Last month, we had a debate in the office about the age-old adage that to be successful in business, a man needs to wear a suit. This debate was prompted by one of my colleagues who had seen a LinkedIn profile photo of a man in just a dress shirt without a tie or jacket. Another argued that the “old days” of wearing a suit and tie were over – that the internet and social media had changed the standard definition of what is appropriate business attire. Fortunately for all of us, a simple usability test would prove or disprove the belief that jackets are still required.
Why argue when you can settle it with an experiment?
To settle the debate, we created a 5-second test on usabilityhub.com to test the impact of a jacket on a LinkedIn profile photo. Five test subjects were given the instructions to send two profile photos of themselves – one wearing a dress shirt only, and the other with a jacket on over that shirt. Backgrounds, expressions, and the shirts were identical in both photos – the only difference was the presence of a suit jacket.
Respondents were randomly selected and shown one of the profile photos for 5 seconds and then asked four questions to answer with the assumption that they had seen this photo on LinkedIn:
- Please list 3-5 adjectives to describe this person
- Based on the photo alone, would you agree to meet with this person?
- What is your age?
- What is your gender?
We had over 350 test responses over two weeks, with testers both male and female, age 19 through age 73. Most of the testers only saw one of the two photos, although there were a handful that saw both (and did not remember seeing a jacket or not – but they did use different adjectives to describe the person they saw).
- Wear a jacket – it increases your likelihood to get a meeting face-to-face by 14%
- Smile – it increases your chance of getting a meeting by 16%
Yes, You Still Need a Jacket
Across all five men that volunteered for the profile pic experiment, all of them had more favorable results with the jacket photo vs. the shirt-only photo. When run through a statistical significance check, wearing a jacket in a LinkedIn profile picture gave the subject a 14% lift in someone wanting to meet with them.
Looks like ZZ Top Was Right
We’re assuming that every girl is indeed crazy about a sharp-dressed man, because when this was further broken out by the sex of the person who viewed the photo, most of the difference was driven by female testers. When the LinkedIn photo had the jacket, women were 63% more likely to want to meet with the candidate. For male testers, there was no significant difference in whether or not a man had a jacket on in his LinkedIn photo.
Younger People Care More about Appearance
When the results were broken out by age range, the 20-30 year olds were the only group that cared about the jacket. The younger demographic was 16% more likely to want to meet with a candidate if they were wearing a jacket. Testers that were age 31 and over showed no significant difference in wanting to meet with a candidate based on the presence of a suit jacket alone.
A Suit Jacket Alters Perception
Another interesting trend was the impact the jacket had on how testers described the person. If the person was not smiling, in the jacket photo this was seen as proof of dedication and intensity towards doing their job well. In the shirt photo, the exact same person was seen as creepy, scary, intimidating, and angry.
For subjects that smiled, the jacket photo made them seem more confident, relaxed, approachable, and professional. In the shirt photo, the exact same person was still seen as happy and fun, but also perceived as not serious, or sloppy.
Smiling Is Good, Too
Men who smiled in their profile photo were 16% more likely to get a meeting. This difference was more pronounced with female testers, who were 61% more likely to meet with a smiling man versus one with a more serious expression. There was no significant difference with male testers when it came to the impact of a smile.
When broken out by age, the presence of a smile had no impact on testers age 30 or younger. However, with respondents age 31 or older, smiling increased the likelihood of a meeting by 40%.
Smile and wear a jacket – it doesn’t necessarily impact your ability to get a face-to-face meeting with men, but it definitely helps if the target is female or older than 30. Testers also noticed the quality of the photo’s background – if it was not professionally lit or taken outdoors, comments indicated that the person was not seen as a “legitimate” contact. The presence of facial hair was always noted in the adjectives to describe someone who had it (hairy, bearded, scruffy), but had no impact on the person’s ability to get a meeting.