Having aLinkedIn profile is a necessity for us collegiettes. The go-to social media network for business-oriented professionals, LinkedIn is a crucial component of your career success, especially if you want to catch the eye of recruiters. Still, with more people signing up every day, how can you make sure that your profile stands out from the rest?
Thankfully, LinkedIn has rolled out a new feature on its site to all members that should help. Earlier this fall, background photos slowly became available to all users. Like Facebook, this cover photo is displayed in addition to your profile picture. The extra space offers a great chance to stand out!
Since the feature is so new, it can be hard to figure out where to start. That’s what we’re here for! HC talked to social identity and graphic design experts to bring you tips for how to maximize that header space and create a cover photo that truly shines.
Why your background photo is important
Your traditional profile picture can be kind of limiting; the best you can do is a professional headshot against a white background. With everyone following this same formula, you need something else to express your uniqueness. The background photo gives you a place to do that!
“It’s a way for you to add a personal touch to LinkedIn,” says Jeff Zelaya, social selling trainer and LinkedIn expert. “That cover picture really allows for a space to showcase your personality.”
What’s more, the cover photo is at the very top of your profile, so it’s going to be the first thing people see when they look at your profile. “It really is the first thing that jumps out at you on the page,” says freelance graphic designer Aalja Boyd. “Whatever you want people to know about you, this is the chance to visually say it.”
Your LinkedIn background photo is your visual elevator pitch. Here are three simple ideas for pictures that create a lasting impression.
1. Say a little bit about yourself
A great use of the header space is to focus on the most important aspects of your personal identity. “It’s good to include some imagery that brands the page in some way,” says Hugh Briss, a graphic designer and social identity specialist.
Boyd agrees, but suggests taking this idea a step further and using your cover photo not only to tell who you are, but to show where you want to be. “You should showcase your strengths to capture potential jobs,” Boyd says. Think of the kinds of activities that you excel in or the kind of work you would love to do, and decide on words that exemplify those things.
However, you don’t want to be too verbose—pick and choose your words carefully. “I would suggest you choose your top three strongest descriptors and merge those ideas into one single statement,” Boyd says. “Sometimes, less is more. Too much clutter is distracting. Choose your battles as to what would be the most important information to display. Remember, you only get one shot at a first impression.”
2. Say what you’re looking for
If you want to be a bit more proactive about finding work, use your cover photo to let people know that you’re on the hunt!
Zelaya says that having a call to action in your header space is a perfect idea for collegiettes in the job-seeking stage. “It lets people know how they can help you,” he says. For example, you could announce your availability with statements like, “Hi! I’m a marketing major graduating this year looking for opportunities,” or, “I’m looking for work, and I’m welcoming all invites! Here’s my email address.”
Since this message will appear at the top of your profile, it should be easy to read. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be bland/ “If you want to make a bold statement, use bold colors [and a] simple and clean font,” Boyd says.
Zelaya agrees that you shouldn’t be afraid of using colors in your cover photo. “It’s prominent,” he says. “That text will stand out, and when people land on your profile it’s really clear what you’re looking for.” Be explicit about what kind of prospects you’re seeking so that you can be connected to the right opportunities.
3. Showcase your skills or show yourself in action
Your cover photo is a great place to showcase any skills you might have. If you have little work experience, a picture of you using your skills is a great way to show that you’re qualified for the types of jobs you’re seeking.
“If you’ve spoken in front of a crowd and have a picture of that, use it,” Zelaya says. “It’s a great way to showcase some of your leadership skills or your communication skills.” If you have a picture of yourself winning that speech contest or leading a discussion on an important topic, showcase these in your cover photo to bring those skills to the forefront.
Remember, this is your chance to be creative! “Basically, you want to use this space as a small storyboard to tell a story,” Boyd says. “If you want to show you are fast-paced, blur an image to give it motion. This is where you want to tap into your creative freedom.”
Your background photo can be a space to show yourself in the midst of your work; these kinds of photos tend to stand out very well. “The best examples of ones I’ve seen have been a person and an action, like a long view of a photo where someone is on stage speaking, or showcasing their portfolio,” Zelaya says.
Find pictures from the time you presented your art in a gallery or when you collaborated with your robotics team to build an exciting new piece of technology. Show yourself doing something to get potential employers excited about what you can do for them.
We can’t do much within the square confines of our profile pictures. Your background photo is a unique chance to express yourself, so make sure you use it to its full advantage! This is your opportunity to add a touch of personality to the rest of your profile and show off what makes you the perfect candidate for the jobs you’re seeking. Figure out what you want to highlight about yourself, and keep these three things in mind when you pick the perfect background photo!