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Picture-Free Resumes for Success

Updated: Jun 18, 2023

Headshot of a smiling woman for a Social Media photo

Debunking Myths and Maximizing Opportunities

Addressing the Pros and Cons of Resume Photos in the Digital Era

In today's digital age, the question of whether or not to include a photo on a resume continues to spark debates and raise concerns about implicit bias and discrimination. Renowned photographer Steve Whitsitt highlights this dilemma and poses important questions regarding the inclusion of photos on resumes.

Here is a question from renowned photographer Steve Whitsitt

Black & White Headshot of Photographer Steven Whitsitt
Hi Bobbiette, I am continually amazed at the photos that some folks post not only on their personal social media but also on things like LinkedIn, etc. So, when one is creating a resume, do they want to include a photo? What are the pros and cons? Does including a photo with your resume expose you to someone’s implicit bias? Assuming that you decide to include a photo, is it acceptable to use a selfie? In a professional photo, what should one look for?

Hey Steve, this is a great question!

Picture-Free Resumes for Success

Years back, folks used to put pictures on resumes, then with all the anti-discrimination laws, it became a no, no. Now with social media, everyone's picture is all over the place. My rule of thumb is unless you are in a creative or entertainment type of field, leave the picture off the resume.

The Evolution of Resume Photos

In the United States, for example, including a photo on a resume has not been common practice. Traditionally, it has been discouraged to include a photo due to employment discrimination laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Employers often prefer not to see photos to avoid any appearance of bias in hiring.

However, in Europe, it has been more common to include a photograph on a CV, especially in countries like Germany and France. It's often considered part of the standard format for a CV to include a professional headshot. This has been common for many years, although attitudes have been changing, and some European companies now discourage including photos to avoid bias in hiring as well.

Smiling man for a social media photo headshot

Nowadays, the presence of social media platforms has made personal photos readily accessible. Despite this, the general consensus leans towards excluding photos on resumes, especially in industries that don't prioritize appearance as a primary factor in hiring decisions. There is an ongoing global trend towards not including a photo to reduce potential biases in the hiring process.

The picture won't show up in Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) when you upload your resume to apply for jobs on company sites or job boards. These systems are designed to parse and analyze text-based resumes, focusing on the qualifications, skills, and experiences outlined in the document. Therefore, including a photo can be futile as it may not be recognized or displayed properly during the initial screening process. Picture-Free Resumes for Success!

Professional Photos vs. Selfies

Regarding the selfie, it is generally discouraged for professional purposes. Selfies often lack the formal and polished appearance that employers expect in a professional context. However, if you are unable to obtain a professional headshot immediately, it is advisable to use a temporary photo such as a cropped head and shoulder shot until you can arrange for a professional session. This ensures that your resume presents a more polished and suitable image to potential employers.

I tell my clients it's best to get a professional headshot or head and shoulder shot for LinkedIn.

Headshot of a smiling woman for a Social Media photo

Facebook is more relaxed, but if you are looking for a job or have a Facebook Business page, that too should follow the LinkedIn example. Here are a few great choices for your professional social media.

It's all context. If the business is fun, a more "relaxed" pic will do. If you are taking a selfie, it's best to have a light-colored solid background and natural lighting. Clothing and accessories should not be too distracting; however, a bold color can do nicely.

Navigating Social Media

When it comes to social media profiles like LinkedIn, a professional headshot is highly recommended. It helps establish your credibility and showcases your commitment to presenting yourself in a polished and professional manner. A head and shoulder shot with proper lighting, a neutral or light-colored background, and attire appropriate for your industry are ideal. This conveys professionalism and gives potential employers a positive impression of your personal brand.

On the other hand, as stated above, platforms like Facebook tend to have a more relaxed atmosphere. However, if you are actively seeking employment or maintaining a Facebook Business page, it is advisable to align your profile picture with the standards set by LinkedIn. This consistency across professional platforms helps maintain a cohesive and professional online presence.

Smiling headshot of woman for a Social Media Photo

While the inclusion of photos on resumes was once commonplace in certain regions, such as parts of Europe and Asia, the current consensus leans towards excluding them, especially in the United States, to reduce the potential for bias. In some specific industries where appearance is directly relevant to the role, photos may still be included. The potential for bias, as well as the limited compatibility with ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems), are significant considerations in this decision. However, it is essential to cultivate a strong personal brand and leverage professional photos on platforms like LinkedIn to enhance your online presence and leave a positive and lasting impression on potential employers.

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