How recruiters view LinkedIn photos

Once a job candidate’s LinkedIn profile is clicked on by a recruiter, what happens next? It’s a critical question for both job seekers and recruiters. Thanks to the fields of applied psychology and eye tracking technology, interesting answers are emerging. This article explores what we now know about how recruiters view and make sense of profile pictures on LinkedIn. Let’s start with what eye tracking technology has revealed. A study conducted in 2012 demonstrated that recruiters spend 19% of their time looking at the head shot when viewing LinkedIn profiles. While that sounds like a reasonable amount of time, in practical terms, it translates to approximately one second per profile page. This means job seekers need to take the old saying First impressions count very seriously indeed. And so do recruiters. After all, first impressions are usually created at an unconscious level and therefore, can trigger unconscious biases.


Of course, competent HR practitioners and recruiters are fully aware of the potential for unconscious bias to impact the effectiveness and fairness of recruitment processes. They have robust procedures in place to guard against discrimination in relation to age, medical record, criminal record, impairment, marital status, disability, nationality, sexual orientation, or trade union activity. However, there is also are many less-well-understood bias which can easily impact recruitment decisions. Here are four that you need to be aware of.  

  1. Beauty bias. Social anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists have demonstrated time and again that human beings are naturally drawn towards physically attractive members of their community. In a recruitment scenario, this instinctive behaviour is likely to result in increased comfort levels when interviewing physically attractive candidates. Unfortunately, this can result inbiased decision-making.  
  2. Affinity bias. This type of bias plays out when we communicate with someone wethink hassomething in common with us. For example, imagine you’re talking to a stranger at a dinner party. The conversation will warm up as soon as you discover something in common, such as having attended the same university or playing the same sport. In recruitment scenarios, being aware of the affinity bias means that job seekers will be more successful when they highlight things they have in common with interviewers. This is something which both recruiters and job seekers need to be aware of.  
  3. Contrast bias. Anyone who’s been on an interview panel knows about this one. It happens as we compare and contrast candidate profiles. For example, a recruiter is more likely to perceive a candidate’s profile as positive if they have just finished reading a profile which was poorly presented. Knowing about contrast bias means that smart job seekers will make sure their profiles stand out on LinkedIn as star quality. Smart recruiters, of course, will be aware that a well-written profile does not always equate to a well-skilled candidate. 
  4. Confirmation bias. This label refers to the human tendency to notice information which confirm sour existing beliefs. It is a dangerous form of bias in recruitment processes, because it results in recruiters unconsciously looking for evidence to support their preconceived notions. Not only does it impact on how information is interpreted, it can impact on the questions that are asked and the way the information is gathered in the first place.  

How can your knowledge of these four forms of bias be applied during a recruitment process?


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About the author of these tips

Eleanor Shakiba teaches smart professionals to build their social and emotional intelligence. Since 1994, she has been teaching talented people – like you- how to think, communicate and behave in ways that build success. Eleanor holds qualifications in Social Anthropology, Applied Psychology, Adult Education and Neuro Linguistic Programming.