Your LinkedIn photo has the potential to convince employers that you’re honest — a trait that most companies value highly.
The trick? Look a little happy.
That’s according to new research from New York University, which found that people sporting positive expressions — with upturned eyebrows and an upward curving mouth, even if they weren’t overtly smiling — are more likely to be perceived as trustworthy.
Those featuring angry expressions — with downturned eyebrows, even if they weren’t obviously frowning — are more likely to be seen as untrustworthy.
Unfortunately, the study also found that you can’t do much to change how competent you appear. That depends largely on your facial structure, which (barring cosmetic surgery) you can’t really alter.
The researchers conducted a series of experiments that suggest perceptions of trustworthiness are more easily moldable than perceptions of competence.
In one experiment, participants looked at different computer-generated faces and were asked which one they would choose to be their financial adviser and which one they thought would be most likely to win a weightlifting competition.
Previous research has found that, when dealing with money, people generally prefer to interact with individuals they perceive to be good-intentioned and trustworthy. And dominating a weightlifting contest depends highly on physical ability.
Results showed that people were much more likely to choose the faces with more positive and happy expressions as their financial adviser. On the other hand, they were more likely to select wider faces as the weightlifting champions, which makes sense, given that other research links that type of facial structure with physical ability.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should snap a photo of yourself laughing like a hyena and slap it on your professional profile. The faces perceived as most trustworthy were only slightly happy. (The researchers didn’t test photos of people obviously smiling or laughing.)
Once you’ve figured out your facial expression, you can focus on other key aspects of the photo, like your outfit, that could help signal how competent you are.