Your CV and your photo: match made in heaven?

Working in a recruitment agency, we often receive CVs that shock us in one way or another. The surprises range from garish background colours to outrageously unprofessional photos and candidates never cease to amaze us. When I recounted receiving one such CV to friends recently, they were shocked by something else entirely. It wasn’t the fact that the candidate had added what seemed to be one of their holiday snaps (cocktail in hand) to their CV that shocked them, but rather that they had dared to add a photo at all. Some of us look instinctively to the top right-hand corner as soon as we pick up a CV, expecting to find a photo there, while apparently others are surprised if they find one at all. So what exactly are the benefits of adding a photo to your CV? Do they outweigh the possible risks?

You would have to have been living on another planet not to have noticed the popularity of photos in the media these days. Anyone without a high resolution camera on their mobile phone is in the minority these days and the recent billion dollar sale of the hugely popular app Instagram shows just how valuable image is today. The importance of the visual is nothing new however and is demonstrated by the long standing attention paid to presentation in a business environment. It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise therefore that in the six seconds that it takes recruiters to decide whether your CV is making it into the “maybe” pile, precious time is dedicated to looking for your photo.

So is it right that hiring managers expect a photo as part of the CV? One could argue that making hiring decisions based on a photo is unjust discrimination. If recruiters were looking only for a model type and therefore tossed endless “girl next door” type CVs, then such criticism would of course be fair. Realistically though, it is far more likely that recruiters are looking at a photo to see that a candidate knows how to present themself professionally. If an inappropriate photo from their last fancy dress party is attached, then no, the candidate probably won’t make it. But can you really blame a recruiter for reacting (as anyone would) to an unwise choice of photo made by a candidate?

In France, the standard CV features a photo. If nine out of ten candidates add a photo, the tenth risks becoming forgotten. The visual has a huge effect on what we remember – in other words by leaving your photo off your CV, you may be doing yourself more harm than good! If you plan on adding your latest Facebook profile photo to your CV, then yes (unless perhaps your latest profile picture is of you at a meeting) it’s probably best to give it a miss. If on the other hand you are willing to take five minutes out of your day to take a sensible, professional picture of yourself in business dress, then you will only enhance your application. You don’t have to be the next supermodel to reap the benefits of enabling employers to put a face to a name. A well chosen photo will show you to be a serious, realistic candidate as well as increasing the chances that you will stay in the recruiter’s mind.

So as long as you’re wise with your choice, you’ve got nothing to lose!

Leave a comment


  1. Jane

     /  July 9, 2012

    Your articles fails to mention racial discrimination, one should not be judged on their appearance in order to obtain a job but rather their experience. In the U.S. people almost never put photos on their applications because a photo of someone should not add to their likelihood of obtaining a position.

    • Hi Jane, thanks for your comment. It is always important to take the job market into consideration before making any changes to your CV (photos, job experience etc). If – having considered the sector you’re applying for, country and habits of recruiters – you think that adding your photo will lead to more problems than benefits, then perhaps it isn’t worth it. In most cases however, one would hope that a smart, professional photo would make it easier for the recruiter to identify with you and remember your application. My experience is limited considering the situation in the U.S., so it is down to you to assess the effect your photo would have!

      • In Canada it is also considered a wrong-move to put a photo on your CV. The Resume structure over here leaves off personal information such as date of birth and maritial status too. I would say even in the UK it’s probably not that important to add a photo to your CV and due to racial discrimination it is probably discouraged on a wide-scale to encourage applicants to add photographs. I am British, although now a permanent Canadian resident. Having said this, you are certainly right in the case of France. When I first lived in France (around 5 years ago) I was not placing a photo on my CV and when I showed my CV to a French friend to check it over he said in France the CV must include a photo! So, I guess it really depends on the expectations of the country.

      • Thank you for your comment Emma, I suppose learning these little things about a country is all part of adjusting oneself to the new culture!

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