who you are. So, avoid heavily edited filters that hide who you are.
  3. No Floating Limbs: Avoid photos where you have to crop others out. Most everyone has been either the perpetrator or the victim of this—you take a great photo out with your friends and by morning, there’s only one person left standing in the frame. Just like the Dolly Parton Challenge, context is important, and cropping out context, even if it’s your close friends, is not a good look.
  4. No Logos or Brands: Avoid shots that prominently feature a company name or brand. The focus of a profile photo should be on you and not what you’re wearing.
  5. Body Talk: Try to choose a photo with positive body language. What does that mean? Eye contact, shoulders squared to the camera with arms down by your sides, and an upright posture. Positive body language communicates that you’re receptive, open-minded, and confident—all traits potential employers want to see. Also, it may go without saying, but we’ve seen it—no visible alcohol in the photo.

The right profile photo functions the same way as a firm handshake and can leave a lasting impression. So, use these tips to make a visual impact! It’s one step closer to getting hired.


This article originally appeared on LinkedIn (2/6/20) here.
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Meg Griffitts

Meg Griffitts is a Copywriter at Searchlight as well as a Teaching Artist and award-winning poet.