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Data Reveals the Importance of Image in Job Search

One-tenth of a second is the amount of time that it takes for a person viewing a photograph to form a lasting impression of the subject.

A 2005 study by Princeton psychologist Alexander Todorov showed participants photographs (headshots) of opposing political candidates and asked them to choose which they felt was more competent, based on 1/10 of a second exposure to a photograph of the headshot. The result was that 68.6% of the time, the candidate who was determined to be most competent, matched the winner of the political race.  

Simplified: Nearly 70% of the time random strangers were able to correctly predict the outcome of a political race by looking at the candidate’s headshots for the amount of time it takes for you to blink your eye.

Why Does This Matter?

You’re probably thinking “That’s interesting but I’m not running for office.”

A 2016 study done by CareerBuilder.com found:

  • 60% of employers use social media to research job candidates.
  • 59% of HR professionals use search engines to research candidates.


Well, that study is a few years old at this point, and according to Martin Yate, CPC, New York Times best-selling author of Knock ’em Dead: Secrets & Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World, these all-powerful HR gatekeepers have only gotten nosier. In a recent blog posting on CareerCast.com Yate claims, ” Up to 90% of human resources people say they check out social media profiles, especially LinkedIn and Facebook, before inviting a candidate in for an interview. This means the wrong headshot can kill your chances of even talking on the phone stone-dead.”


There’s Good News

Before you get too freaked out, you might be interested to learn that the same Careerbuilder.com study found that the 2.000-plus hiring managers and human resources professionals surveyed weren’t intentionally looking for negatives in a candidate. In fact, 60% of those surveyed said that they were “looking for information that supports their qualifications for the job.” Meaning, they want to find information that confirms their belief that you are a solid candidate to fill the position.

Why Get a Professional Headshot

Now we’re back to that super, ultra, exceptionally important 1/10th of a second. Let’s sum up what we’ve already gone over:

  1. Science has proven that people form lasting impressions of complete strangers within a tenth of a second of seeing their photograph.
  2. Somewhere between 60 – 90% of the people looking to hire you are checking out your Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram pages.
  3. They’re hoping to get a positive impression from what they find.

What’s the first thing that you see when you look for someone on Linkedin? Yes, their photo. And, whether or not you want to admit it you’re forming opinions about them before you even take a look at their profile.

A professional headshot is your opportunity to control your first impression. A well-done professional headshot will help you stand among the other avatars and look like a professional and serious candidate for the position.