Should I include a photo on my CV

Should you include a photo on your CV? There are lots of articles both for and against and this article attempts to provide an answer.

Writing your CV? – Should you include your photo?

This is a highly opinionated and debated subject on job sites and there are many, many arguments both for and agains including your picture on your CV. Before you read on, I must clarify that I am a professional photographer and prior to doing what I do now I’ve spent a lot of time over the years in recruitment.

Is there an advantage to putting the picture on your CV?

Yes. I would say there is. Anyone who puts a good image on themselves on their CV will have a competitive advantage over the other applicants. Is this fair? No, not really. In an ideal world job applicants should be judged on their suitability for the job, their abilities and competencies. Not how they look. We have laws to prevent discrimination on grounds of sex, race, religion and now even age. As far as I am aware (and I am certainly not an expert) there’s nothing about the shape of your face, the texture of your skin, the size of your nose and the colour of your eyes.

People get people…

Exercise 1…

Take a look at your social media friends list. It doesn’t matter if it’s your facebook profile, twitter account or linkedin connections. Disregard your inner circle of friends and leave only those people you vaguely know. I’ll wager that you have significanly more these friends and connections that have a picture than those with the just the default avatar or a company logo.

Why is that?

It’s beause people get people. Not eggs. Not mystery man. Not a logo. People.

Next time you add someone to a social media account that you don’t personally know, take a good look at their avatar. I’d be very surprised if its a logo unless its someone or some brand you know very well.

People get people. That’s why putting a picture on your CV will give you a competitive advantage. You make that first impression much, much earlier. Then when you meet the hiring manager at your interview he/she will already see you as familiar.

Of course I am making a huge assumption here: that you aren’t going to put a bad image on your CV. no sane person would do that. Likewise I’m assuming you’re not going to put a boozey picture of you down the pub with your mates on your CV, or cast yourself in a bad light. To do so would be sheer folly. Everything on your CV has to be deliberate, well thought out, properly laid out and most importantly needs to sell you.

But what if I’m not good looking?

I see this argument all the while. “Don’t put a picture on your CV if you’re ugly or you’ll be highlighting irrelevant points about yourself.” Really? I would argue that a skilled photographer can make a pleasing image of almost anybody. It’s a question of using the correct lighting and pose to show the subject at their best. If all the photographer is going to do is set up flat lighting or worse, direct on camera flash you might as well not bother. If on the other hand you have a photographer who knows what he/she is doing and can light and pose you properly then that’s a different story altogether. They can bring out your character and emphasise all your good features. That’s the job of a competent photographer – to portray you as the very best that you can be.

Exercise 2…

Now do a Google image search on your own name and hometown. (If you don’t know how to do this, type your name and town into the Google search bar then when the results come up, select “Images” in the top left hand corner of the screen. Unless you’re a complete social luddite you’ll see a page of image thumbnails and a lot of pictures of yourself. Google indexes pictures. Ones you’ve uploaded and ones other have taken of you and tagged you in.

See how easy that was? Do you really think a hiring manager won’t do that? It doesn’t matter whether they could, shouldn’t or whether it’s unethical. The results are there for all to see. It’s also not uncommon for hiring managers to search the social media networks to find out more about the character and personality of the people they’re choosing between.

If you include a picture on your CV there’s less incentive for the hiring manager to do this and you’ve controlled the first impression.

Ahhh, but a picture takes up too much real estate on my CV

Wrong again. It takes about 15 to 20 seconds to read a CV. In fact they’re not actually read at all they’re skimmed. Certainly in the early stages of selection at least. It’s not until much later, when the CV pile has been significantly reduced that it’s likely to be read through in detail at all.

Anything you can do when crafting your CV to help the hiring manager to absorb the information will give you a huge advantage. Layout is crucial. The copy is vital. Don’t write it as a letter to your mother. Make it as brief as possible. Bullet points work very well as does highlighting key points. I would argue that a thumbnail sized portrait can fit the layout of virtually any CV. It’s an advertisement and it needs to stand out from the crowd. It’s an advertisement and it’s purpose is to get you an interview. Nothing more, nothing less. It certainly isn’t a journal documenting your entire life history. Is that project from 10 or 15 years ago really more important than your picture? I would argue not in most cases. You’re not going to be hired for something you worked on such a long time ago.

How do I know the recruitment agent won’t remove it?

In short, you don’t and the chances are they probably will. Most recruitment agents will rework a applicant’s CV: remove the contact details, remove your picture etc. They’ll take the document you’ve spent many hours agonising over and make it look the same as all the others on their books.

But not all of them will. I would argue here that if they remove it, you’ve not lost anything. If they don’t you now have a distinct advantage.

You’re competing with every other applicant from every other agency. If you want that deam position you need to do everything in your power to secure it.

So what type of picture should I use?

There’s no definitive answer to this I’m afraid. It will depend on the seniority of the position, the culture of the company and your own personal character. If the company has a formal dress code, a business formal portrait with a suit and tie would be the best choice. If the company is more casual you can take it down a notch, but not so far as to completely match their dress code or lack thereof. My advice would be to dress as you would for interview as this will give you consistency between what they see in the photo and the person sitting before them.

Ultimately the choice is yours and you should properly research the company before deciding.

Summary

Whether you choose to include a photo on your CV is your own choice. Sometimes they get removed, sometimes they don’t. I very much doubt that if you put a photo on it will result in an immediate turn down. I’d like to see that justified if you asked why you were rejected.

I do however believe that having a photo will give you a distinct advantage. It’s a marketing war out there and it’s a war you need to do everything you can to win.

Disclaimer

This article represents an opinion and does not consitute any advice on how you should write your CV or what you should include. It is founded on my experiences in the corporate world and more recently as a professional photographer. If you are in any doubt I would recommend you seek expert advice on how to prepare your CV.

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