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Institutions such as Miami University in Ohio are installing professional head-shot booths.

Miami University

More institutions are installing professional head-shot booths in their career centers to assist students on the job or internship hunt. These machines allow students to experiment with multiple poses and then will deliver high-quality, editable digital images within minutes.

The booths are getting students in career center doors while leveling the playing field between those who might otherwise be able to obtain a professional head shot and those who might not.

“In less than a month since formally launching, we’ve had nearly 500 sessions in the photo booth,” says Jacob Chabowski, a marketing specialist with Vanderbilt University’s Career Center. “Having a polished and professional image online is vital in today’s digital era. Students are tech-savvy, and many have already recognized the importance of having good head shots for their professional development. The challenge is removing barriers between college students and professional head shots.” Such barriers include having to hire a photographer and access to a good camera.

Engaging Students

The photo booth “ensures equity and inclusion for each student at Vanderbilt,” Chabowski says.

Miami University in Ohio used to have interns take head shots “the old-fashioned way,” says Jennifer Benz, an assistant vice president with the Center for Career Exploration and Success. Since the university acquired its photo booth in 2021, demand for head shots has soared, and now interns take the lead on monitoring the booth and assisting users.

The university’s fall internship and career fair was, in part, what got more students into the center last year, Benz says. But a marketing “hype” video featuring the booth also helped drive students to the event, and to the center more generally.

“During the last two-plus years, a lot of institutions like ours were noticing a decline in student engagement and co-curricular activities,” she says of the pandemic’s lingering effects. “And so we’re trying to retrain our students to re-engage them, and we did not want them to miss the over 300 employers that were coming to our campus to recruit them.”

Boosting Students’ Social Media Presence

Benz says some faculty members require that students visit the head-shot booth and establish LinkedIn accounts each semester, as coursework. The booth is also promoted to students during their first-year experience courses, as well.

The university sends students a guide to establishing and maintaining an online presence after they use the booth. The guide mentions LinkedIn, but Benz says that students are encouraged to use their professional head shots across their social media, or even for scholarship or graduate school application needs.

It’s long been “standard operating procedure” for employers to check job candidates’ social media pages before hiring them, Benz says, and this remains so in today’s strong job market.

“Every company wants to hire professionals who will represent their organizations properly, and this [booth] is just removing one of those barriers and rescaling it so more of our students will now have professional head shots than they ever have before.”

Chabowski, at Vanderbilt, says, “We encourage students to use these head shots in a variety of ways, including as LinkedIn profile pictures, in email signatures and incorporated into presentation slides.”

Having a professional head shot may be more important than ever, he adds, given that many more interviews, and jobs, now occur remotely.

Yolanda Norman, a Houston-based regional director of corporate partnerships for Vanderbilt, tells this to students she works with: “Employers are looking you up.” And whether they realize it or not, she says, students’ social media presence is “telling a story.”

The question for students, then, is, “What is the story that you want to tell?”

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