One of the most common questions I receive as a career advisor is whether it is a good idea to add a photo to a resume document. I tend to respond by asking two questions:
1. What role are you applying for?
2. Which picture do you plan on using?
The general opinion from recruiters out there is: “Don’t put your photograph on your resume.”
I beg to differ, because the photograph on your resume can definitely make you stand out from the crowd of faceless applications. Here is the catch though: that picture can make you stand out from the crowd in a positive or downright negative way. Obviously, you would want to avoid the latter so if there is an inkling of doubt, rather leave it out.
The type of role you are applying for, helps to direct you to which picture you should be using. One gets selfies, and then you get SELFIES! A drunken night at the bar with a blurred image of you amidst newly found friends is best kept hidden, even from your social media profiles (which recruiters and hiring managers will see, when they stalk you on the web). Also, the professional picture of you dressed in a black and white suit at your sister’s wedding is not going to mean much if you are applying for a job on an oil rig.
The photo you end up using should be relevant to the role you are applying for, and show authenticity. Those 90ties style pics with a hand under the chin and body positioned at a 45-degree angle are most certainly out (you may just end up on the funny pic of the week list).
Resume Photo Technicalities
When choosing an appropriate photograph, you need to remember the following rules:
• Blurring is out, so you need to preferably be stationary when snapping away.
• The brighter, the better. Only experts can take a good photo during dusk and dawn.
• There is nothing more off-putting than a grainy photo with shadows in all the wrong places.
• Think crisp, mono-tone backgrounds like ocean blue’s, foliage greens or plain white or black.
• Also make sure you are not photo bombed by a bird, your thumb or someone making funny faces in the background.
• The camera angle should be slightly downwards, thus your face needs to be lower than the direct projection of the lens.
• Never take a picture where the camera faces upwards, and your face is placed above the directed lens projection.
• Wear something that flatters your skin tone like a scarf or chunky piece of jewelry for the ladies. (Guys you usually look good in plain black or white.)
• No pouting, I repeat, no pouting.
• Remember to smile, but keep it natural, you’re not a chipmunk.
The Pro’s of Resume Photo's
Being on point with a headshot snap on your resume can be a beneficial strategy to raise your chances of securing an interview:
• A great picture of yourself on your resume can be a savvy tool to help build your personal brand. Moreover, if you use the same photo for your other social media profiles such as Linkedin or ZoomInfo, you create a consistent corporate image that establishes trust and credibility.
• Often, omitting a resume photo may actually diminish your chances of landing on the shortlisted pile, especially for creative roles in graphic design, fashion, film, architecture, sales, and marketing.
• When applying for roles outside of the USA or even at international companies with offices inside US borders you may find that putting a headshot on your resume is, in fact, a requirement and not just a preferential add-on.
• We live in a visual-driven era. Just think of online platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest where eye-catching photographs are used as draw cards to attract attention, generate likes and increase followership online.
• Therefore, using a headshot on your resume will just as much draw the attention of recruiters and hiring managers due to the appeal that a visual image creates in a document. Its human nature, the eye is naturally drawn to images and pictures, more so than just plain text.
• Ensure that your professional picture “speaks a 1000 words”, and you may just land that interview ahead of everybody else.
The case against Resume Photo's
There is a strong narrative against resume photo's, especially in the USA and Canada. However, the need for an online presence in a multimedia age is undeniable which increases the need to show your face to recruiters and hiring managers.
Some alternatives options to resume pics can be found here.
The naysayers against resume pics have a few valid points to substantiate their verdicts:
• “It’s illegal to consider factors like age, race, gender, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability status in hiring decisions. Subsequently hiring authorities prefer to not ‘officially’ know whether you’re a member of one of these protected classes,” according to Julie O’Malley of Pongo Resumes.
• Due to the possibility of being subjected to a discrimination claim some recruiters and hiring managers won’t even consider resumes with photo's included. The best counter tactic to still receive some screen time from recruiters is to add a great profile pic to your Linkedin and then include your Linkedin URL on your resume.
• Just in case, google yourself to see which pictures pop up under your name search and then embark on a “beg to remove” activity to get the unphotogenic ones deleted or tighten your online profile security settings to keep the candidate stalkers (aka recruiters) from accessing of your personal networks.
• Resume real estate (space) is usually quite limited especially if your aim is to stick to a well-crafted 1-2 page document.
• Including a photographic image may entail giving up on important job and qualification details, which are of course most crucial priorities for successfully securing an interview.
• Many recruiters use ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) functionality as an automated screening tool.
• This means that the ‘’bots’’ responsible for screening may get confused by imaging if they are programmed to assimilate only text-based data.
• Thus, your resume may not even be viewed by a human recruiter, after all, should it be deemed unfriendly against ATS standards.
• Adding a photo does not make you look unprofessional. Adding an inappropriate one surely will.
• A less than “picture perfect” self-image can do more damage to your career prospects, than not displaying one at all.
The Jury Says: Double Up
Whether or not to include a photo in your resume shouldn’t be a damned if you do, damned if you don’t kind of decision. Why not opt for a double up approach and build two resume documents, one containing a stellar self-portrait and one with a text-only display?
Proper research about the company/country you are applying to coupled with a bit of common sense will make it easier to choose which one should represent your job application to the company.
As a final note always remember pictures may attract attention, but it’s the correct resume content that creates retention and interview invitations.