Lights…Cameras…Your LinkedIn Profile Picture!

In the acting world, headshots are a must for actors and actresses, whether they are just starting out or have reached “celebrity” status.  Headshots are their calling cards.

Treat your LinkedIn profile picture as if you were in Los Angeles or New York chasing a big acting job and as if that picture were your calling card. It is often the first impression that you will make on potential clients, employers, and vendors.  Make sure that the impression you leave is a positive one.  Plus, you may not be actively looking for a new job, but you never know when a hiring manager or executive recruiter will be looking around on LinkedIn and come across your profile.

I recently updated my own profile picture, and in the process did my research asked some friends who are photographers and in the image business to give their suggestions for a great headshot.  Here are some tips for a winning profile picture:

  • Hire a professional, or ask a friend who takes good pictures to help out
  • Thou shalt not take a selfie.  Deb Liljegren, NYC-based photographer, tells me that your outstretched arms may not be visible, but you are not fooling anyone.  Selfie sticks do not help, either. There is a clear difference between a DIY picture and one taken by someone else
  • Susan Tran, a photographer in Boston who did my recent photo, suggests that people smile big but not TOO big.  According to her, too big a smile can look forced.  Think of someone who makes you happy so that you capture your most natural smile
  • Boston photographer Stephanie Olsen says to BREATHE! Stephanie points out that everyone holds their breath when being photographed. This makes their shoulders rise up a bit and does not let their true smile come through. Stephanie guides people by telling them to exhale a smile. This also make them a laugh a bit and the smiles that follow are the most natural.
  • Wear professional attire suitable to your industry.  Dark colors work well so long as you do not have a dark background, in which case you would want lighter attire.  Contrast will make the picture “pop”.  Avoid prints, which can be too busy and could blend into the background
  • According to Brad Duncan, Boston’s top skincare guru, you should exfoliate your face a few days prior to the photo and drink tons of water in the days leading up to the photo being taken.  This will help skin look smoother and more even in the photo
  • If you wear makeup, go for a lighter hand for a soft effect.  Pretend you are going for that soft, fuzzy, super-forgiving Barbara Walters interview lighting
  • Speaking of lighting, Deb Liljegren also suggests shooting outside or near a window with filtered lighting


Remember, LinkedIn is a professional networking site and your photo should reflect that and portray your best you.


Interview Impact: The Art of the Thank You Letter

Congratulations! You nailed the interview. The company is checking references, and in your head you are composing that resignation letter and mentally calculating when your start date with the new firm will be.


Then, the call that it came down to two candidates and they went with the other one. But…you nailed it! How can this be?


The Secret

Pillar Search does searches for non-profits, foundations, and small, rapid growth for-profit firms. In our years of experience, we have worked with lots of very savvy and knowledgeable hiring managers. I will share one secret that I have heard time and again from them: all things being equal, “the candidate that takes the time to send a thoughtful, reflective, and well-written thank you note will always have a bit of an edge.” Yes…the thank you letter packs a whole lot of wow, punch, and impact.


How to Stand Out From Other Candidates

Remember what your parents taught you: manners will get you everywhere, and saying thank you goes a long way. When is the last time you received a thank you letter?  Now, imagine if you were the hiring manager and were receiving tons of them by email. How much more thoughtful and unique would a hand written note of thanks feel?


Look at your own mail today. In the pile of pre-addressed bulk mail, what will stand out? A new bill, the latest flier from your local market? Personally, when I see a hand written envelope, it is what I will always open first.


You see, too often, people do not send them, or they send one that is so perfunctory that it almost screams “I am not interested in the job, but know that I am supposed to send something”.   The thank you is a perfect time to wow them with your enthusiasm, fit for the job, interest, manners, and stellar writing skills.


Pillar’s Thank You Letter Checklist

  • Keep it short. Two to three paragraphs should suffice.
  • Make sure that it flows well and highlights why you are the ideal candidate. Include the following:
    • A statement of gratitude, such as “thank you for taking the time to meet with me today to discuss the open sales position on your team. I so appreciated your time.”
    • Add something showing that you were paying attention in the meeting, and remind the interviewer of what makes you the ideal candidate, such as “I was excited to hear that your company is expanding globally over the next year. My experience working with X, a global bank, gives me a unique skill set that would lend well to this exciting new chapter for you and the firm”.
    • Interviews can be tricky, as you can easily run out of time when sticking to the interview agenda. When you replay it in your head, there is likely something that you wish you had highlighted about your skills and experience. This is a perfect time to get that point across.
    • A call to action. Before signing off, reiterate your interest, and give them something of a call to action.   The message that I find to be most effective is the short and sweet “Thank you again, and I look forward to hearing from you”. True, it is not elaborate, but it leaves the ball in their court and shows that you are confident that you will be hearing from them.
  • Be a snob when it comes to your stationery. High quality card stock reflects well on you. It shows discerning taste and a certain je ne sais quoi Cutesy notecards will negate the goodwill earned by even sending it. If your stationery depicts your love of the beach, cats, puppies or your favorite sports team, step away immediately! When in doubt, buy cream colored notecards from Crane & Co.
  • Write out a draft first, proofread that version, and then transcribe it onto the good stuff. Trust me, I have wasted a ton of expensive paper because I dove right in. To quote my father, “measure twice and cut once”.
  • Stick to the 24 hour rule. Much like a thank you for personal reasons, it is best to send it within 24 hours. If you are in interview mode, keep a supply of stationery and stamps at the ready.
  • Before licking the stamp and strolling to the nearest mailbox, consider this: who else should you send a thank you note to? It may seem like a lot of writing, but if you can, send one to every interviewer, and put a personal spin on each note that reflects your interaction with that person. Do not forget to include Human Resources if they were included in the interview agenda, and if there was someone particularly helpful, such as an Executive Assistant who arranged travel or someone in Marketing who sent you helpful information prior to the meeting, send one to them as well. It shows that you are appreciative, a team player, and inclusive.


If (and when!) you get the job, send a hand-written note to your new manager thanking them for the opportunity and letting them know how excited you are about the opportunity. This is a personal touch that will go quite a long way.


Good luck!


Cindy Joyce