A recent study published in the journal of Psychology of Popular Media Culture, raises some interesting discussion regarding profile images used on your social media profiles.

Essentially, the article revolves around perception. The people studied were asked to give their opinion of different women relative to how they felt this person, whom they have never met, rated as a potential friend and how pretty they were etc. The interesting thing about these perceptions were that they even came down to rating the girls’ ability to do their jobs.

Keeping in mind these people have never met the girls in the profiles (how could they, they were fake profiles) and were basing their opinion only on the photos of the girls – the prettiest girl ranked lowest for perceived competency.

Setting aside for now the glaringly obvious need for our society to take stock of our fixation with outer beauty, how does this affect an ‘attractive’ woman and her chances of landing a job interview if her LinkedIn profile image is considered too sexy? (Let’s face it, I don’t know any employers who do not check out a candidate’s Linkedin profile these days.) Another interesting finding in the survey was how other women perceived these very attractive images – they considered a women wearing sexy or provocative clothing etc as less intelligent.

There are also numerous opinions that the high majority of future entrepreneurs will in fact be women. This makes this finding even more relevant if the future hiring and firing decision makers are these same new entrepreneurs.

This then poses the question: should you be very careful of what you post to your personal social media profiles if you are in the job market, or at the very least should your privacy settings be updated to only be viewed by your friends? Because again, most employers I know will do a Google search of their short list of candidates, just to see what shows up.

Now, you might get past the first examination by down-playing your LinkedIn profile image, but how will you fare in the Google Sphere? I see all too often people I know post images that in more sober moments they would have thought twice about. And as we know, once those images are out there they can live on (and haunt you) forever.

This issue of course goes beyond just attractive women, and can hurt more than just your chances of landing that dream job, contract or client. If people’s perceptions can be so easily swayed by images we post online without ever taking the time to actually meet or get to know us, how many opportunities never cross your path, because a decision maker took the time to check you out online before picking up the phone?

Think twice about the presence you can control online and be diligent in knowing what others are uploading to social media sites about you. (Even friends or work colleagues with a smart phone can damage a carefully built reputation!)