I get a lot of questions about pictures for resumes, postcards, LinkedIn profiles, and personal websites. Mind you, I am no expert on photography, but I definitely have some recommendations after having worked on hundreds of dental hygiene job hunting materials – most of which include at least one picture.
The best pictures are almost always those taken by a professional, however you don’t necessarily have to hire someone to take a great picture. I have seen plenty of DIY shots that were more than adequate. So here are some tips to help you come up with a great picture to use in your dental hygiene job search.
If you are taking a professional picture (presumably with a friend), one of the most important factors is lighting. The best way to get great lighting is to go outdoors as natural light will give you a quick and inexpensive way to get better results than you can get indoors.
I often see a lot of pictures come in taken against a white wall and that just doesn’t create a very interesting shot. So find a spot where you can incorporate an interesting background that offers nice contrast and colors. Trees and bushes adjacent to a brick or stucco building work great, but try several different combinations.
There’s also a tendency to position your head and shoulders straight on, square with the camera. But it looks much better to pose a little and there are lots of ways to do this, so try several things.
For example, continue to look at the camera but turn your body/shoulders to the right or left of the camera just a little. You could even try tilting your head slightly in a way that feels nature to give the picture a little more personality or uniqueness.
Obviously, it’s important to smile. But practice your best smile in the mirror, try to capture several looks of happy, playful, interested, and confident. Then replicate those the best you can when your picture is taken.
Forced and overly-dramatic smiles never come across as genuine and can actually harm your credibility and professionalism, so keep it real, natural, relaxed and comfortable.
I tell hygienists who need a resume or postcard picture, to try be sure and wear something they would wear to a job a job interview, but also have their lab coat handy for some shots with that. You may even want to accessorize with a pair of loupes around your neck or maybe clipboard. This type of a shot helps the employer more clearly envision you as a hygienist working for them.
For those who are doing more extensive professional photography (mostly for a personal website), you’ll want to also get some casual photos and some of you on the job, interacting with patients and co-workers. Obviously, you’ll need permission from those in the pictures with you, but those can make for some fantastic shots that really sell you as a professional.
I could of course go much deeper into all of these areas and even talk about other things such as hair, makeup, and jewelry. Best thing to do is use your best judgement, keeping in mind you want to create a look of confidence and one where they can clearly see you as someone who will care for their patients. If you are in doubt, err on the conservative side and get feedback from your family and friends.
Using a picture of you in your job search materials is a very personal decision. You should never feel forced to do it – there are ways to make yourself stand out as a great candidate for a job without it.
However, there’s lots of evidence in my experience that using your picture does create an instant and higher level of trust initially (it’s part of your personal brand) and it’s very apparent that those who do it are getting more interviews, and that of course leads to more job opportunities.