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Head Shot or Not: Should You Include a Picture on a Resume? | Undergrad Success
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Head Shot or Not: Should You Include a Picture on a Resume?

Head Shot or Not: Should You Include a Picture on a Resume?
Live Career

More applicants than ever are including photos of themselves on their resumes, according to Money magazine. For most (but not all), that’s a big mistake.

The Case for Photos

Those in favor of including a photo on a resume argue that technological changes have made applicant portraits an inevitable part of the early application process. Easy-to-use resume builders and graphics platforms have made it simple to incorporate a photo seamlessly into resume design, and their inclusion will soon become the norm.

There are a number of professions where appearance is a consideration and photos are expected, such as acting, modeling, broadcasting, public speaking or serving as a brand ambassador. In some parts of the world, including continental Europe and Latin America, hiring managers expect a photo on a resume. If you are applying for an international position, consider researching the country where your application will be vetted, and, if it is customary, providing a professional looking, high quality photo with your resume.

Some experts, including Forbes contributor Rob Asghar, argue that today’s recruiters are bound to Google any candidate in the running, which means the hiring team is very likely to have a good idea of your appearance well before any interviews take place. In addition, the consensus among HR professionals is that all job seekers should include a personalized URL to their LinkedIn profile in their resume header. Since your LinkedIn profile should include a professional-looking photo, there’s no harm, and may be an advantage to supplying a photo on a resume. 

The Case Against Photos

Photos may be expected from applicants in some fields and in much of the world, but this is definitely not the case in Australia, Great Britain, or the United States, at least not yet. Seeing images of job seekers prior to meeting them in person could tend to encourage conscious or even unconscious bias, and such bias could lead to legal liability. For this reason, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission advises employers not to request photos from applicants.

In cultures where images aren’t expected, as is the case in most professional settings in the United States, including a photo on your resume looks unprofessional, and may send the wrong message – that you are vain, that you aren’t serious, or that you don’t know any better.

How a Photo Can Hurt You

  1. It might inadvertently subject you to bias

In addition to racial, cultural, gender or age discrimination, people can even make assumptions about you if they perceive you as too attractive, too serious, humorless, and so on. Hiring managers can form these assumptions in seconds and without conscious intention.

Of course, if you make it to the interview stage, the hiring team will see you and may make similar judgments, but they’ll be encountering your appearance in the context of your personality, as an animated presence rather than a static image, and other impressions will counter these more superficial ones.

  1. Images take up time and space

When hiring managers look at your resume you want them to focus on your qualifications, not your hairstyle or your outfit. In addition to occupying physical space on your resume, including a photo may cause a gatekeeper to spend some of the scant time they give to each resume (by some estimates as little as six seconds) looking at your image rather than reading about your skills and accomplishment.

  1. It can make you look like a risk-taker, but not in a good way

Including your picture in a resume for a position in a traditional field such as law or finance may make you seem like a maverick to hiring managers looking to hire a stable, competent professional who isn’t going to make waves. Do your homework on the field you are looking to enter or move up in, and make sure that risk-taking is a sought-after quality in new hires before you deviate from the traditional resume format.

If are uncertain of how to write a resume or how to format one, you’ll want to consider researching the basic formats – chronological, functional or hybrid – and select the appropriate organizational structure based on your experience level. None of these traditional formats would routinely include an image of the applicant.

  1. It could eliminate you from consideration early in the vetting process

You might be automatically filtered out early in the hiring process, or could cause problems with your potential employer’s applicant tracking system (ATS).

In fact, any image can throw off an ATS. It might be tempting to use a graph or illustration to demonstrate statistics linked to your past job performance, but these can throw off the ATS just as easily as a photograph can. Stick with sharing information about past performance, including metrics, in the form of concisely worded statements.


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Since 2005, LiveCareer's team of career coaches, certified resume writers and savvy technologists have been developing career tools that have helped over 10 million users build stronger resumes, write persuasive cover letters and develop better interview skills. Land the job you want faster using our free Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder. Also check out our Resume Samples, which include a selection of No Experience Resume Samples that are perfect for college students.

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