Should You Include a Picture on Your Resume?

Partial image of a resume containing a photo of a woman.Are you in the process of writing or updating your resume? If so, you may be wondering whether or not to include a picture of yourself. After all, popular apps such as Canva make creating an attractive, highly graphical resume with your picture super easy. Besides, your friends might have some pretty awesome-looking resumes with their pictures and you want yours to look as good as theirs, right?

However, before clicking the button to add your favorite shot, let’s examine why the photo should—or should not—be included. What’s the point of adding a picture anyway? If it’s just because it looks trendy, then you might want to rethink it. Perhaps you are fortunate enough to have won the genetic lottery and are a physically attractive individual. You might be hoping that including your photo could give you an edge when the resumes are reviewed.

Hold on a moment and look at this issue from an employer’s point of view. After all, that’s who you need to impress. Suppose the unsuspecting employer opens your resume file. Surprise! There’s your color photo staring at them right at the top of the page. That employer now knows—or at least has a clue—as to your race, ethnicity, attractiveness, weight, possible handicap, etc. They cannot unsee your picture. So what’s wrong with that, you might ask?

Here’s the problem. Suppose an employer decides not to call you in for an interview. Later, for whatever reason, you attempt to claim discrimination. Normally, the resume reviewer could legitimately deny any bias occurred, supported by the fact that they didn’t have knowledge of your race, ethnicity, etc. But wait! You included your picture, so the reviewer was indeed aware of these things when deciding to exclude you. You might think including your photo was therefore a clever and good move strategically. However, in reality, you forced your image on them without permission. By doing so, you have disrupted and potentially undermined the fairness and objectivity of the employer’s candidate selection process, something the HR department may have sincerely worked on in good faith for years to achieve.

So how can an employer avoid this predicament? According to the website Jobscan, “In an effort to ensure they’re not being biased or discriminating based on appearance, some recruiters will not consider resumes with pictures.” If that’s their policy, your resume will get tossed without even being reviewed. In this case, including the picture killed your chances for a job. Regarding whether or not to include a picture on your resume, The Balance Careers website states, “For most job seekers, the answer is still no.” Additionally, the popular job search website Indeed says, “Submitting a resume with photograph is generally seen as something you shouldn’t do when you are applying for a job in the U.S.”

However, there are some exceptions. For some very high-level positions or in certain fields such as acting, modeling, etc., including a picture may be expected. Know the norms for your particular field before sending your resume. Also, when applying for a job outside the United States the situation can vary. In some countries, the norm is to include a picture and therefore doing so is expected. Check the expectations for the country of interest when applying.  

Here’s another argument for not including a photo on your resume. By now, you probably know that most online applications are not reviewed by humans but by computerized applicant tracking systems (ATS). These software applications automatically scan an applicant’s resume for keywords and other factors and refer only the most qualified individuals to the employer. However, like any computer software, these systems can be finicky and tend to have trouble processing anything out of the ordinary—such as your picture graphic. According to Indeed, “Including a photo on a resume can confuse applicant tracking bots and reject your resume by default.”

Despite all the above, some people still choose to include a photo. If you do, despite the risks, make sure it’s a professionally-produced headshot. Wear clothing appropriate for the position you are seeking. Other factors to consider, according to Indeed, “Your professional photo should resemble a shampoo advertisement, so make sure you’ve gotten a recent trim, your hair is combed neatly and looks healthy. Avoid updos or any unusual styles, as they don’t translate well onto film. Wear natural makeup. This tip applies to men and women. To avoid looking washed-out, slick or pale, take a few minutes to apply some concealer to your under eyes and blot your nose, chin and forehead with some powder or a tissue.” If you use a professional photographer, they can offer some guidance as well and they will utilize lighting and posing techniques to achieve the most flattering image.

As an alternative to placing your photo on your resume, consider including it on your LinkedIn profile. You do have a LinkedIn page, right? If not, you should, and the free account is adequate for most individuals. This way, if the employer is interested and decides to look at your LinkedIn page, THEY made the choice to look. This approach also keeps the ATS software happy and prevents some systems from automatically rejecting your application.

Of course, the best photo of all will be the one of you smiling because you got the job!

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave a comment and share your experience or thoughts!




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