Is It Time To Add A Photo To A Resume?


With the widespread use of websites such as LinkedIn and Facebook where people are freely posting photographs of themselves, is it time to start including a headshot on resumes?

It’s common practice for many organizations to search job candidates names after having received their applications. While they may be intending to learn more about what people are saying about a candidate, and pick up more information than what is only included on a résumé, there’s no doubt that they are going to also see one or multiple photographs if they are part of the persons profiles.

This opens up the dialogue and discussion of preferences, biases, subjective opinions on what an organization might find, ‘the right fit’ with their corporate reputation etc. Once again, the ‘beautiful people’ of the world would probably have an advantage over those who are not; and in this case, we’re only talking outward physical attraction, as interviewer and applicant will not have met at this stage.

There are many organizations these days working to become more diverse and inclusive of many cultures and races too. In their efforts to add more minority groups, people who are physically challenged etc., a photo could strengthen an applicants chances of receiving an interview. This is a touchy subject; one that many would rather not be on the leading edge of discussing for fear of coming out wrong on the side of public opinion.

Some would argue that organizations are actually trying to move in the complete opposite direction than identifying an applicant by race, colour, gender, name, height, religion etc. In fact, there are some who upon receiving a résumé, will remove an applicants name and other identifying information before handing it on to those making decisions on whom to interview. By removing these features, the thought is that the most qualified on paper get through on merit alone, and personal biases are taken out of the equation.

Of course once the people come in for an interview, their age, skin colour, accent, mobility, height, gender all become immediately apparent. So any bias or preferences do come into play, the only difference is that the interviewers know they have before them a person whom impressed them solely on qualifications alone. In other words, all that’s really happened is the possibility of declining to interview someone based on subjective prejudices and / or preferences has just moved to another level; the physical introductions. It doesn’t entirely remove them completely from the hiring process.

Photographs one could argue, like any other piece of information provided, can be valuable. Looking at Facebook and LinkedIn, there’s a fundamental difference in the two platforms. On LinkedIn, members are more thoughtful about what they choose to include as their image. Great thought and care is taken to ensuring the headshot (for that is often what the best photographs are) is clear, the clothing worn is in sync with the image the person is striving to achieve. People will also put care into their grooming; hair brushed and neat, posture good and typically a nice smile looking into the camera and out to ones audience.

Facebook on the other hand might show multiple photographs; everything from headshots to bikinis, from birthday parties to backyard barbeques, wine tasting events to micro brewery tours. There could be pictures of someone with their babies, glimpses of their home and the condition of its cleanliness. While we’re at it there could be shots of tattoos, rants about an unfair speeding ticket or face painted in the colours of their favourite sports team. You might not have wanted or expected that a potential employer would look up such things, but if it’s there, it’s there for public viewing.

The point is the photographs and pictures of potential employees are there for the looking in many cases. Including one on a résumé could be helpful or hurt ones chances. It’s not a level playing field, and when it comes down to it, we know it never has been, nor is it likely to be. I applied for a job many years ago in the men’s clothing department in a shop in the town of Fenelon Falls Ontario. Having shopped there often, I observed all the employees were female. When the owner of the store called me to invite me in for an interview, she asked for Kelly. “Speaking” I said, and this caught her off guard. “Oh!”, she said, “I’m sorry, we only hire women and I thought Kelly was a female.” Leaving the discrimination aside for the time being, this wouldn’t have happened had they a picture to see that indeed, I am Kelly – a male!

On the other hand, when I applied to work in Toronto, the employer there was looking for a workforce that looked like the population of people it served. They were actually short on white men at the time, which goes against what you hear often in the media today. A photograph might have enhanced my chances of landing that interview, which I got by the way and was hired based on merit, not only skin colour and gender.

So what’s your opinion? Include or omit photographs? I imagine the less courageous among employers will take to commenting for fear of controversy. On the other hand, this is an excellent opportunity for organizations to state their stand on the subject. So stand up and be counted.

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