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Featured image by Stefanus Ian We all know first impressions count, so beef up your text-filled résumé with a professional-looking photo. Just as a résumé should chronicle your dedication to professional life, you should also put in the work when it comes to your headshot.

Here are our tips for putting together an image that showcases you at your best. HR managers will be firing off reply emails in no time.

  1. Decide What You Want Your Image to Say About You

Anyone can sport a business suit and look like they are a profit-creating, coffee-carrying corporate machine who works ‘til dawn. But is that the image you really want for yourself (especially when photos like that are a dime a dozen)?

The industry you are in also matters. If you are applying to be a bartender at an upscale bar or a full-time clown for a children’s hospital ward, looking like an uptight hedge fund manager will turn off anyone looking to pay for laughs and charm.

  1. Cherry-pick a Unique Background to Showcase Your Personality

Take your photo in a setting that provides an eye-catching background and even says something about your character. Just make sure that you stand out, instead of allowing the background to overwhelm you. If, for example, you are keen to enter the creative or architectural industry, opt for a photo in front of a colourful shophouse, rather than under soulless fluorescent lights.

  1. Photo: Noor Hazmee

    Tone Down the Filters

It may be tempting to tweak your pockmarked complexion with Photoshop, but your interviewer might be taken aback if you show up looking markedly different from your headshot. Touching up a tad is acceptable; digitising yourself flaunting sinewy arm muscles is just dishonest.

  1. Say Cheese Like a Person, Not a Passport Photo

Back in the ‘90s, one might think that only morose and glum-looking people were looking for jobs, based on the passport photos attached to application forms. But passport photos are passé for the job market these days.

You wouldn’t wear flip-flops when trying to get past bouncers at a club, so should you jazz up your look and facial expression when in front of the camera. For example, don’t look straight on into the lens; it looks too official. Move your head slightly to the side and look over the photographer’s shoulder, not into the lens, for a more casual look. This will add depth to the photo and make your face look slimmer.

Photo: Shu Yen Kor

Quick Tip: A pearl of wisdom from supermodel Tyra Banks — make sure you’re “smizing”. What’s smizing? Smiling with your eyes. Too often we go full-wattage with a grin but our eyes remain lifeless, resulting in an artificial rictus grin of joy. Follow the 70-30 rule. Seventy percent of your joy beams out your smile, and the rest through a cheerful-looking gaze.

  1. Hire a Pro

We are all trained to take selfies in this digital age, but it is best to use a professional photographer who can work magic that your smartphone cannot. A good photographer can also help you to loosen up during the shoot. That way you look more like a pleasant colleague to work with, rather than a tense serial killer taking a jailhouse mug shot. After all, the perfect smile can take you places, and a well-taken headshot can charm even the most stone-hearted HR manager.