Photo on your CV: good idea or major risk?

The standard advice for some years has been to not include a photo on your CV. Why? Because although you are sending your CV in the hope of getting a job interview, sometimes the photo is exactly what puts employers off.

Here’s the rub. In most cases, a CV (resume) will get only a brief glance at first inspection. In the current employment market, employers are commonly receiving between 200 – 500 applications for a single position. They just do not have the time to study your CV in detail, so if you give them a quick and easy way to dismiss your CV (like a photo), they will do so. After all, there are hundreds more applicants for them to choose from.

Everyone knows first impressions count when it comes to interviews. It’s the same for CVs. If the CV screener doesn’t get a positive impression from your photo, they will usually not even bother to read about all of your excellent skills, knowledge and experience. Or if they do, their opinion of you will already be swayed.  A good summary of the issues is outlined in the blog: Should you put your photo on your CV?

What if I look pretty damn hot in my photo? (I hear you ask).

Sorry, being attractive might be losing you interviews as well. On the other hand, it might help… it depends… Have a look at this blog and the research quoted in it: Should You Include a Photo on Your Resume?  Things can get pretty competitive in the work place too, as evidenced in the following article: Hot talent need not apply (Dita de Boni; NZ Herald column)

Are you looking for a job or a date?

Somewhere along the way however, you might want to ask yourself – ‘do I want to work for an employer that is going to hire me mainly because of my looks?’ If you are looking for work as a model, or TV presenter, or if you’re using an image to help convey your personality, then perhaps yes. But otherwise…?

Q&A’s

Is it always a bad idea to include a photo?
No. This author has seen examples of job applicants using photos on their CVs and having immediate success. Not always a passport-sized mugshot though: an image of you tramping in front of a snow-clad mountain range says something about your interests and your personality; a photo of a trainee teacher engaging with students in a classroom can create a highly positive impression.

What about social media? My photo is on Facebook anyway!
Good point. The ground is rapidly shifting in this area. At the time of writing, the author has heard of quite a few instances of employers/recruiters checking Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media sites as part of their screening process. But at this stage it does not seem to be common practice. It may be more prevalent in certain sectors: e.g. creative industries, marketing/advertising, ICT, digital media, etc. Similarly, there is a trend in these same sectors towards the use of web-pages and social media sites instead of traditional CVs.

The bottom line here is that you need to provide the employer with the information they want (and that you want to tell them about) in a form that they will find acceptable. Do your research about this first!

Is it the same in every country?
Definitely not. In some countries there is an expectation that all CVs must have a photo on them. Elsewhere, instructions are given NOT to include a photo. To avoid accusations of discrimination or prejudice, some employers and recruiters will actively discourage you from having a photo on your CV, and they will remove it if you do include one.

Once again, you need to do your research and find out what the standard process is for each country and employment sector/profession you are interested in.

Is it fair or ethical for employers to judge me on my looks?
Perhaps not, but it will happen – just as surely as people will form impressions when they meet you for the first time. As job applicants, we need to be aware of the potential risks and the possible advantages of using a photo on our CVs or resumes.

Last words….

Confused? Two pieces of advice:

  1. Don’t fret about this. Remember that the best measure of your CV is whether it gets you interviews or not. If you’re getting interviews, you probably don’t need to change your CV.
  2. Be yourself. If you’re comfortable with the idea of having your photo on your CV and you know the possible risks/advantages, then keep it on there. If you’re not, then don’t!

What do you think about all of this?

Please post your comments, questions and experiences below.

 

Author: Geoff Martyn, Career Specialist, AUT University Career Services

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