If you’re looking for a job in 2018, a LinkedIn profile is essential—it will be searched, analyzed and judged. And while a profile photo shouldn’t reflect your worth as an employee, never underestimate the powerful impression it can make.

We analyzed 2,000 LinkedIn profile photos, across 11 industries, to see who’s doing it best and who’s making us cringe. Factors we considered include: framing, lighting, resolution, attire, facial expression and photo origins (selfie, cropped from a group, professionally shot, etc.)

Study Shows Industries With Best LinkedIn Photos


In some professions more than others, a good first impression is crucial. Real estate professionals scored favorably in photography fundamentals, and on the finer points of crafting a great image, earning the industry our only “A” for overall grade.

Who’s on the opposite side of the spectrum? Government employees and retail workers scored poorly in photo quality and polish. There may be good explanations for this: government employees often have strict rules about what can be posted publically, and retail workers tend to be younger professionals, not yet adept at showcasing themselves in a professional manner online.

Those who benefit from LinkedIn know that optimizing their profile photo with proper lighting, balanced framing, and high pixel resolution is the key to presenting a positive image. Professionals in the marketing, advertising, and PR industries have mastered the profile photo, scoring the highest in our analysis, with an average 11.6 out of 15 points. Real estate professionals rank well too, with an average score of 10.6 points. Those in HR and recruiting, perhaps the most active industry on LinkedIn, are close behind with an average score of 10.3 points. These industries are all known for valuing outward impressions and brand equity.

Our survey also discovered most people say “Cheese!” for their LinkedIn photos—76 percent of the photos analyzed feature a full, toothy smile. Professionals most likely to be grinning ear to ear work in the health, wellness and fitness industry, and in HR and recruiting.  Of the remaining 24 percent, it’s evenly split between tight-lipped smiles (12 percent) and no smiles (12 percent).

What looks best with a smile? Business casual attire. Nearly half (42 percent) of profiles include professionals in business casual attire. Other styles are split between social (26 percent) and formal (24 percent) attire. The most formal dressers tend to work in fields that want to project confidence, seriousness, and intelligence—like finance, banking and government.

Some faux pas in the professional sphere include using a selfie for a profile photo or using a photo that was obviously cropped from a group shot. Poor framing and shabby photo execution also underscore a DIY effort, which could be a turn-off to some. Government workers and retail employees fall victim to this the most, at rates of 25 percent each.

We’re in a Golden Age of photography; the tools are as advanced as ever, the impulse to capture is relentless. Many people—especially hiring managers—have little patience for amateur photo blunders. A photo is still worth a thousand words, even if it’s now the norm to have a thousand photos of yourself! Make sure your online representation reflects your best qualities, and that it’s focused, bright, friendly and professional.


Our team analyzed 2,000 active LinkedIn profiles in July 2018, spanning more than 11 industries (each formally recognized by LinkedIn search filters). Factors we considered are listed below, in two groups, based on their relation to the overall grades per industry.

Stylistic Choice

For matters that involve a subjectively-valued choice by the subject, like what attire to wear, what facial expression to make, and whether or not to upload a photo to begin with, we only noted trends.

Technical Execution

For matters of technical execution, like framing, lighting and resolution, we established pass-fail grades and overall grade averages per industry.

Framing – Is the photo either symmetrically framed or artfully askew? Is it a selfie?  Is it taken from a high, flattering angle? Does it fill the circular frame?

Lighting – Is the face well-lit? Is there adequate contrast between subject and background? Is there glare on the skin or eyeglasses? Are filters distracting or distorting?

Resolution – How sharp is the picture, particularly when clicked to view in full size? Any pixelation or blurriness?