How a Professional Headshot Can Help You Land Your Next Job

At The Niche Movement, we talk a lot about building your digital brand. And do you know what the central pillar of any good digital brand is? The right headshot. 

The headshot is on all your social media accounts. It’s the photo you share along with your bio for guest features or speaking engagements. And it’s the glue that holds your digital voice together with a smile. So this week, a friend of The Niche Movement, and professional headshot photographer Jon Meadows is breaking down the science of a perfect headshot. (And why you need one).

Everyone knows: perfect your resume, network, go on informational interviews, but I would bet no one has told you to make sure your headshot builds trust and creates connection with hiring managers, so it’s more like meeting you face to face than a selfie or a traditional, stale headshot.

The number of photographers specializing in high-quality headshots is increasing. People are beginning to realize the vital PR asset a modern headshot can be. There are better options than professionally but poorly lit pictures of us saying “cheese!” Modern headshots are still a secret weapon, but the day is coming where a high-quality headshot will be the status quo.

A modern headshot is both a work of art and a valuable branding asset. It’s a combination of hard and soft skills. It includes the hard skills setting up lights, operating the camera, etc., but it also includes the soft skills of working with a range of people, coaching them to convey the right message with their facial expressions, and knowing how to deal with each person’s fears and insecurities about being photographed, often when only having known them for a few minutes.

But it’s critical that you find someone who can do this for you. Why?

Profile Pictures Communicate a Lot

Profile pictures increase or decrease trust, and they build a connection or fail to do so – or, even worse, create a negative perception of the person. In a professional context, your profile picture or headshot increases your perceived value to the company, or it does not. It might even hurt your chances of getting a job.

Employers will get a sense of whether you’re going to be serious about your job or if you’re going to be trouble. While they could be wrong, you should help them to think well of you and be right. Companies will be trading tens of thousands of dollars a year for you. Make them think it’s worthwhile.

While the perception they form about your value to them should not be about how attractive you are, it’s fair if they form a judgment about you based on how you present yourself, which is why you should consider investing in a professional headshot.

Investing in a Professional Headshot – 4 Characteristics of a Great Headshot

Investing in your online brand is important, but what is a good professional headshot? Here are some characteristics of a great headshot or social media profile picture.

First, the picture should be composed so your face is visible, even when the profile picture is viewed on mobile. If people can’t see your face clearly or it is too small to connect with, you are missing out on something more like meeting them than a picture of you in your last Halloween costume. We’re humans, and we connect with other people’s faces. Don’t miss the opportunity to be liked by an employer.

Second, the picture should show you looking confident and approachable. As a facial expression coach, I believe this is where a lot of our pictures fail us. If we are taking a selfie, we are preoccupied taking the picture. We can’t be truly engaged with someone, and it is incredibly difficult to make an authentic-looking face that brands us in the best way. Being told to smile or being told to “say cheese” produces cheesy smiles. You know it, the photographer knows it, and people who see the picture know it. Everyone knows it.

Third, especially for a LinkedIn headshot or one used in a professional setting, we should look like we care about our image with a professional headshot wearing appropriate clothes. The lighting should be great, and the quality of the image should be high. It should look like a professional took the picture.

Fourth, I think it’s important that the camera angle be on the lower end. Many photographers put the camera above head level to help people with their jawlines, but it has the unintended and often unrecognized outcome of diminishing us. It’s called “looking down on someone” for a reason. A great headshot photographer will be able to help you define your jawline, while capturing images that simulate meeting you face to face, while giving the subconscious impression to people who see the headshot that you can provide great value.

We hope you took Jon’s insight to heart and start to consider how to utilize your social media profiles. Get a rockin’ headshot, so that you can convince others to have you in for an interview. Perfecting your digital brand with a professional headshot will get you one step closer to landing your dream job. So what are you waiting for?

Jon Meadows is a headshot photographer and facial expression coach at High-End Headshots, in Washington, D.C.