Why LinkedIn Profile Photos are Controversial

(Article Posted for LinkedIn)
Your LinkedIn Profile

You’re likely reading this on LinkedIn.  If so, I would have to guess you have built a profile for yourself. With that profile I am almost sure it is accompanied by a profile photo.  It’s that first impression you use to convey to others who you are. It may be a professional photo in proper attire to convey a sense of professionalism. For others, it may be that photo in a t-shirt, or something you quickly snapped on your webcam. The photo is a sales tool where the product is your skills.

After reading a couple of articles around the concept of the resume photo I thought I would share some of my own thoughts.

A Standard Photo

In Europe the standard has been to include a photo on your CV/resume. It’s the norm, and is rarely questioned. In contrast, this is not at all the case in the US. One of the issues taken in the US is that with a photo you immediately put into question qualities that do not define you as a job seeker. This could be your age, skin color, or even level of attractiveness.  These of course are qualities that an employer are bound to face at some stage.

I know many of you will agree that a photo should not be included with a resume. Yet, most of us still have our LinkedIn photo on display. We know that it increases our chances of getting noticed and ultimately getting hired. When we apply for a job through LinkedIn often our photo accompanies it. Despite any objection you might have, LinkedIn has in essence made that resume photo a standard in the U.S.

Eliminating Bias

We know that a bias will be formed the moment we see the photo. An opinion solely based on a single image. If we eliminate the photo, one is allowed to focus their attention primarily on your skills and background. By the time you have been invited to the interview you will have been chosen to attend based on the experience you have presented.

At some point it’s always difficult to eliminate every hint of who we are in our CVs. What languages you speak, where you went to school, or even your name can produce assumptions about your background.

Furthermore, with the digitization of our social lives it doesn’t take any more than a minute to track down a person’s entire social life. It is almost inevitable to not have an online persona. With this much information available at an employer’s fingertips we might need to rethink how to ensure any undue bias is eliminated.

The Solution?

One of the solutions floating around for some time is blind hiring. Much of a candidate’s personal information is removed in an attempt to provide the least amount of bias possible. This allows for a forced focus on talent that otherwise might be ignored.

But what does it mean for us the candidate? Does this mean we should anonymize our LinkedIn profiles? Delete our photos? The problem at the moment is that for any solution to be effective, employers will need to be onboard.

As we know, the hiring process is tough enough, and adding a step to strip out these details is going to be more work. But with all the information already digitized it should be trivial for a company like LinkedIn to strip personal information out of applications as a service for employers. Just a thought.

Best Value

How we eliminate bias from the hiring process will always be a tough question. Personally I have to believe that there is value in the ability to focus and hire the absolute best candidate for the job.

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