Your LinkedIn profile supports a background photo — what’s the best way to use it?
The majority of LinkedIn users don’t change the background photo from the bland default one, so it’s not a meaningful disadvantage to keep using the default. That said, it is valuable real estate on your profile.
I’ve been mulling over options for the majority of professionals including me.
Authors and speakers have it easy
Teresa Torres, a Product coach, leverages the background photo to rep her new book, Continuous Discovery Habits:
(Her book is a terrific read on product discovery, I highly recommend it.)
Mike DelPrete, an expert in the iBuying / real estate market, uses a photo of himself speaking at an Inman conference:
Maybe the takeaway here is to publish a book or speak at a conference, so that one can post a cool background photo 🤣.
Commonly suggested ideas
Some guides recommend a photo of your city, a landscape that you like, your workspace, or something that thematically matches your career, e.g. a bookshelf for someone in education. I don’t think these ideas make sense in the context of a professional networking site. The first three examples may have little to do with one’s profession or won’t meaningfully differentiate you, and the latter is subject to viewer interpretation (e.g. does this person like to read, are they an aspiring librarian, etc).
Another obvious idea is a photo of you in action at work, e.g. at the whiteboard with marker in hand. However, most of us haven’t been in the office for over a year, and even when we were, we were working not doing a photo op, and a photo may contain sensitive company information.
Some designers post a collage of their work as the background photo, but it can be hard to do that justice — usually a portfolio provides context along with images.
My suggestion: communicate where you’ve worked
When people access your profile, the most common reason is to check out where you’ve worked and what roles you’ve played. Communicating your roles in what is essentially a banner ad can be tough — context is hard to convey with limited space. That leaves us with where you’ve worked.
I’m playing around with a representation of my career journey by listing my last educational institution and the companies I’ve worked at. Of course, viewers can swipe down / scroll to see that, but this photo enables viewers to scan my company history at a glance:
- Companies are listed in reverse order (right-to-left), since the latter part of your career is typically more important than the former, so viewers see the recent stuff first
- The size of the headshot relative to the background photo differs between desktop and mobile, so that impacts company logo placements. I prioritized mobile first
- A thin grey border was added at the bottom of the background photo, to maintain design coherence with the rest of the page / screen
This career journey idea is quite literal, but it addresses the reason why people view profiles in the first place. I’m still toying around with the concept and am curious to hear what you think.
What other ideas do you recommend for the background photo? Please share your thoughts in a comment below.
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