With accusations of sexism, harassment and ‘beauty bias’ hitting the headlines, you would assume that the answer to the CV photo question is an outright ‘No’. However, the debate rolls on. After all, personal photos potentially reveal a lot about you, including gender, age, ethnicity, religion, physical characteristics and personal style.
Some career experts say that, unless you’re a model or actor, appearance should never be a factor in the hiring process. They argue that if you include a photo on your CV, you come across as naïve and unprofessional. Some even suggest you seem desperate – or worse – unethical.
We also shouldn’t assume that our personal bias (albeit often unconscious) is always in favour of physically attractive candidates. Because there’s more to it than that, according to a recent study by Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. They found that good-looking men were more likely to get an interview if they included a CV photo but that good-looking women were less likely.
The report’s rather depressing conclusion was that: “The evidence points to female jealousy of attractive women in the workplace as a primary reason for their penalisation in recruitment.” Of course, this may be more than overt un-sisterly behaviour.
Unfortunately, unconscious stereotyping of women in the workplace still exists. This includes the assumption that surely, if she’s attractive, she can’t also excel at her job. A study published a few years back suggests this is indeed the case when ‘attractive’ women apply for managerial roles.
So should you include a photo on your CV? Yes, No, Maybe…
Differences in CV styles are based, in part, on cultural preferences. Increasingly, however, a CV’s content is dictated by laws restricting what personal information employers are permitted to ask an applicant. There are laws in place in the UK which mean it’s illegal to consider age, race or gender when it comes to hiring people.
Most recruiters prefer CVs not to include a photo to protect themselves against any allegations of discrimination. And in some fields, such as UK or American investment banks, CVs will be automatically rejected if they have a photo attached.
However, other experts believe that, in the multimedia age, everyone has a professional headshot on LinkedIn anyway. That’s before we even start to think about multiple other pictures (some more professional than others) splashed across social media. Somehow not having a photo on your CV seems at odds with this.
To add to the confusion for international job seekers, CV formats do vary from country to country. There are some that demand a photo be included and employers argue this gives a more complete profile of the candidate and helps them remember people. So, depending on your circumstances, the answer to what seems such a simple question can be no, maybe, or even yes.
As a general guideline, it’s perfectly acceptable – even desirable – to include a photo for jobs in Asia and many European countries (but generally not in Ireland, UK, Netherlands and Sweden). However, unless the application specifically states otherwise, don’t include a photo when applying for professional roles in the UK, USA or Canada. Employment and anti-discrimination laws in these countries prevent employers from requesting this level of personal information.
In some countries, such as Australia, there is no clear-cut answer. Sometimes job adverts state that a photo is required. But, if it doesn’t, I’d recommend erring on the side of caution and leaving it out.
You can, of course, consider a more creative solution for showing a prospective employer your professional appearance. After all, projecting a trustworthy or approachable image can be an asset in many fields. Including a link to your LinkedIn profile on your CV is perfectly acceptable. Most recruiters will refer to it anyway at some point in the hiring process.
Another option would be to add a photo to a CV or business card you use purely for networking purposes. If you are distributing your CV or personal profile at conferences or other events, a photo can help your new contacts remember you. However, it would still be a good idea to have a version of your CV without a photo for formal job applications and screening.
Increasingly, job seekers are including links to other social media profiles or personal websites on their CV. This is particularly the case in the creative or consultancy sectors, where personal brands and curated portfolios of work are considered essential. Here, photos (and possibly videos) are recommended, just make sure that your photo is a business-like portrait.
My prediction is that CV photos will increasingly be frowned upon. In fact, some are now calling for greater use of anonymous CVs to remove as much unconscious bias as possible. In time, we might even get used to the idea of judging people purely on their ability to do the job well.