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Written by Paul DruryPaul Drury

Should you include a photo on your CV?

9 min read
Should you Include a Photo on Your CV?
Including a photo on a CV is not usually something that an applicant considers for long. It is either customary in your country, or it isn’t. However, if you are moving internationally, you may think about whether you wish to fit in with the locals who may include a photo.

As this blog is primarily intended for a UK audience, the answer to this question may seem obvious at first glance. With a few exceptions that we will explore later, it is not customary to include a photo on your CV in the UK. 

However, with people moving around the world for jobs it is well worth exploring the customs and expectations elsewhere. It is also the case that certain professions may expect a photo to be included.

If you do include a photo on the CV, how should you do it, what should it look like, and where would you include it? In this guide, we will be covering the following:

  • When could you incorporate a photo on the CV?
  • Why should you avoid including a photo?
  • In which situations is a photo expected?
  • Tips for the best possible CV photograph.

The hiring manager will have plenty of information on which they can base their decision to invite you to an interview and they will likely not place much importance on the inclusion of a photo on a CV. 

If you look like Brad Pitt or Gal Gadot, you may well have an incremental advantage, but it is not as significant as you might think. In some countries there are strict anti-discrimination laws (UK and U.S.), so including a photo shows a lack of awareness.

When might you incorporate a photo?

There are certain countries and professions where a photo on a CV is customary, but only a few rare professions where it is actively expected. There is a freedom of choice when it comes to a job application and a photo will sometimes be one of those choices. 

Here are a couple of situations where you may consider including a photo to aid your application:

Show that you are culturally aware. If you are a foreigner applying for a role in a country where a photo on the CV is customary, show that you are aware enough to fit in with the local customs. There is nothing that sets you apart as someone “not from around here” than a CV that doesn’t look like the others. So, will you be able to fit in with the culture?

Take advantage of bias. Okay, let’s be real here. If you work in a country or industry where including a photo is acceptable (but maybe not expected) and you are considered good-looking, why wouldn’t you let the hiring manager know what you look like? There is scientifically-proven unconscious bias around linking good looks to personality/intelligence, so let the hiring managers come to their own conclusions. 

Expert tip

Don’t include a CV photo in the following countries:

UK, Ireland, Canada, U.S.

Consider including a CV photo in the following countries:

Continental Europe (especially Germany, France, Spain, Portugal and Scandinavia), Middle East, Africa, much of Asia.

Why should you avoid including a photo?

There are certain things that should always be on a CV — employment history, education details, and a section outlining your skills. Save for rare exceptions (detailed later), a photo will never be mandatory. You may wish to avoid including a pic for a few reasons:

Anti-discrimination. If, for whatever reason, you wish to avoid discrimination and potential issues with bias, leave the photo off your CV. If you are applying for a role in a country where photos on a CV are common, hiring managers may think that this is an oversight. Sadly, discrimination will always happen, but get yourself into that interview room first.

ATS issues. The ATS software that stores your CV in the database may not be able to show the photograph. If your CV is in PDF form not all software will be able to pick up on the image formats and some will simply copy the text into a new format. Designing the layout of your resume around your photo may therefore be a waste of time.

Your pic is on LinkedIn. In most cases, your potential employer will check you out on LinkedIn if they have an interest in your candidature. LinkedIn headshot photos are expected, so there can be no debate about including one here. If looks are important to the employer (for whatever reason) this is the first place that they will look. The rules for a photo on the CV also apply to LinkedIn pictures.

In which situations is a photograph expected?

If you live in the UK, Ireland, and the U.S. it is rare for a photo to be expected, but there are some notable exceptions. If you are looking to break into modelling or acting, you will obviously need more than a photo on your CV in your application materials, but every CV should have a headshot in these industries.

Modelling. If you are hoping to pick up modelling work, it is likely that you will have a full portfolio of photography, but you should nevertheless include a photo on your CV to allow the clients to match a CV with your look. Models should keep their CV photos simple and professional. You in a neutral setting with a professional look will be fine.

Acting. Your acting showreel and reputation will be what secure you those auditions, but when your agent floats your CV across a casting director’s desk it will still need a headshot. A photograph on an acting CV should follow the top tips below and take care not to include one from a previous performance – keep the actor CV photo simple.

Some customer facing roles. This is controversial, but some people who work in roles with a lot of influence and customer/client contact may choose to include a photo if they think that it would be beneficial. There is no rule against including a photo, but it is not convention, so make sure that it will aid your cause.

Top tips for a great CV photo

If you do decide to include a photo, there are plenty of things to consider if you want to create the right impression. Let’s start with some basic tips.

  • Wear simple but elegant work clothing — a suit or smart top will be fine.
  • Is a colour image the best idea? Would black & white be more understated?
  • Make sure that the photo is professionally shot — within a neutral setting.
  • Don’t crop the photo from a bigger picture with a distracting background.
  • Make sure that you have had a recent haircut and that you look presentable.
  • Use the same photo on LinkedIn — visual recognition is important.
  • Make sure that it doesn’t take up too much space. Your career story comes first.
  • The photo should be a recent one. We all get older — the odd grey hair won’t matter!

Oh, and make sure that you smile. While not all of us are the naturally cheerful type, a natural smile puts others at ease and will automatically create a feeling that you are a friendly and warm individual. Make sure that the smile does not seem forced and don’t let it turn into a manic-looking grin.

Lastly, while you might take care with your make-up and personal grooming, avoid the temptation of using a social media filter to enhance your photo. These filters can work wonders, but if a totally different person walks into the interview room the employer may wonder what else you are covering up.

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Key takeaways

Our advice would be to err on the safe side and not include a photo if you are uncertain. While the absence of a photo will not mean that you are excluded from the job search process, including an inappropriate photo could well work against you.

  1. Do your research about whether a photo is appropriate.
  2. Follow our guidance about the visual look of the picture.
  3. Don’t let the photograph dominate the first page of your CV
  4. Don’t include a CV photo if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
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Use professional field-tested CV templates that follow the exact ‘CV rules’ employers look for.
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