Should I include a CV photo?

Some experts say that you should never include a CV photo with your job applications, whilst others say this line of reasoning is outdated in today’s digital world. To help you decide, let’s look at the arguments for and against.

“A CV photo shows I’m well-presented.”

As an employee, the way you look is a reflection of your employer’s business. In theory, employers will favour applicants who are well dressed and neatly groomed.

But can you really tell if someone will always be well dressed and neatly presented, just from one CV photo? Personally, I think this is a stretch.

“I’m attractive – with a CV photo, I’m more likely to get an interview.”

It pains me to admit it but honestly, including an attractive CV photo might get you an interview with a few employers, particularly if your qualifications and experience are also up to scratch. There really are a few of those employers out there. Would you want to work for them?

On this point, some people put forward the argument that if the employer has two applicants with similar qualifications and experience – one is attractive, one is unattractive – the attractive applicant is more likely to get an interview. I don’t buy this – not only is the scenario unlikely but most employers would invite both applicants for an interview.

“I want to be judged on my experience/qualifications, not my looks.”

Including an attractive CV photo could send a message that you don’t believe the contents of your CV (qualifications, experience) are good enough alone to get you the job, or that you’re arrogant about your appearance. You can’t be sure how the HR manager reading your CV will perceive the act of including an attractive photo.

“If the employer can see my race/age/disability, they might discriminate.”

Sadly, this is true even though it shouldn’t be. Prospective employers are not allowed to discriminate against you on any ‘protected characteristic‘ – including age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership – but they might.

Leaving off the photo could get you a foot in the door and a chance to prove you’re up to the role – an opportunity you won’t get if it so happens that the person reading your CV is biased.

“The employer can find a photo of me online anyway.”

This is a fair point – for most of us, it’s true that your employer could find a photo by simply searching your name online. You’ll probably have a Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter account with a profile photo for them to stumble across if they go hunting. A lot of employers do check social profiles these days as they are far more telling than a couple of sheets of A4.

However, not every employer goes looking for this type of information – and you’ll be putting your photo in front of them regardless of whether they were going to find it or not.

“My CV photo puts a face to a name.”

In today’s multimedia-driven world, we’re used to visuals. We like to see who is behind the words we’re reading, whether it’s a newspaper column, a magazine article or yes, a CV. Including a photo can help bring to life the picture you’ve painted about yourself on your CV, although this depends on your choice of photo.

“Regardless of my CV photo, I’ll be judged on my experience.”

While some experts will tell you that every CV with a photo will end up in the bin, I know that’s not true. Unless there’s something off-putting about your photo, most employers won’t typically bin your CV without also glancing over your qualifications and experience. Most. 

On the flip side, I have put CVs with photos in the bin, based on the fact that the type of person who includes such a terrible or inappropriate photo is not the type of person I’m looking for. If you’re going to include a photo, choose your photo carefully.

To include a CV photo or not? It’s up to you…

Ultimately, the question of whether you should put a photo on your CV comes down to personal choice. You need to decide whether including a photo would add something positive to your CV and this will depend on the photo itself and the role you’re applying for.

If you’re going to include a CV photo…

…make it recent and professional. Have it taken professionally to put you in the best light if you can. Choose smart-casual clothes, minimal or natural-looking make up and a positive-but-not-too-enthusiastic expression. Whilst you don’t want to bust out a goofy smile, you don’t want to look like someone just stole all your Christmas presents either. Here are some example headshots that hit the right balance:

CV profile photo

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