Look Your Best On-line
Good photographs are important for family moments, special events and holidays but not important at work, right? Actually, I'm starting to realise that good photos are becoming important there, too. I spoke with someone who has worked in offices around the world for more than 30 years to get some inside knowledge.
Pat Bourne has worked in IT for 33 years, in Switzerland, the UK and Iraq, often in large, international teams.
Ruxi: Why are photos of people at work important for you?
Pat: When I meet someone new I want to see what they look like before I meet them.
There are 2 recent trends that make good pictures more important. One is hot desking, where people don’t have an assigned desk (if you don’t know what they look like, you can’t find them). The other is increasing use of global teams and offshoring (it is more human to be able to visualise the people you are talking with). Videoconferencing can make things worse – the quality often make people look bad.
Ruxi: What were you thinking, when I took your profile photo?
Pat: I was trying to come across as friendly, competent and professional, and also a little colourful.
Normally I don't come out well on photos, so this is about as good as it gets. 2 other people I knew well were having there photos at the same time. We were laughing and joking, which put us all in a good mood. By looking directly and coolly at the camera I hoped to look professional enough. The red and blue shirt goes well with my colouring, adds some interest to the photo and maybe suggests someone confident enough to be a little unconventional. I'm mostly serious at work but also like to have fun and think out of the box, and don't mind people seeing that. Most places I would work at in Zürich would be fine with this clothing. For a job application where the dress code is different I would take a new photo, and try to look appropriate to the role, for example confident and managerial in a suit if I'm applying for a management position.
For some years I accepted the photo taken on the first day at a new job, when I was nervous and before the first coffee of the day. It was an accurate likeness, but not the picture of someone you want to spend time with.
"2 other people I knew well were having there photos at the same time. We were laughing and joking, which put us all in a good mood."
Ruxi: What do you look for in someone’s photo?
Pat: I’m looking for clues what to expect and will maybe change my approach depending on what I feel. Is the person young, old, healthy, careful about appearance, and how does the image fit with their role? For example, does the person seem young for a team leader? Most important, can I tell anything about their character. Are they friendly, open, serious, difficult, (un)professional, (in)competent?
When I do a recruitment interview I will always research online first.
Ruxi: Why do you think a good photo is important?
Pat: Firstly because lots of people will be looking for clues about you, so you need to send the right signals. Secondly because photos show up in many places, with modern communication tools. Office and mail chat show photos much more often these days so that photo will appear on people’s desktops and phones many times per day. I remember a director at a large bank, who for many years had a photo that made him look retarded. Even though I knew him well, the photo always gave me a bad feeling. What did people who don’t know him think?
"Ruxi knows how to take good photographs and how to make people feel good while she is doing so. She comes prepared with ideas and suggestions, and is ready to adapt to our preferences. The photo sessions were well organised, went smoothly and were fun. She went the extra mile to help us choose and process the photos afterwards, and we are very happy with the results. I look forward to working with Ruxi again and recommend her whole-heartedly"
Ruxi: What would you recommend to anyone preparing a photo to use in professional life?
Pat: Give an authentic and appropriate view of who you are, just slightly improved. Also, bear in mind where it will be used.
Authentic - if your photo doesn’t match what you really look like, I get surprised when I meet you, which can be a bad start to a meeting. Or maybe I think you are a fake, or careless about updating your online presence. Think about what you are like. If you are by nature grumpy and bad tempered (like me) you won’t get a photo looking as jolly as Santa Clause (and if you try, it will look wrong). Try for serious and professional, perhaps. If you are a manic extrovert you won’t achieve that. Try for friendly and open, perhaps.
Appropriate – do I feel comfortable that you are committed to your job? If you are responsible for my health, IT problem or HR I will be worried to see a photo of you or the beach or ski slopes. A child care worker should probably hide any heavy metal tattoos, whereas a security guard should probably get some. Consider your expression, grooming, make up and clothes.
Slightly improved – a little processing to remove some wrinkles or stray hairs is no problem. When I see your wrinkly face live I won’t expect it to be as good as the photo. If you don’t naturally photograph well, take lots of shots and choose the best.
Where it will be used – your picture for communication tools is small, so make sure the essentials (i.e. your face) look OK. For some tools, such as LinkedIn, you have more space to work with so could include some more personal details.
Ruxi: Finally, why do you think lots of people still have bad photos?
Pat: I have no idea. The time and money for good photos is so small compared to the impact they have. I guess people don’t realise this yet.