Why Not to Put a Photo on Your Resume

At Amtec, we review many resumes every week, so we’ve learned what works for job seekers–and what could work against them. One thing that could detract from your resume is a self-portrait. Here’s why not to put a photo on your resume:

Never give the employer more information than they need or initially ask for. Including a photo can be more of a distraction than a help, advises our CEO, Scott Kuethen. Don’t give the resume screener any reason to reject you!

You never know with whom you are being compared. You may be totally handsome or drop-dead gorgeous, but you don’t know anything about your competition or about your future employer’s preferences. What if a cosmetics model is applying for the same job as you? (Hey, it could happen!) Or what if you’re a brunette and the hiring manager prefers blondes? Or what if you’re older than the other applicants…or younger…or whatever! It’s better not to provide a visual comparison, since your looks have nothing to do with your performance on the job.

Help the resume screener to focus on what matters. There’s a good reason that equal opportunity laws exist. The hiring manager and/or HR staff should evaluate you only on your qualifications, experience, and fit for the culture and job–not your looks, age, stature, race, or gender (unless, of course, you are actually applying to be a cosmetics model). The time for an employer to meet you face to face is in your first in-person interview.

Sadly, there are instances where a photo has proven to get a female candidate more interviews. A recent post by Jeff Haden cited a study conducted by a researcher in France. Dr. Kertechian submitted two women’s resumes with equal skills but with two very different photos–one woman wore a low-cut blouse and the other dressed more modestly. Not surprisingly, the more provocatively dressed woman’s photo got her significantly more interviews than the modestly dressed woman’s.

Haden comments, “Maybe a slightly more provocative photo captured the recruiters’ attention better and caused them to look more closely at the candidate’s qualifications and experience. Or maybe norms regarding “professional” clothing have changed. Or maybe all the recruiters were men (and if so, that doesn’t say much for my gender.) Either way, it’s something to think about, whether you’re applying for a job or hiring employees. No matter how hard we try, we all bring certain biases to the process.”

I draw three conclusions from this study: 1) Male candidates, this knowledge won’t benefit you since plunging necklines don’t apply. 2) Female candidates, this is most likely useless information because you would undoubtedly rather earn a job interview based on your merit than on your physical appearance. 3) Employers, when a candidate includes a photo on his or her resume, view it as a distraction from what really matters!

If you ever wondered why not to put a photo on your resume, now you have three reasons to consider. It’s TMI (Too Much Information!), a risk, and a distraction. There are more important things you want the resume screener to focus on, so leave the photo where it belongs…on Facebook, where any hiring manager can check out your latest adventures. But that’s a caution for another post!


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