do kids belong in your LinkedIn photo?

Here’s my first post written on Percocet. Let’s see how I do.

A reader writes:

I came across my former coworker’s LinkedIn profile, which shows a picture of her hugging her two kids, with one kid making a funny face. The first thought I had was: hmm, not very professional. But now I wonder, would you and your readers feel the same?

She worked in the nonprofit industry (nothing to do with family or mom/child sorts of things) and is currently looking for a job. I was wondering if prospective employers would ever find that as a turn-off when they see such an informal profile picture.

Well, unlike lots of other social networking sites, LinkedIn is specifically for your professional life. So because of that, I suppose you could argue that it’s the equivalent of mentioning your kids on your resume, which is a clear no-no. On the other hand, LinkedIn tends to be relatively informal and isn’t an actual resume.

I don’t think pictures of your kids belong in a professional profile, and I definitely wouldn’t do it myself, but I also can’t see holding it against a candidate. In other words, don’t do it, but it’s also not a horrible problem if you do.

Taking the kids out of it, I do like informal pictures in general and find them vastly preferable to formal portraits.

{ 36 comments… read them below }

  1. Malissa*

    Woohoo!!! Percoset post!

    I think having kids in a linkedin profile is a double edged sword of sorts. On one side a potential employer may see the personality and love in the picture and that could be an advantage. On the other hand a potential employer could look at it and go , “Oh great she’s got kids. She’ll be one of those people always taking time off to deal with them.”
    It’s kinda like talking about your family in a cover letter. Risky, but sometimes worth it.

  2. Kelly O*

    At least it’s not a picture older than me. (Seriously, I see some profile pictures that look like those K-Mart pictures my mom has of us circa 1978 that have gone all red-toned.)

    1. Esra*

      I was thinking the same thing. Something from the last five years, albeit with children, would definitely be better than the ancient photo from the Before Times.

    2. Jamie*

      I don’t have a photo on Linked In – but now I totally want to post one of me at age 3 with the Buffy pony tails and my Mrs. Beasley doll.

  3. Andrea*

    Kids–no. People might think you will take off all the time because of soccer games and colds or that you are one of those parents who can’t shut up about your kids. At least I would think that.

    But: My husband used a picture of him wearing a shirt and tie and holding our cat for his LinkedIn page. He’s a highly qualified IT pro with lots of sought-after certs and experience, so he had a lot of interest anyway. But the photo was a hit, and he had a few hiring managers mention how much they liked it. During one of his many interviews–with the company that he eventually went to work for–his manager asked about our cat and wanted to know her name and if we had any dogs (we have one). It was a great conversation piece, and it set him apart a little bit, without being gimmicky.

  4. Keri*

    I think it’s probably a bit unprofessional in most industries to have kids or pets in a LinkedIn photo, but I wouldn’t hold it against a candidate, all other things being equal.

    However, I ran across the biggest LinkedIn professional faux-pas a few months ago. There was a married couple who shared a LinkedIn account, and they weren’t in business together or even in the same industry. That was a huge turnoff. The accounts are free and simple to create, so this shows an astonishing lack of boundaries. When I mentioned this to some of my (non-HR) friends, they all said “Oh, how romantic! They’re so connected!” LinkedIn profiles shouldn’t be romantic unless you’re a romance novelist or a professional matchmaker!

    1. class factotum*

      Wow. I thought married couples who shared an email address were pathetic. But sharing a Linkin profile? There isn’t even a sad enough adjective to describe that.

      1. Anon*

        Ha! My parents don’t share an email address, but I bet it’s only because they don’t have internet at home. They both have their work email, but no personal emails. My parents aren’t exactly connected at the hip, but I would never send a message to one and assume the other wouldn’t see it. ;) (and they are 54 and 62, definitely not like my grandparents in their 70s and 80s who do not have separate emails)

      2. Anonymous*

        I am not married, but I wouldn’t consider a married couple sharing an email address “pathetic.” I’d almost expect you to think they should have two separate mailboxes at the curb too, right?

