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Written by Susan ShorSusan Shor

When to add a photo to your resume

7 min read
When to add a photo to your resume
If you're unsure about including a photo with your resume, I'd say you're probably better off not attaching one. Job applications almost never require pictures except in the fields of modelling and few more.

If you're unsure about including a photo with your resume, 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. If your potential employer really wants to know what you look like, they will check you out on social media.

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When it comes to public-facing jobs, though, I've found that resume 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.

When pictures can help

Sticking a photo to your resume may benefit you, however, if you're vying for a job where you'd interact with customers. Of course, bank tellers, 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 resume samples will give you an idea of the best way to do so.

Finally, keep in mind that corporate rules and social mores 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.

Resume photos are incredibly rare in the UK, Ireland and the United States. They are more common across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. One idea might be to ask a few local internal recruiters on social media about their expectations.

  • Take a photo where you are dressed as if you are going to work.
  • Hire a professional photographer for the shoot.
  • Make sure that the background is neutral.
  • Use the same photo on LinkedIn.
  • Lazily use your favourite selfie image. Your iPhone isn't up to the job.
  • Go too heavy on the make-up or hairstyle.
  • Let the photo take up too much space.
  • Show extremes of emotion in your facial expression.

The case against resume photos

Why are photos with resumes 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 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations, 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 resume, you should not offer a photo that gives away that information.

The keys to a great professional resume are clean lines, legibility, and simplicity. A photo can make your resume look unprofessional.

When not to include a picture on a resume

Apart from the anti-discrimination and bias issues, another reason for not including a picture on a resume is that you feel that your experience should do the talking. When one resume includes a picture (and all the other resumes do not), the hiring manager may subconsciously sense that you are seeking to make up for deficiencies in other parts of the application. Including a photo (however stunning you look) may make your application stand out for the wrong reasons. You want the hiring manager to be looking for what is right, not trying to work out what is wrong.

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 resume, 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 final consideration is that the ATS may not display the photo in the first place. Rely on your career stories to secure you that interview, not the attractiveness of your photo.

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