Practical Linkedin for us Africans – The Profile Photograph

As an active recruiter (I am the owner of HIREghana –,  my associates and I, come daily across through several hundred of Linkedin profiles via our candidate sourcing searches and via our very own professional networking too. And we see a lot of things that seem to be common to African profiles, so I decided to write a series of articles aiming to offer my very own humble opinion in the form of advice. This is the first one in a series of postings to come over the next weeks/ year.

The first thing we look at, when we all look at someone\’s Linkedin profile, is their profile photograph of course. Based on that factual reality and our professional experience, we simply like to recommend the following DOs and DON\’Ts.

First of all, a profile picture helps you make a \’buying\’ decision as to whether to connect with that person and/or what type or professional relationship you want to establish with them. Let me rephrase it: would you buy anything at a shop where the owner or the sales-person hides his/her face? Would you trust them if you can\’t see their faces? This kind of logic seems to apply also to your Linkedin profile photograph: it has to be there.


1. Have a clear photograph of yourself.
I.e. no fuzzy photographs and no photographs with friends, children, pets, relatives, whatever.

2. Use a photograph of your face with possibly a small smile.

People want to get the feeling of comfort, the feeling that you are approachable; that you are an easy person to reach and talk to. Obviously do not wear sunglasses please.

3. Show your shoulders
This is a bit strange, but there is a lot of research that shows a stranger can trust someone more when they could see a part of his/her shoulders.

4. Face the camera.
Almost a must: because it generally creates a sense of direct communication with the person looking at your photograph.

Make sure that you are “front and center”. Linkedin is not about looking beautiful.

5. Dress appropriately.
No need to wear a tie- that\’s up to you, although I would personally strongly recommend a professional garment on your top/shoulders. Just no open shirt (that\’s for you gentlemen) nor a bikini top nor any other beach or outdoors outfit, please.

6. Photoshop.
Yes: it is ok to “photoshop” a little, e.g. for removing items on the background etc.

No: please don\’t use “photoshop” to look younger – it\’s deception.


1. Avoid \’dating-like\’ photographs Linkedin is a professional networking tool –it\’s not Facebook.

So ladies: no need to show cleavage, no full-body photographs even in a nice dress, no unbuttoned blouses etc. And, light on the make-up and jewelry please.

And gentlemen: no vacation backgrounds, no photographs from a pub, and nothing else that looks dating-like.

2. Don\’t lean back on an office chair.

When is the last time that you show someone leaning all the way back on their office chair or even a couch at work and you thought: “I want to hire this guy” or “I want to work for this person or do business with him/her”? What do you think this person\’s attitude is? Do you really think that s/he is successful? In what? In been lazy?

3. Avoid advertising or marketing promotion photographs.

Sure you want to promote your own business or a product or service that you are selling. But, Linkedin has company pages for that- for example look at our page: People need to see you and not an advertisement. Single exception: when one is a trainee and under a probation period, you can choose to display the company logo.

4. No Selfies, please.

5. Don\’t use an old photograph.
You are 30-40 years old or even older and you are using that cute high school picture? Look your age, please – use a recent photograph.

6. Background color.
Keep it simple: white is great, some shades of green will do miracles; no blue backgrounds. If you want to have a strong professional image, consider avoiding multicolored backgrounds.

Now there is a last item of possible controversy: Should you use a Black & White photograph? Some research shows that a colored photograph turned into a Black & White one, makes that very same person appear more credible, more competent and more influential. Again, it is not 100% proven research-data beyond any doubt.

Good Luck.

Scroll to Top