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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

Just a Heads Up: 41% of Recruiters Judge Your Photo Before Ever Meeting You

person in an interview
John Wildgoose/Getty Images.

If you’re job searching, you’re probably very aware of the importance of several things tied to getting hired: a complete LinkedIn profile, a typo-free resume, a tailored cover letter, asking the right interview questions, proving that you’ll not only help the company with its pain points but that you’ll also be a good fit—the list goes on.

Recruiters are trying to check off a lot of boxes, and if you don’t have the basics down pat, you’re not likely to get very far. The truth is, you’ll never get much of an initial look if your photo—literally, the first thing a hiring manager sees when he finds you online—doesn’t make a good impression.

A study by Jobvite points out that 41% of recruiters say seeing a picture of a candidate before meeting them influences their first impression.” While you don’t have to fill your social media profiles with professional headshots, you shouldn’t use pictures that suggest you’re in full party mode either. Remember, even when you’re set to private, people can often still see your thumbnail photos on various platforms. This applies to cover photos, too: At least for LinkedIn, consider using a candid one of you working (if not one of these 23 ready-to-download options).

The good news is that hiring managers have grown more relaxed about those social media selfies they’re bound to come across—with only 18% viewing them in a negative light, as opposed to 25% just last year (so long as you’re not drinking or promoting drugs).

Want some more stats? Don’t take for granted how absolutely important the initial in-person meeting is after you pass that first Google-stalking photo test. Far more than half—62% to be precise—of recruiters are turned off by an interviewee dressing too casually. So, while a full suit and tie may not be appropriate, distressed jeans are also probably not OK, even in an environment where denim is widely worn. (Look, if you get the job, you can go ahead and reach for your favorite jeans, but for the interview, it’s better to err on the side of too formal instead of too casual.)

As you probably already know, how you dress is only part of your total appearance—unfair as it feels to be judged by looks, even in a professional setting. Results from Jobvite’s topline polling notes that messy or greasy hair, too much makeup, and facial stubble were descriptions cited by recruiters as offensive. The logic is simple: If you can’t take the time to present yourself for the interview—the very first time you’re meeting someone—then what’s to suggest that you’ll get yourself together for the job each day?

Now, of course, if a hiring manager’s biased against an inoffensive item of clothing, a label you chose, or a piece of jewelry, that’s on that person and entirely out of your control. Just keep in mind that you probably don’t want to work alongside someone who would dismiss a candidate based on something that frivolous.

But, with that said, you may need to break out the iron or invest in a new pair of shoes to make yourself look as polished as possible. In the long run, after you land the job, those time and money investments will barely register in your memory.