Is Putting a Photo on a Resume a Good Idea?
Earlier this week, I received resumes from two different people who are currently searching for employment. One came from a high school senior looking for a part-time job. The other came from a career professional who had been laid off during the employment crisis that followed coronavirus lockdowns in 2020.
Though both resumes included past work history, a nice list of accomplishments, and most of the recommendations for putting together a stellar resume, each also included a headshot (along with some other graphic elements). Though the images are professional and both women are quite striking, seeing their pictures on their resumes made me feel uneasy.
It's hard enough to get your resume in front of a hiring manager when employment rates are at an all-time high, so I worried that these photos would distract readers from carefully reviewing each woman's qualifications or create a hiring bias. But I didn't feel confident making that recommendation without talking to other job search experts.
In the post below, you'll find answers to the question, "should I put my photo on a resume?" from various career experts. If you don't have time to read the entire post, the short answer is no--unless you are applying for a creative job such as a job in performing arts.
Career Experts Answer the Question:
"Should I Put My Photo on My Resume?"
Short Answer: No. Do not put your picture on your resume unless you are a performer, need to showcase your artistic abilities, or are applying for a job outside of the United States where a photo is required.
"Career advisors in the US generally discourage including pictures of yourself on your resume because it provides more ways for you to be discriminated against for your gender, age, skin color, ethnicity, etc. You should only provide information strictly relevant for the job to which you are applying to avoid biases against you.
However, there are three situations in which including a picture of yourself is appropriate, encouraged, or necessary.
First, actors and performers are often required to provide a professional photo to inform casting decisions. Those resumes look very different than all others because they often provide information like weight, height, special accents and skills like juggling or acrobatics. For these professionals, it may actually be encouraged to provide multiple photos (if allowed) to showcase versatility of styles and looks.
Second, people who want to work in the artistic and design industries have the liberty and incentive to create more colorful and unique resumes with graphics because that is a prime opportunity to showcase their creative talents and skills. In this case, it is best to illustrate a self-portrait in your medium and style of choice, i.e. graphic design, watercolor, oil paint, pencil, pastels, etc.
Third, it is standard in many other parts of the world (where resumes are called CVs) to include a headshot along with personal information that would be illegal for US employers to ask for, such as age and marital status. These photos should be as objective as possible without showing much emotion, like a passport photo."
Learn more from Linda in this podcast episode:
Short Answer: Yes and No! Creative resumes should be reserved for more creative jobs, but all candidates should focus on accomplishments and attention-getting content over imagery. Also, remember that fonts, graphics, tables, and images may get lost (or totally rejected) by applicant tracking systems if the resume is submitted online.
"If an individual is applying using typical means — e.g. applying on online job boards or uploading to organizational websites, then it would be a hard no for using a resume with fancy fonts and images. Such graphics, including most tables, are not picked up by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and their bots. Graphics and non standard fonts are either not read or confuse such software systems, and even the most qualified candidates will be passed over if it is a ATS software “reading" their resume.
However, I do recommend individuals go through back channels to apply for jobs — e.g. find the decision maker or connect with an inside team member of the organization and email your resume directly. Only 2%, two percent!! of applicants are offered an interview, so those who want to stand out from the crowd of resumes need to find a more creative means of getting their document in front of the hiring team.
That said, a creative resume must be done well in order to garner the attention of these decision makers. I would much prefer to see a candidate write accomplishment based bullets using the Problem Action Result (PAR) method than to try to get my attention with fluffy content including twirly fonts and pictures.
Normally I reserve more graphic resumes for creative jobs: marketing, public relations, graphic design, interior design, etc. Even so, the resume must still contain quality content with well written, outcome-based, and accomplishment rich bullets.
Think of it like this — it’s like adding too much sugar to a naturally sweet dessert. Keep content, like a good dessert recipe, in just the right proportions!"
Jennifer also recommends a newly launched online resume service that helps individuals locate and get noticed by hiring managers and decision makers. It's called The 2% system.
Learn more from Jennifer in this podcast episode:
Short Answer: No. Unless you are applying for a job in the performing arts or in another country where a picture is expected.
Usually 99% of the time the answer is no, don't put a picture on a resume in the US. The only exception may be in the performing arts industry or some other countries use resumes with photos more commonly. I think it's important to leave pictures and full addresses (stick to city and state) off a resume to avoid bias.
Don't Put a Picture on Your Resume
I want to thank these experienced career coaches for sharing their insights on whether or not it is a good idea to put a picture on a resume. In general, the answer is no because adding a photo can draw the wrong kind of attention to your application, could get your resume rejected by online job search engines, and could lead to discrimination.
A photo is acceptable and required, however, if you are applying for a job as an actor, in the performing arts, or for another position based on your physical appearance and capabilities. Additionally, some foreign countries also require you to submit a picture with your job application. But remember, as Linda cautions, that image should not be a "glamour shot."
If you have other resume questions such as how to list volunteer work on a resume or how to list missionary work on a resume, leave a comment below and I'll be happy to share my thoughts as well as reach out to other industry experts for their advice as well.