        1. jmkenrick*

          I don’t think that’s the same. Installing two mailboxes would be a lot of work & expense; opening your own e-mail is free & easy. Plus, if I write Jane Smith a letter about a job, I would address it to Jane Smith and expect that only she will open it – not The Smiths.

          I agree that’s it not “pathetic” but it indicates a lack of awareness for professional standards, which (if I were hiring) would cause me to worry that it was a pervasive problem that affected more than just their e-mail address.

          I would equate it with why is fine as a personal address, but you really should have a for work.

        2. Anonymous*

          I can clearly address an envelope to one person. It’s also free to have your own e-mail address, as opposed to purchasing the adjoining property or subdividing the address.

          1. Anonymous*

            Just in defense of a joint e-mail address: My husband and I have our own e-mail addresses and we also have a joint e-mail address for bills, joint services, etc. The joint e-mail address is set up to automatically forward the e-mails to our separate e-mail accounts. We first opened the joint account during our wedding so we could both follow-up with wedding vendors, etc. and both know what was going on. Now this method has proved exceptionally easy and efficient, while still allowing us to have our own personal e-mails with friends, etc. It is also useful because if we both delete something important from our personal accounts by accident, we can usually log-in to the joint account and recover it, since it was originally sent there. :)

            1. KellyK*

              That’s a really good idea. (My husband and I got a joint account for the same reason, but ended up not really using it.)

      3. Anonymous*

        It all comes down to HOW you use that joint email. My joint email is exclusively for bills and stuff we both need ready access to, especially because he is out of the country for work often. But, that is it. EVERYTHING else goes to our individual email. We have boundaries for sure, so please don’t make blanket statements that it is always pathetic.

      4. Dawn*

        I wouldn’t say “pathetic.” Strange? Yes. I have a friend with an email address she and her husband share. It always gives me pause when I send an email to her because it’s addressed to “husband’s” It’s just one of those things I just don’t get. Why don’t they have separate emails? It’s free! *shrugs*

  5. Christopher Allen-Poole*

    I definitely agree with the sentiment, though I would be even more de-emphasize the issue. Since you can “google” someone and get instant feedback about most of the details of their personal lives (searching for “Chris Allen-Poole”, for example, will let you get a good idea that I have kids and the general neighborhood of where I live. You can also find the name of the town I grew up in, etc. etc. While it might not be the most professional, it certainly can’t be detrimental.

    1. Rana*

      Some of us are more controlling of our online presence, though. I’ve made a point of posting enough professional stuff online, and limiting access to personal stuff, that my Google results (which run to two pages) are all professional.

      Some of it is for safety — and I know a lot of women who feel the same way — and some of it is simply that random people on the internet don’t need to know about my personal life. (It helps that my name, minus its middle initial, is fairly common; with the initial, it’s not.)

      So, short version: given the effort I’ve put into managing my online information, it would be silly of me to sabotage it by including personal information on my public profiles. Once the cat’s out of the bag, you can never stuff it back in.

    2. jmkenrick*

      I think that the issue is less the employer finding out that you have kids, and more about the questionable professionalism. I don’t upload photos of me at a bar to LinkedIn, just like I don’t act like I’m going to a bar when I’m at work; I respect those boundaries.

      Everyone’s boundaries are different though, so maybe this is a good filter for only attracting companies in line with her desires?

  6. Anonymous*

    This is one of those things that, while it may turn a select few hiring managers off (in this case, anti-kid managers), she probably doesn’t want to work for those people anyway. If having a workplace accepting of the fact that she is a parent (or gay, or tattooed, or republican, or a vegetarian) is really important to her; not hiding that quality can be a form of natural selection of accepting workplaces. If, however, having a workplace accepting of parents is really low on her priority list (or if she is really desperate for a job), then she might want to take the picture off.

    I also don’t think people really give that much weight to your Linked-in picture anyway.

    1. Talyssa*

      I think for me its not that I wouldn’t want to hire parents or hate kids, I just HATE parents that kind of push their parenthood at you in totally unrelated settings. You being a parent is unrelated to you being an employee – as an employee I want you to do a good job at the thing you were hired to do. I don’t care if you take off early once in a while to go to a soccer game or to hang out at a bar with friends as long as you do your job well. So it really bothers me when people talk about their kids/family/husband etc in a professional conversation and to me a linked in picture is the photo version of a professional conversation.

