Credentials and experience are all that really matters to hiring managers, right? Related: How To Reach Recruiters On LinkedIn Mm, not so much. As much as we wish that hiring decisions weren’t based at all on extraneous information like our appearance, the truth is that separating these things completely is impossible for anyone to do. Certainly, most of us imagine ourselves as being more evolved than that, but science has long proven that the judgments we make of each other are largely intuitive.

To Judge Is Human

The processes of the brain are unimaginably complex. We take for granted how intricate our world is, and how much we’re forced to make sense of at any moment. It’s for that reason that most of our thought processes are unconscious and automatic, while just a tiny part of conscious logic is what we point to as the basis of our decisions. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Blink, refers to it this way:
"[Research] suggests that what we think of as free will is largely an illusion: much of the time, we are simply operating on automatic pilot, and the way we think and act – and how well we think and act on the spur of the moment – are a lot more susceptible to outside influences than we realize.”

What To Do About It

The fact that decision-makers are making judgment calls based on the whole package of who you are—including your appearance—does not need to be a terrible thing. It certainly need not be a beauty contest. Here are three quick tips that illustrate what I mean and how you can use your appearance to your full advantage.

1. Show that you’ve got yourself together.

Make sure you’re wearing appropriate business attire, and that everything is wrinkle-free and tucked neatly. This goes for in-person meetings, of course, but also for any photos you use professionally on LinkedIn or other profiles.

2. Inject your personality.

If you’re bold and outgoing, you might veer towards wearing a tie with a striking print. If you’re classic and intellectual, perhaps a pair of glasses will help the message along.

3. Make a connection.

Through the written word, we can gain an abstract understanding of someone's deep passion or purpose, but it's rarely until we see a photo of someone that a human connection really crystallizes. When given the opportunity to connect with someone through a picture, make sure to have a friendly demeanor. Rather than looking no-nonsense, a frown is much more likely to be interpreted as hostile. So, as much as we might want to deny it, you, me, and everyone else can’t help but make intuitive judgments about people based on everything they put in front of us—resume and appearance. The two can’t ever be entirely separated, and neither should they, because the way you choose to present yourself is just another chance to communicate who you really are.

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About The Presenters

Stephanie and Ben Peterson are the founders of, a free profile photo testing tool. In addition to helping professionals choose their best photos to use online, PhotoFeeler is quick becoming a leader in scientific research around professional image. To make sure your LinkedIn photo is coming off as you intend, check out their site.