My goal is to provide the best headshot you’ve ever seen. It’s a tall order, and my success depends not just on technical knowledge of camera equipment, lighting, and body language, but also on the context in which a headshot is used.
To that end, I am always looking for expert knowledge and guidance. I recently took professional headshots for Devin Brooks, who works at Salesforce, and asked if I could interview her about what she sees when she’s going through applications. Ms Brooks is an Inbound Candidate Sourcer. She processes around 200 applications every week and looks for appropriately talented individuals to fill specific sales roles.
Ian Tuttle: What is the first thing you look for in a candidate?
Devin Brooks: My roles require a very specific skillset and number of years of experience, so first and foremost, I look for amount of experience a candidate has in the industry, and then review the specific experience to see how relevant their sales experience is to the roles for which we are hiring.
IT: How often do you see a picture of a potential recruit?
DB: For international candidates (I hire in Brazil and Mexico City as well as the US and Canada), it is very common for candidates to include a headshot on their resume. Otherwise, I don’t necessarily see a photo unless I am on the fence, and may go digging for more information on LinkedIn.
IT: How can a person’s picture affect their desirability as an applicant/recruit, either negatively or positively?
DB: A photo is our first glimpse into whether or not you might be a culture fit at our company. While it may not be a hard yes or no from the picture alone, it could raise a flag.
It also really depends on what types of roles one might be hiring for as well. In my previous role, as a Recruiting Coordinator at a staffing agency, wherein all of our time was spent on LinkedIn, the picture was much more important. We were hiring for roles where companies asked for very polished individuals, typically in the Administrative Assistant and Executive Assistant space. If someone couldn’t demonstrate that in their photo, it was easy to pass on those folks. If you are in the market for a particular role, you must know your audience.
IT: What sort of photos would you consider “unacceptable” in a business context?
DB: NO SELFIES!!
IT: What sort of photos actually help?
DB: I think the team would agree that a photo that shows a bit of your personality, through a smile or the background, is appreciated, and helps us to see you more as a human than just another candidate.
IT: Does smiling matter?
DB: I think a smile is great! We are a fun company, and we like our employees to be the same.
IT: Do you notice what someone is wearing in his/her picture?
DB: Not necessarily unless it sticks out for the wrong reasons…too much skin showing, or in one special case, a giant fur coat…
IT: Okay, but really, does a photo actually matter?
DB: Will it make or break you, if you are an otherwise quality candidate? No. But don’t give us an opportunity to even lean in the wrong direction and have any doubts.
IT: What do you think of your new headshot?
DB: Interestingly, the people who have noticed my new headshot most have been my coworkers…At Salesforce, we utilize a company-wide social media channel within our company called Chatter. It is essentially the Facebook of our company, but we use it to communicate on a variety of issues, with customers and co-workers alike. So, much like Facebook, we have a profile and a picture and that picture is shared with anyone who looks me up. Since I deal heavily with employee referrals, I have employees all over the globe looking me up and reaching out to me. Having a professional headshot to share internally has been fantastic – it is a photo I am proud of, and I think sets a great tone for me when people see it and choose to reach out. I feel like I look like me, personable and accessible and here to help, but also professional. So I have loved the new pic big time.
IT: Any last thoughts?
DB: Think about the value of a fantastic photo even when you are happy in your work environment…how many people look at your photo just before they call you or reach out for a meeting. It is a valuable first impression. And from a hiring perspective, it will always depend on what type of role it is that weighs most on your photo’s first impression. Give us a hint of who you are while keeping it professional and ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS have a photo. No photo is even worse than selfies. If you know your ideal role requires an extra polished exterior and a lot of customer service and smiles, then step it up with your photo and really make it count!