Never mind the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words.” A picture can make the difference in landing a job, according to a recent workplace study at Ramapo College of New Jersey.
Among profiles on LinkedIn professional networking site, some 100 working adults across all industries each were shown two profiles, one with a picture and one without, and asked to choose which candidate they preferred.
With all skills and experience being equal, people who posted pictures, even unattractive ones, were perceived as more favorable and more qualified than those without photographs, researchers found.
“The biggest takeaway is to put your best face forward — and use a picture,” said Nicholas Salter, assistant professor of psychology, on a telephone interview with The Oklahoman on Tuesday.
Salter said profiles with attractive photos weren't compared with profiles with unattractive photos because it's already well-documented people perceive attractive people as more intelligent, confident and successful than unattractive people, though there's really no difference, he said.
Salter's study was prompted by his co-investigator who works at a staffing firm where recruiters, he said, often gather as much information online as possible before they even call applicants for interviews.
Oklahoma City human resources expert Gayla Sherry discourages employers and recruiters from consulting social media sites before traditional screening methods. Those who look at social profiles beforehand, she said, risk potential discrimination lawsuits from applicants who could claim they weren't hired because of their race, gender, age and, possibly, national origin, religion or disability, which are all protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“By looking at this information after the interview, there is less risk of appearing to be discriminating,” Sherry said.
It's for that reason that Beth Adele, director of career services at the University of Central Oklahoma, tells students not to put photos on their resumes. “Many recruiters and human resources professionals have told me they immediately trash them, without even looking at them, for fear that someone could say they discriminated based on looks,” Adele said.
Fine arts resumes are the exception, she said, because it's legal for fine arts employers to discriminate based on the roles for which they're hiring.
Though LinkedIn is for professionals, it's still a social site, Adele said. And for social sites, she recommends students post wholesome profile pictures and limit their privacy settings so visitors “don't see a lot, if they're not friends.”
Meanwhile, Oklahoma consultants and recruiters confirm they frequently use LinkedIn and other sites for research.
“We help a lot of organizations hire leaders, managers, and sales professionals. Every one of them uses LinkedIn in the process,” said Mike Crandall of Sandler Training. “A picture goes a long ways to tell you how serious they are about professionalism, detail and following directions,” Crandall said. “LinkedIn strongly suggests a picture and will give you messages of an incomplete profile until you add one,” he said.
Karen Renee Elzea, an executive health care recruiter with Wolters Search Group in Tulsa, said, “Think about when MTV started playing videos to accompany songs we heard on the radio. All of a sudden these songs became multidimensional and took on new meaning. That is how I feel about pictures on LinkedIn profiles,” Elzea said. “Their picture gives the written word personality. Without one, it begs the questions, ‘What do they look like?' ‘Are they hiding something?' and ‘Why did they not take the time to complete their profile?'” she said.
Shawnee recruiter Wolf Gugler said business-appropriate pictures help job seekers make good first impressions and make them more human. “Personally though, I'd rather see no picture than one showing a guy in a bathing suit on his powerboat or a female displaying her winning smile and cleavage,” Gugler said.
That's the next phase of Salter's research at Ramapo — people's perceptions of professional profile photos versus nonprofessional ones. He's scheduled to present his research at a Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology conference in April in Houston.