In the 21st century, your Linkedin profile picture is your professional avatar, so it makes sense that most of us obsess over the tiniest details (does a bowtie say 'quirky creative' or 'Pee-Wee’s Playhouse'?). One of the most common questions Snappr profile photographers get asked is “should I smile for my Linkedin profile picture?” We know that the answer is yes, but how many people heed that advice? We trawled over tens of thousands of results from Snappr's popular LinkedIn Photo Analyzer to find out.
For you busy espresso-drinking paradigm-shifting thought-leadershipping go-getters, here are the TL;DR highlights:
Read on to see the full results!
From the start, we knew that academia tilts in favor of the smile. A recent study at NYU found that viewers rated headshots most trustworthy when subjects were showing off a slight smile. But a few minutes on LinkedIn will reveal that users vary widely in their “smiliness.” So, maybe, we thought, certain places and industries were better fits for the cheshire grin vs. the piercing poker face.
Fortunately, Snappr is the maker of the world's most popular free Photo Analyzer tool that algorithmically assesses LinkedIn photo attributes like background, composition, and facial expression. One of our parameters, the smile score, measures tooth visibility and smile curve, and gives a numeric assessment of how much they’re smiling.
We mined our database of tens of thousands of Photo Analyzer smile scores and anonymized information from the profiles they’re attached to, and identified the groups that are the most smiley — and the most stoic — on LinkedIn.
We began by asking if residents of different countries differ in their propensity to smile in their LinkedIn photos. We divided our dataset up by user-nationality, then calculated the average smile score for each nationality for which we had at least 50 users:
Perhaps not surprisingly, America, with its penchant for extroversion, is home to the smiliest members of LinkedIn. Residents of former Eastern Bloc countries (Romania, the Czech Republic, and Poland) have the lowest smile scores, as do residents of developing nations like India, Venezuela, and Colombia.
Next, we wondered if professionals from different industries are more or less likely to smile. In other words, maybe a smile gets you further in cyber security than veterinary sciences.
To see if this was the case, we broke our dataset up by user industry, then calculated average smile scores for all industries with at least 50 users:
While smiliness varied by nationality more than by industry, there were clear trends to see. Workers in people-oriented fields like recruiting, healthcare, HR, and hospitality were more likely to smile than workers in technical fields like computing, manufacturing, and logistics. A friendly demeanor, it seems, matters a lot more when you’re consoling a sick patient than when you’re safeguarding a server from DDoS attacks.
If you rule out industry, how does someone’s role within a company affect their tendency to smile in their headshot? We flagged entries in our dataset based on whether they belonged to members who described themselves as salespeople, company founders, or engineers, and calculated the average smile score for each group:
Salespeople smiled more than average, whereas founders and engineers smiled somewhat less than average. This fits well with what we found when we looked at smile score by industry: people-oriented professionals (like salespeople) tend to smile more in their professional headshots than do people from more technical fields (like engineers).
Somewhere out there, there’s a winner of the Happiest Company Award. What’s their secret? Are they hiring?
We calculated the average smile score for all Fortune 100 companies (which are all based in the United States) that had at least 5 entries in our dataset:
It’s fitting that people who work at the Happiest Place on Earth are also the Smiliest denizens of LinkedIn. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem (mouse and egg?) - does working at Disney make people happy, or does Disney have strict smiles per hour quotas? We can only guess.
Verizon and Cisco sit at the other end of the spectrum, with average smile scores around 20 points lower than the average for the U.S. This fits with our previous analysis of smile score by industry; some of the lowest smile scores belong to workers in telecommunications.
Like the protagonist of every ‘80s teen movie ever, we wanted to know if life really was better for the popular kids. So we broke our dataset into groups based on the number of Linkedin connections and charted their average smile score:
Indeed, there’s a positive correlation between smile score and number of LinkedIn connections. Nearly 10 points separate the smile scores of very well-connected people (with 500+ connections) from the people with the fewest connections. So maybe don’t listen to the Breakfast Club or Sixteen Candles - it’s definitely better to be popular.
Finally, we were curious about the relationship between seniority and smiliness. We broke our sample down by the amount of time a user had been in their current position and calculated the average smile score for each bin. We chart our results below.
There’s a clear relationship between seniority and tendency to smile. Recent-hires are fresh-faced and eager, aggressively projecting a can-do attitude out on the world. More senior employees are secure, confident, they let their work rather than their profile pictures speak for them. Or, maybe they just haven’t gotten their photo updated in half a decade - Snappr can help with that.
So who are the smiliest people on LinkedIn? The data points to people from America, Australia, and Israel, and professionals in people-facing roles like sales, recruiting, and hospitality. New-hires and well-connected users with are also likely to have smiley headshots.
Meanwhile, technical workers and residents from developing nations or former Soviet countries have the most serious headshots. People with a high degree of seniority — perhaps aiming to project professionalism and gravitas — have lower smile scores, as do LinkedIn users with relatively few connections.
So what should you do? One approach is to look to your industry and role and the type of tone you want to project. That’s the best way to avoid looking like a sour grape in a sunflower patch, or the overeager newbie amongst steel-faced veterans. If you want to follow the scientific research, then smile away. Or, just pose however you like. It’s your profile after all.