If you’ve been paying attention to what we have to say here at ClearanceJobs.com, you know a profile photo is important. It personalizes you to the employer, it puts a face with a name, and it makes you more likely to get a call-back. A recruiter recently told me that the first thing she looks for is a candidate’s resume and credentials. But before she places a phone call, she always looks for a profile photo. It’s not the first impression a candidate applying online makes, but it’s a critically important one.

If you know a profile photo is important, you should also know that not all profile photos are created equally. Here are five profile photo faux-pas to avoid.

1. The ‘I’m too sexy for my shirt’ photo.

Sex may sell hamburgers and cars but it doesn’t sell security clearance careers. I have perhaps seen no industry less interested in looks and more interested in credentials – and that’s a good thing for cleared candidates! So keep your shirt on, leave your beach photos for Facebook, and make your career profile photo a professional one. You don’t have to be in a suit and tie – but you do need to be wearing a shirt.

2. The ‘You’re too drunk for this job’ photo.

I like a glass or five of wine before bed as much as the next girl, but posing with a drink in a career profile photo just sends the wrong message. A photo where you’re having fun is a do (think vacation photo, outdoor photo or event photo), but a photo where that fun is fueled by Cuervo is a don’t.

3. The ‘Baby’ photo.

You know what I’m talking about. You’re afraid you’ll be discriminated against because of your age so you select a profile photo that is literally two decades old. But polyester suits don’t lie. Job seekers sometimes point out legitimate issues with age discrimination in the job search process, and fear they won’t be taken as a seriously applicant if they have too much gray (or too little). But employers who discriminate based on age are breaking the law – and they probably aren’t the kind of company you’d want to work for, anyway. Show your best self, and your real self. A ‘recent’ photo may be any time in the past five years. But if you’ve made any significant changes to your style, consider updating your profile photo, as well. The security clearance jobs industry is a niche industry. Make your profile photo one a recruiter may use to recognize you at your next networking event.

4. The ‘blurry’ photo.

I feel you – resizing or editing a profile photo may seem like a hassle. But, it pays to pay attention to the recommended profile photo size. If you don’t, you’ll come out blurry and distorted. And the recruiter may be left wondering if they’ve had too much Cuervo to give you a call.

Good news for job seekers on The Cleared Network™ – just email your profile photo to photos@clearancejobs.com, and we’ll edit and post it for you!

5. No photo.

The only thing worse than one of the four photo flubs mentioned is no profile photo. We know the cleared community is security conscious – and rightly so. That’s why The Cleared Network on ClearanceJobs.com is secure, password protected, and never shares your profile details – including profile photos – with search engines. So post your profile photo to our site and know it won’t show up in a search of your name. If you’re still uncomfortable using a profile photo, consider one of these creative profile photo tips, including using an avatar.



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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.