New research shows profile pictures on online platforms influence employers’ recruitment decisions, but should they?
How important is dressing the part still a thing for job success – even in these more informal, more online days? According to a new report by two scientists from Harvard Business School and the University of California, there is still a link between appearance and successfully getting hired.
Dr Isamar Troncoso and Dr Lan Luo used data from the website Freelancer.com and noticed a definite correlation between getting hired and a candidate’s profile picture on Freelancer.com. They say: “Profile pictures are a key component of many freelancing platforms, a design choice that can impact hiring and matching outcomes.”
They advise making sure your profile picture is good quality and neutral looking – basically your passport photo, but with more animation. They found that there seems to be a look for different types of roles. For instance, people who wore glasses were more likely to ‘get the gig’, perhaps conforming to the stereotype of cleverness and diligence, even though it doesn’t correspond with job performance.
Different profile pics were favoured by different profile pics. For example, in the tech and finance industries, a professional look is favoured, while in design and media, a high-quality photo and an “artistic” look are important. The study also found that men with glasses and a computer in their photo, as well as a beard, were perceived as a better fit for software programming jobs.
It’s something to bear in mind as well for your LinkedIn profile, but also for employers to be aware of – just as it is important for them to be conscious of the kind of images they use in their recruitment material. It’s not just about permanent hires but also contractors and freelancers.
Age is not mentioned in the study, but how likely is it that, for instance, the bearded, bespectacled men who are successful in finance and tech are in their 50s or even 60s, despite self-employment being very popular in the older age group because of the work life balance aspect?
A Women and Equalities Committee session last week heard about the unhelpful assumptions made by many people when it comes to IT abilities. It is generally assumed that older people are more likely to struggle with anything online.
The Committee heard that the traditional picture that is used in digital exclusion stories tends to be an older person with a tablet and our sister site workingwise.co.uk has certainly found that older workers tend to not get shortlisted for digital jobs, even if they have a good track record in IT. Nevertheless, older people are still the most at risk group for digital exclusion, but it is vital not to make assumptions when it comes to recruitment.