For better or worse, a good profile picture is worth not just a thousand words but thousands of dollars and perhaps even years of professional advancement. Your profile has many parts to it, but none can advance or hinder your PRISM journey as quickly as your profile picture. It sits at the very top of your profile, follows you into PRISM search results and across social shares, and it can shape perceptions of your profile at a literal glance. But don’t worry: it’s possible to craft an engaging and useful profile image without incurring the cost and trouble of having a professional headshot taken.
First off, keep in mind that just having a profile image in the first place puts you ahead of most of your competition. Many new users let the perfect be the enemy of the good and forego putting up an image while they search for the right shot. This is a mistake, as research by recruiters and branding experts indicates that just having an image on a teaser for a profile or about page makes it more likely to be clicked. Even if you are choosing an image quickly from your existing photos, just a few steps will enable you to put your best photographic foot forward.
Crop the image so that your head and face takes up about 80% of the frame
You don’t need mathematical precision, but you do need to let people know what you look like. PRISM creates your profile image by zooming in on a circular crop of your uploaded image. Don’t create unnecessary mystery with pictures where your face is small relative to the size of the profile image area, or where your face is obscured/in shadow, or that include another person. While an image of yourself diving may say something about your interests, unless you’re at the Mariana Trench a recruiter or colleague will likely take seeing you over the scenery.
Please select a high-resolution image, but one that is smaller than 1mb in total size. You will be able to select a focal point when you upload, but we recommend starting with an image that will allow you to crop from the top of your shoulders to just above your head and let your face fill the frame. Overall, an image that is 600 x 600 pixels should be fine.
Think about your expression
As a working rule, smiling helps on a job profile. At the same time, different roles and positions can call for different tones, temperaments, and interpersonal vocabularies. Your expression can vary accordingly, but make sure that you are exuding exactly what you want to exude, whether that’s seriousness, rigor, approachability, or all of the above. Don’t tack on an expression that feels unnatural and remember to lead with your eyes. Many of our expressions are anchored in eye contact, so make sure anyone looking at your profile image feels that you are meeting their gaze.
Wear what you’d wear to work
Although you will likely be applying to multiple institutions with distinct work cultures, wear something in your profile image that you would gladly wear to the job you want. Personal style contains important cues, so make sure to select an outfit that helps advance your story. Keep in mind that, depending on the resolution of the image, solid colors tend to survive cropping and resizing better than prints.
Keep the background simple
The point of your profile image is you. A simple background keeps the focus on your face, so avoid busy or visually complex settings that might leave a visitor wondering where you are or exactly what is happening just over your shoulder.
Lastly, choose a photo that actually looks like you
We all change over time and carry with us a world of feelings about those changes. But the ideal version of you for the purposes of being hired and making new connections is the person you are right now. It is incredibly common for people to connect with another person digitally only to meet them “in real life” and find that their previously-formed impression was inaccurate. No matter the texture of that gap, it can be a startling distraction, especially during a high stakes encounter like a job interview. Make sure your profile picture is up-to-date and conveys how you look on a daily basis as it relates to hairstyle, glasses, makeup choices and clothing style.