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Resume photo – good or bad idea? Be prepared for the truth

Amanda Datchens //  0 Comments

Thinking of adding a resume photo? Here’s 3 things that might make you change your mind about whether you really should be adding that headshot.


There is so much conflicting advice out there so, what is the truth?

Is a resume photo the best or the worst thing to get attention from recruiters and hiring managers?

Here are the 3 key questions you should be asking.

To help you with the first question, it helps to put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter.

Here is a little exercise to start things off.

Do recruiters want to see your resume photo?

Imagine you are screening for the role of a Project Manager.

I am going to show you the profile pictures of four applicants.

All you have to do is look at each and think, which one do I feel more positive about?

Which image do I think is the best of the bunch?

Here goes with number 1.

candidate one

What are your first thoughts?

Is this a good or bad picture?

Or do you feel nothing?

Ok, so here is Number two

Again, same thought process

There really isn’t a right or wrong, just whatever you feel.

candidate number 2

Now number three

Same thing again

Good? Bad? Something else?

candidate number 3

And finally, number 4.

third candidate

Got the answer in your head? Good. So, which one then?

Whichever one you chose is really not important.

What is important is the thought process behind it.

In other words, why?

And also.

Why not the others?

We are human beings.

If you put a photo on your resume, it will be judged a human reaction.

“If you put a photo on your resume, it will be judged a human reaction.”

It won’t be based on your hard-earned skills and qualifications, but on a reaction to your face.

Now please don’t get me wrong here.

It is not a question of whether you are attractive or not.

After all, that is in the eye of the beholder so who knows what that is for anyone.

It is not about that at all.

You have worked really hard to get where you are, and you are taking your job search seriously by reading this post, so why introduce a variable which could really throw recruiters and HR off course?

Your resume has one job and one job only.

That is to get you that interview.

The truth is, whether we like it or not, people are judgmental both consciously and subconsciously.

Here is a conscious judgement –

“oh, no he looks just like our last Superintendent and he was a disaster”

And here is a subconscious one –

“There’s just something about them I really don’t like”

This could be because they are reminded of a negative association with someone else such as a past friend, colleague or partner that they are no longer on friendly terms with.

Recruiters are highly aware of fighting unconscious bias when screening applicants and this is why many actually prefer resumes without photos to protect themselves and their employers from allegations of discrimination.  

“Recruiters are highly aware of fighting unconscious bias when screening applicants and this is why many actually prefer resumes without photos.”

By removing photos, recruiters are able to concentrate on candidates’ key skills and experience allowing them to adopt a bias-free recruitment process where they can select those that are the best fit for the role regardless of race, age, weight, gender, attractiveness, or personal style.

So, if you ask a recruiter if they want to see your resume photo, the answer will be no.

 There is another very good reason not to put your photo on your resume and that is ATS.

Do Applicant Tracking Systems want to see your resume photo?

Most Applicant Tracking Systems or ATS really don’t want to see your resume photo because they can’t and won’t read it.

If you submit a highly designed resume template with pictures when you apply online for jobs, ATS may reject your applications simply because they can’t read your resume and parse, that’s the technical term for it, all of your information into the application database.

Now of course you may get lucky.

Depending on the particular system being used, if your resume cannot be parsed, a message may come up with ‘input manually’ to the secretary, assistant, recruiter or personnel assistant or manager.

There may not be that many applicants. Doubtful but possible.

They may take the time to do this.

The problem is – they may not.

And you and I know it is pretty tough out there at the moment so why do this to yourself?

There are so many resume writers out there. Some are good, some not so good, just like any other profession.

Most of them can design a resume for you that looks pretty flash but that is not the point.

The point is that you have to have a resume that is ATS optimised and ATS optimised resumes definitely don’t include photos.

If you don’t know what I am going on about when I mention ATS, here’s an article that tells you all you need to know so that your resume isn’t rejected when you apply for online jobs.

Why do you want to add a resume photo? 

Whenever I work with clients that argue strongly for keeping a photo, invariably it comes down to these factors.

"I want to add some personality so I can stand out from my competition"

Depending on your profession, it can actually be very beneficial to get the edge over others but here’s the thing.

That’s the job of your Social Resume.

A Social Resume isn't a single document like a regular resume. Instead, it refers to a person's online presence. In other words, it's the combination of all your social media accounts - and your activity on them - that will come up if someone Google's your name.

“A Social Resume refers to a person's online presence. In other words, it's the combination of all your social media accounts - and your activity on them - that will come up if someone Google's your name.”

When a recruiter is interested in you, they will most certainly be checking you out online so that is why you should stop thinking about your resume photo and start concentrating on polishing your online presence.

The easiest way to add a resume photo without actually doing it is to provide your LinkedIn url.  Of course, if you are doing that you need to ensure that it will be professional.

Worried your online presence isn't al it should be? Here’s an article on how to perfect your social resume.

'I have to include a resume photo due to my job / where I live"

If you are an actor, model or work in the leisure or entertainment industries, you may still need to add your resume photo.

There are also some countries where it is standard practice to add a photo.

If possible, I would recommend submitting an ATS optimised resume for the main application, and a different version that includes a photo directly to the recruiter or employer.

However, I also realise this is not always possible so let’s look at some guidelines for when you absolutely must use a resume photo and the common mistakes to avoid.

Resume Photo Tips


Don’t use a selfie

You may think this is a silly point to include because no one would - but so many do. I have seen lots of resume photos where it is obvious – even to the point of including a mobile in the actual shot. A professional photographer would be your best bet but if that isn’t in your budget, get someone else to take the shot for you.


Keep it professional

Remember - this photo is for your resume – not Tinder. Wear business or smart casual clothes that you would normally wear to work not an outfit you would choose for a night out.


Keep it simple

Use a plain uncluttered background such as a white wall. Anything in the background adds a variable that can be judged.


Stick to head and shoulders

If you use a full-length image, your face cannot be seen and therefore it loses impact.


No fishing pictures

We see so many pictures of people holding up a fish with a huge grin on their face.

Yes, we know you are proud of your catch, but leave that for Facebook.


No wedding photos

So, you have gone to a wedding. You are dressed up and thinking, oh I look good. You think, yeah, I will use that one on my resume.

But you are wearing a bow tie, not normal wear and a bit weird.

Or you are part of a crowd with someone’s hand on your shoulder.

Don’t be lazy – take a better one.


Nothing potentially controversial

Of course, in life, anything is potentially controversial because we all have things that we love and hate.

With that said, it is always best to avoid shirts with a sporting allegiance, political affiliations, religious preferences or controversial statements.

There’s a place for these things – and your resume is not it.



We don’t want crazy, manic stuff but an approachable expression.

You may think a strong, moody stare at the camera looks impressive, but it can be confronting and produce an equally strong reaction within the readers mind.

So here we are again. Full circle. Back to thinking about human reaction.

So, should you use a resume photo?

The answer is a definite no - unless you absolutely have to.

Recruiters are happier if you don't add one because it enables their process to be untainted by unconscious bias.

ATS don't want you to add one because they don't read recognise them and can actually get in the way of parsing vital information.

Plus, both recruiters and ATS regularly search your social resume for additional information anyway.

I hope you found this useful, especially in terms of your own reactions to those photos earlier.

Cast your mind back to what you thought about each one and why you thought it and keep this in mind when you are choosing your resume photo.

Have a question? Leave me a message in the comment box below.

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About the Author

A career coach, headhunter, Amanda has founded and been involved in developing multiple companies known for innovative HR and recruitment solutions. Originally from London but now in Queensland, Australia, she is the co-founder of Real Life Career Advice

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