If you’re unsure about including a photo on your CV, I’d say you’re probably better off not attaching one. Job applications almost never require pictures except in the fields of modeling and acting. In fact, pictures are usually inappropriate, especially when you’re seeking an office position.
When it comes to public-facing jobs, though, I’ve found that CV photos can sometimes enhance people’s chances of landing employment. Also keep in mind that you probably have a professional photo on your LinkedIn profile and many job applications ask for your LinkedIn URL. Avoid listing social media profiles that focus on your casual social life and remember to change the privacy settings on those profiles to avoid potential employers seeing anything that could lose you the job. If you have a personal website, only list it if it is relevant and professional. The photos there can also be used to form a negative first impression of you.
The case against CV photos
Why are photos with CVs so often unwelcome? Many companies have anti-discrimination policies and believe that not only are pictures irrelevant, but they may play into a hiring manager’s unconscious bias. Moreover, a business might fear that a rejected candidate will believe a bias was involved in their not getting a job interview. In fact, under UK employment law, it is illegal for a prospective employer to ask a job candidate for a photo to try to ensure biases don’t occur.
Photos may reveal any number of characteristics that should not be a factor in the hiring process. Just as you should not put your age on your CV, you should not offer a photo that gives away that information.
In addition, you don’t want to distract from your credentials. I know it’s surprising, but the average hiring professional spends about six seconds making an initial decision about a CV, whether to set it aside or give it a closer look. Those individuals should be scanning your qualifications in that brief span of time, not studying your face or hair.
The keys to a great professional CV are clean lines, legibility, and simplicity. A photo can make your resume look unprofessional.
When a photo on your CV can help
Sticking a photo to your CV may benefit you and help you stand out in the job hunt, however, if you’re trying for a job where you’d interact with customers. Of course, bank service agents, food service providers, salespeople, and many others routinely interface with the public.
Candidates conducting overseas job searches should definitely consider including a photo. Many European resume templates include a space for a photo. The opposite of the norm in the United States is true: Recruiters in Europe, China, and Japan expect to see a photo.
Although employers shouldn’t hire such people based on the way they look, your facial features or personal style could very well capture the interest of a hiring manager. I know that fact might seem unfair, but human nature can be shallow at times. If you’re going to send a picture, it should be a professional headshot. Also, it ought to be an up-to-date headshot, and you should be dressed conservatively in it. Never use a selfie!
If you choose to include a photo, our CV samples will give you an idea of the best way to do so. Furthermore, our ultimate guide to writing your CV in 2021 will give you great headstart.
Finally, keep in mind that corporate rules and social trends change over time. Perhaps one day soon, we’ll all be including our smiling faces in our job applications. Until then, if you’re not seeking a public-facing position and don’t work in a creative field, I’d advise you to save your pictures for your social media pages.