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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Office Hours with Dr. Jim > Online Dating Profile Tips

Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.


Online Dating Profile Services

Are online dating profile services worth the money?

There are a few services available that can help people with taking great photos and helping them write enticing profiles. Some people want this level of attention, because they’re either not very confident or they’re not too savvy about how to “sell” themselves to romantic prospects. I get that, so I can’t steer individuals away from these options. Still, what bothers me is that it seems too often services like these don’t accurately portray the person. What a person gets is an artificial make-over to some extent; an impression of them based on the writing talents of someone else. Let’s face it, what we write and what words we choose is an important reflection of who we are. Left to someone else, a profile stops being you and starts being Hollywood editing.

If someone absolutely wants these services, then they can be good investments. Almost always what a professional puts together will be more effective than what a typical person prepares. But going to a specialized service is not always needed. Sometimes a person just needs to heed some good free advice. To me, the best advice is evidence-based -- it’s advice that stems from proven principles not mere speculation. With that in mind, let me share with you some time-tested principles for maximizing your profile. These recommendations come from special research I’ve conducted over the years with actual online daters.

The basics are simple. Your profile should have a minimum of three photos to view. Your primary shot should be a headshot that’s both clear and recent. By recent, I mean within three to six months at most. Your other photos should show your body type, and if at all possible, you’d do well to leave out props like dogs, cats, children, fishing rods and cars. People want to get a good sense of your physicality -- that’s what going to draw them in at first. You can speak to your interests in your written profile.

A big mistake people make is to preparing a long written profile. The real secret here is instead to be specific…short and sweet. And be completely honest in what you want and you are. It doesn’t help you in the long run to be deceptive in an attempt to compete with everyone else on the site. A brutally honest profile will always get attention and respect, and it’ll help to quickly screen out people who’ll connect with you versus those who probably won’t.

As for the profile itself, make it extremely reader friendly. To do this, I recommend creating three sub-headers that are bolded or made to stand out in some other way. People are visual creatures and they like short amounts of information. By chopping your profile into min-sections, it makes the information more impactful by being easier to read and digest. Below is a good general template to use:


Profile outline

Others describe me as…
Use this section to convey your personality and temperament, and especially how others perceive you. People like “testimonials” of sorts and will more readily believe what others say about you versus what you say about yourself. Be specific and be succinct.

What I’m looking for right now in a partner is…
Use this section to convey your agenda for using the dating site. If you want a long-term deal, state it. If you want a casual encounter, confess it. If you want to simply to engage others online for some fun and fantasy and nothing more, advertise it. The trick is to state what you want in a partner -- not what you don’t want. And be as specific as possible. It doesn’t help you to beat around the bush.

What you can expect from me is…
Use this section to convey how you behave in a dating or longer term relationship. What are your idiosyncrasies that make someone love you or hate you.  Be upfront about your boundaries and pace in a relationship. The idea here is to begin to set realistic expectations with others.


The above outline should be very effective for most anyone. Of course, great photos and an honest and reader-friendly profile are only the beginning. The other important ingredient is how you communicate with others. Online etiquette (called “netiquette”) contributes a great deal to others’ impression of you. It’s a part of your profile that people overlook.

I know sending online “winks,” “flowers” and the like is easy, popular and judged to be a “safe” way to communicate interest in someone. My advice is to avoid those things for early communications. Also avoid sending IMs when first contacting someone. Many people aren’t quick-witted (especially the men) and end up relaying the “Hey sexy,” “Nice mouth” or other ridiculous comments. Instant messages are annoying to people, especially when they’re trying to send an email or look at someone’s profile. Yet people do all of these things often in an attempt to bring about instant gratification.

Instead it’s best to send an email to signal interest, because email allows you to think ahead and show off your personality in a way your profile can’t. It’s also much less intrusive. So start slow and work from there. As one online dater put it, “People should stop treating dating and potential relationships like oatmeal… there’s nothing instant about it.” 


Dr. James Houran's "Office Hours with Dr. Jim" column is published every Monday.

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