      But people with kids tend to love kids and love other peopl with kids and think that talking about and looking at pictures of other people’s kids is super great. So I doubt it will really hurt her chances much. There are probably 3 of those people for everyone like me. And I would still consider her but my initial impression would definitely be less than positive because of this. If I had 10 other great candidates I think it would cost her a phone call.

    2. Rachel*

      I disagree with this completely. I couldn’t care less that the candidate is a parent. I do care about their level of professionalism and judgment. I would say that having anything other than a professional looking head shot as your linkedin picture is bad judgment.

      1. Jamie*

        I agree with Rachel. I have kids – I love my kids – I could care less if my co-workers or applicants have kids because it’s completely irrelevant to who you are as a professional.

        A picture with kids says to me there may be issues with boundaries. I’m not mom at work, and I’m not the director of IT at home. People need to be able to compartmentalize.

  7. Seattle Writer Girl*

    The LinkedIn profile of an old co-worker of mine displays a photo of her in a tube top with her hair and make-up all done like she was going out on the town. However, the photo is a closely cropped headshot (shoulers and head only) which makes her appear naked in the photo. I think it’s terribly unprofessional, but she’s an attractive lady so who knows? Maybe it’s working in her favor.

    1. Cassie*

      That’s funny. The photos of dancers in professional ballet companies (the ones one the companies’ websites) are like that. I think the female dancers are wearing leotards and just tuck the straps in, but it does look like they’re naked!

  8. OP*

    Thanks for posting my question.
    I notice that this friend’s life revolves around her kids, all her FB posts are about her kids as well. Before kids, she used to talk about her husband lots, and before, that, her boyfriend(s). She’s a very intelligent lady (we worked together before), but in my opinion she is probably lacking boundaries.

  9. Memmeme*

    I guess if people thought LinkedIn pic with kids are ok, how about pic with their spouses? I’m sure most companies wouldn’t mind hiring married couples, but I wonder if that’d give prospective employers red flags to see pics like that?

  10. Wendy*

    I used to have a joint email acct with my husband until our lives got to complicated, I held onto the joint acct for a long time b’c it was easy. I also mention my kids in my cover letters b’c I am re-entering the working world after raising my kids and doing a lot of volunteer work with the PTA. With all that being said, I don’t have my kids in my linkedin photo. I am doing something right!

  11. Harry*

    I wouldn’t have any issues with looking at a candidate who had a picture of their kids in their profile but only because the work isn’t that demanding. I can imagine that a start up who require employees to work frequent OT and sometimes weekends wouldn’t even consider her.

  12. AGirlNamedMe*

    I didn’t read all of the responses, but here is my take..

    I think it depends on the kind of job she is seeking. If it’s something in a huge corporation that is known for its “old school” traditions, the pictures of the kids probably shouldn’t be there. On the other hand, if the kind of place she’s looking for is relaxed and cool with people having lives outside of the workplace, I think this could add an element of getting to know the candidate a bit more.

  13. Marie*

    I think having a picture with kids on linkedin is inappropriate. When I hire someone I don’t care if they have kids or not. But I do judge how they choose to present themselves. I hire professional people who have a lot of responsibilities and who need to have good judgment. Posting a picture with your kid on a professional website doesn’t make me trust that person’s judgment.

  14. Anonymous*

    It just depends on the type of work she is in. Here in education, a photo WITHOUT kids would be a bit strange. But, if she is in corporate accounting, then probably a black suit would work better than kids or a tube top.

    But then again, here in education, networking (where you actually speak to people) works a whole lot better than LinkedIn, which almost no one has heard of. I myself do not look at someone’s LinkedIn profile, I prefer a nice resume and cover letter. Whatever floats your boat, I guess.

  15. Anonymous*

    …and this would be exactly why I do NOT include any photo of me in my linkedin profile! To me, that’s the same as including a photo when submitting my resume, which would be beyond strange. Linkedin is just a glorified online resume.

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