Resume Pictures: Should You Put A Picture On Your Resume?

By Chris Kolmar - Dec. 1, 2020
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In the modern world, our modes of communication have become highly visual.

Even in corporate settings, many use GIFs and emojis to speak with each other. Professionals regularly upload their photos to platforms such as Slack and Linkedin.

With all this in mind, some wonder if attaching a picture to their resume is a good idea.

In this article, we’ll explain whether you should include a picture on your resume. You’ll also learn when a picture may be appropriate, as well as where to include it.

Should You Include a Picture on Your Resume?

In most cases, you should not include a picture on your resume. It’s important to keep in mind the main purpose of a resume – to provide recruiters an overview of your accomplishments, skills, and experience.

In most cases, your physical appearance has no bearing on your ability to perform the job. Including a picture would either distract from what makes you a great candidate or result in raised eyebrows.

However, there are some exceptions. One’s physical appearance influences careers such as acting, modeling, and certain client-facing jobs.

You may also be job-hunting in a country such as South Korea, where submitting a picture along with a resume is not only common but practically required.

Barring these exceptions, however, the answer to most job seekers is an emphatic “no.”

Why Not to Add a Photo

There are many reasons to exclude a picture from your resume:

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  • Discrimination. Adding a photo creates potential discriminatory and legal issues for both parties.

    A photo increases a candidate’s risk of being a victim of discrimination or unconscious bias.

    Many recruiters will also not consider these applications to avoid any such allegations.

  • Unprofessional perception. Pictures are extremely uncommon on resumes in the United States. As such, many recruiters consider the practice unprofessional and too informal.

    Surveys have shown that hiring managers, recruiters, and human resources professionals commonly list “included a headshot” among their top candidate dealbreakers.

    It’s better to just err on the side of caution.

  • Distracts from your qualifications. Hiring managers spend an average of 7.4 seconds skimming each resume they receive.

    Any time wasted looking at your picture comes at the cost of missing your key skills and work history.

    This is especially harmful on resumes for entry-level positions, which are recommended to take up no more than a single page.

    Adding a picture to the mix could use as much as a fourth of your workable space.

  • Not ATS-friendly. Many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan and filter resumes automatically.

    Images could conflict with such systems built to parse text, resulting in your resume ranking lower or being filtered altogether.

  • Google. If a recruiter is interested in your credentials, they’ll likely conduct a quick online search of you anyway.

    In the process, they’ll see your pictures, rendering it completely unnecessary to include one with your resume.

  • Recruiters won’t forward them. Recruiters will typically remove any pictures from a resume before sending them to an employer.

    This means even if your photo provides any benefit, it’ll only be marginal.

When to Include a Photo on a Resume

While you typically shouldn’t include your picture on a resume, there are a few important exceptions. These are:

  • Entertainment industry. In the entertainment industry, how you look may be considered as part of your qualifications. Jobs in which this is the case include acting, modeling, and dancing.

    However, don’t include your picture directly in your resume, but rather as part of an overall application.

    Entertainers often create a personal website that showcases their portfolio of work. This would be the perfect place to include an image.

  • International applications. Including a picture in your resume is an accepted practice in some countries outside of the United States.

    These include:

    1. South Korea

    2. Member countries in the European Union (EU)

    3. Latin America (e.g., Venezuela, Peru, Brazil), with the exception of Mexico

    4. Southeast Asia (e.g., Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines)

    5. Middle East (e.g., Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Turkey)

  • Anytime through indirect means. Creating a personal website can make you stand-out, whether you’re an experienced industry professional or applying to an internship.

    As employers who click through to your website are likely already interested in you, there’s no need to worry about pictures wasting valuable time as they do on a resume.

    If you’re highly valued in your industry, adding a picture may even help you build a professional brand.

    Including a picture is also a common practice on professional social media platforms. Simply add it there and include a link with your application.

When Not to Include a Photo on a Resume

Other than in the aforementioned exceptional cases, you should not include a photo directly to your resume.

You definitely shouldn’t if:

  1. Your industry isn’t visual or creative. It’s discouraged to add a photo directly to your resume, even for actors, models, and similar professionals.

    However, if you aren’t pursuing these careers, then you absolutely should not include a picture.

  2. You live in certain countries. In addition to the United States, the major nations in which adding a photo to your resume is considered a faux pas are:

    1. India

    2. United Kingdom

    3. Australia

    4. Ireland

    5. Sweden

    6. The Netherlands

Tips For Putting a Photo on Your Resume

If you’ve decided to include a photo on a resume, there are a few guidelines you should keep in mind first. Making a good impression is critical when applying to jobs; a visual impression is even more so.

When selecting a photo, make sure that it’s:

  • Professional. Choose a photo that’s high-resolution, professional-looking, and displays you in an outfit that complements the industry you’re applying to.

    If you lack the funds to obtain a professional headshot, ask a friend who owns a high-quality camera to take a picture of you in a well-lit area.

    Make sure that the backdrop is simple, as not to compete with your face for attention.

    Before submitting your application, look up examples of professional pictures to make sure you haven’t made any glaring mistakes.

    It’s also great to learn how small, tasteful edits using software such as Photoshop, which can make your photo look much more presentable.

  • Relevant. Even if you have a professionally-shot picture of yourself from the past, it may not be a good idea to submit it to an employer.

    It’ll raise questions if you look completely different or a decade older upon initial meeting.

    Also, make sure to include only yourself. Recruiters do not want to see a family photo or a group shot on a resume.

  • Cropped. Your photo should only be a headshot rather than a full-length body shot.

    Crop the picture so that your shoulders are just barely showing.

    Consult online examples of professional headshots to better understand how yours should look.

Where to Include a Picture on a Resume

Where you should add a photo to your resume may depend on the country in which you’re pursuing work.

In South Korea, for example, the photo is typically included in the top left corner of your resume, just under your name.

Before sending your resume, look up relevant examples, and read guidelines to ensure you’re following procedure.

If you live in the United States and don’t work in an industry that values appearances, it’s best to refrain from adding a picture directly to your resume.

If you insist on including a picture with your applications, consider the alternatives:

  • Create a personal website. It’s not uncommon to include a link to your personal website while applying for a job.

    This is a perfectly fine place to upload a picture. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be a headshot.

    For example, many professionals working as writers or software developers include full-length pictures of themselves in workspaces such as coffee shops.

    Just make sure that your photo is tasteful, not too casual, and follows the conventions of your industry.

  • Professional networking platforms. A professional photo is expected on websites such as LinkedIn. Simply link your profile when prompted during an online application or include it on your resume.

  • Attach a business card. If you intend on submitting a physical resume, clipping a business card with your photo on it is a better choice than including it directly in the CV

    This method is especially effective once you’ve already met a potential employer at a networking event. Your picture will help imprint you in their mind, improving your chances of receiving an interview invitation.

When in Doubt, Play It Safe

Including a picture on your resume may be an obvious choice when applying to jobs internationally or in certain industries.

In most cases, however, the practice is unnecessary at best and harmful at worst.

The consensus among hiring managers remains that it often decreases a candidate’s chances of receiving a job.

Instead, consider the many indirect ways to add a personal touch to your application.

We have countless resources here at Zippia to guide you along with this and all other aspects of your job search. Feel free to make use of them, and good luck.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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