Should candidates include a profile picture in their CVs?

Rachel Hill
Rachel Hill

Recruiting is undeniably a tough job without even considering the inclusion of CV photos.

For most vacancies, there are a huge number of applicants with similar CVs and skill sets. Not only must recruiters wade through CVs to find the best candidate, but must do it within time constraints.

In terms of candidates including a photo, the reaction towards this is generally quite negative; research suggests that candidates who include a photo face an 88% rejection rate. While this may be the case in Ireland/UK/USA, some Nordic and continental European countries expect candidates to include a photo.

So should including a headshot in a CV become more normal? Let’s evaluate both sides:

Yes: Photos make candidates more ‘real’

There is no doubt we live in an increasingly visual world where people in magazines, books etc. are accompanied by a photograph. Every dating site includes photos! Dating and recruitment are obviously two completely different things, but dating sites and other platforms reinforce how pictures allow you to gauge a quick impression of someone, making them more ‘real’ and memorable.

Whether you like photos or not, someone with a photo on their CV will stand out and appear more real. In comparison, the other applicants are just names on paper, numbers. We all know that the candidate market is saturated, so you could see a photo as a clever way of standing out.

Yes: Photos are part of the virtual, cultural shift

Social Media has no doubt become more than a bit of fun – it is an extension of our lives. When an applicant applies, you will likely check their online presence, so them including a photo of themselves in the first place is not extreme behaviour. A savvy applicant will know social media screening is a common practice.

We all google names and as a recruiter, you will more than likely check out a candidate on LinkedIn. LinkedIn profiles without a photo seem suspicious, so why don’t recruiters regard CVs in the same manner? You could see a candidate having a professional photo ready as a way of illustrating their professional demeanour.

No: Photos distract from what is really important

For all its pros, a headshot can be detrimental to a CV as it may distract recruiters from what’s important – skills, experience and competence. A photo within a pile of CVs can throw disarray into a structured hiring process and distract from what is really unique about a candidate.

While favouring a candidate’s aesthetic appeal is frowned upon, it happens and consequently, can lead to less time analysing skills. On the other hand, a CV including an unwarranted photo can be instantly disregarded, as it shows that the candidate failed to understand strict hiring protocols.

No: It introduces bias

Bias is a big problem in recruiting and of course it can exist without photos. You can easily derive someone’s gender and ethnicity from most CVs. Image is part of the criteria that shouldn’t be considered in the recruiting process as it not only introduces bias, but candidates could be trying to gain a competitive advantage.

If a company does demand photos with CVs, clearly image is important to the role. Thus, a candidate who includes photos could be perceived similarly. To avoid disruption, a CV should focus on someone’s skills and experience and both sides should know this from the initial job description.

There is no exact answer to this question, but if you want photos – ask yourself why do you need them? Is image really important to the role?

For more information on this, check out the conversation on Quora

Sign up for your free trial today!

Start your free trial