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I have created an identity of myself on the internet, with the following image:

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I'm using this image on almost every site I use: Twitter, Gravatar, Stack Overflow, blog, ...

My question is the following: As a CS engineer, can this image be seen as unprofessional by recruiters and shouldn't be used on a site like LinkedIn?

Most of the friends I have have a photo of themselves in a suit, that's why I'm asking this question.

So what can or should I do to avoid an unprofessional image when using an avatar as my profile picture on social networking sites?

  • The question you've linked is a bit related, but not the same. Why the downvotes by the way ? – edi9999 Sep 15 '14 at 9:40
  • "avoid asking subjective questions where … every answer is equally valid" (help center) – gnat Sep 15 '14 at 9:45
  • The question itself and the image are describable in objective terms. I think it is an interesting question a lot of people can relate to, and related to a formal environment where subjectivity is not as important as the knowledge of the codes of this environment. A knowledge that the people on this website can bring. – Yves Sep 15 '14 at 12:18
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    I have updated your question to better fit with the site standards. I do not think your question was poor but this version is more constructive and actionable rather than judgemental. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 15 '14 at 13:38
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An avatar is like a signature or a seal, and you are "signing" your profile with an avatar. Especially since you are using the same "signature" or seal everywhere. That's totally legit, according to me. If your avatar functions as your recognition device, so be it. I use my picture for LinkedIn but my avatar for all other activity on the Internet.

Back in the Middle Ages, your avatar would have been your heraldric emblem, which you would put on your shield so that others would recognize you, as you using your uncovered face as a recognition device would have been a very bad idea on a battlefield where every single sharp object would have an affinity for your face :)

The advantage of using an avatar is that your avatar doesn't need to change over the years as time catches up to you :) Whereas those who use a photo of their faces would have to update it every five to ten years - on every profile that they put out. Look at it this way, if your face got rearranged in an auto accident, you'd have to update your photos from a "before the event" photo to an "after the event" photo :)

On the other hand, if you are young, good looking and physically fit, why not flaunt it? You are always free to switch to an avatar as you feel the years adding up:)

  • What does "young, good looking and physically fit" have to do with it? OP is talking about a professional site, not a dating site. I am not young and I am average looking, are you saying I should not use a photo? – cdkMoose Sep 15 '14 at 14:31
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    @cdkMoose You do whatever you want and whatever suits you. What I did was lay out the rationale behind my answer including options and the trade offs. At the end of the day, whatever decision you make about yourself is yours to make and it's certainly none of my concern. There are plenty of average looking, excellent character actors around. And they don't seem shy around the camera. The reason I say "if you are young, good looking and fit, it's OK to flaunt it" is that once upon a time, I was young, good looking and fit :) And I regret that I did not flaunt it when I had the chance :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Sep 15 '14 at 14:47
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I also use an avatar.

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As a developer, in my experience this has not hurt my career (I have a thing for putting my image up in public). The HR people at work don't particularly like it but I don't particularly want my image spread across the internet so hard cheese.

One young person in a suit seems particularly indistinguishable from another young person in a suit. A unique avatar servers as a form of signature and helps link your different sites together.

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    I'm guessing you wouldn't want to work for anyone who was too put-off by your avatar. – user8365 Sep 15 '14 at 13:54
  • @JeffO May I ask what that comment is supposed to mean? – Sprottenwels Sep 15 '14 at 14:36
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    @JeffO: I have been using that avatar for about 8 years now. In that time I have worked for Amazon/Microsoft/Moz and had offers from Google/Facebook (and handful of smaller companies). Only one company (in two cycles of looking for work) has rejected me (non have not asked me in for interview). So I don't think it has put anybody off. But the likely hood of them being put off by my avatar or a picture of me in a suit? I am not sure if that would make a difference. But I am a programmer not a front-end sales man. I get my job based on my performance at interview not because of a silly picture. – Martin York Sep 15 '14 at 15:03
  • PS. I am not slating front-end sales men/women in any way. I am presume they also get their jobs in the same way. – Martin York Sep 15 '14 at 15:07
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    @Sprottenwels - I am totally in favor of objective hiring practices that focus on the job requirements. Unfortunately, I've been exposed to corporations that have sent contract programmers home for wearing sneakers to work. Wouldn't a company with a business suit requirement for programmers be a "red flag" for you as well? – user8365 Sep 15 '14 at 15:23
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My answer would be to use a good photo in the Profile Photo, but take advantage of other LinkedIn features to display your image as if it were a logo.

Your abstract photo is essentially a logo, and a blank or a logo in a Profile Photo might strike me as quirky or lazy or other not-good things. It's remotely possible, if you were marketing yourself as an artist, that I might be impressed by your artistic skill and creativity -- it becomes "professional" because its an artifact of your profession -- but you're not marketing yourself that way so it wouldn't cross my mind.

You can have it both ways: a personalizing photo where it's expected and your brand/logo where it makes sense and enhances your brand. It's not an either-or decision.

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