online photos when you’re job-seeking

A reader writes:

I know more and more employers are looking to online profiles for information on job-seekers. I am curious if you have any information about the “do’s and don’ts” of profile pictures? Is having one helpful? Should I leave the picture spot blank? Is having a friend take one on a regular camera going to hurt my chances, or should I hire a photographer to do a professional shot?

There are so many variables here that it’s hard to give one answer. But in general, I think you should do what you feel comfortable with — post a photo if you feel like it, and if you don’t, then don’t post one and don’t stress about it.

If you do post a photo, all the obvious advice applies — look professional, look happy (but not so happy that you look drunk), wear something appropriate (doesn’t need to be a suit, but it shouldn’t be a bikini), etc. It doesn’t need to be a professionally taken shot.

There are also a couple of other factors you could consider, neither of them savory:

* Are you attractive? Plenty of studies show that attractive people get hired more easily, and also that very overweight people don’t.

* Are you worried about triggering any conscious or unconscious discriminatory biases based on race or age?

And whatever you do, do not include a photo on your resume itself. Yes, people do that, and it freaks me out every time.

{ 19 comments… read them below }

  1. camorra*

    Apparently putting a photo on your CV is a required practice in Europe. Perhaps that's why people persist in doing it here.

  2. Anonymous*

    I recently added a photo to my LinkedIn after receiving feedback from leaders in my field that photos help them feel like they 'know me' better and help them remember my name and qualifications.

    I have noted an increase in photos by others on LinkedIn too, but I took a note from them and took a photo specifically for my profile–rather than uploading a blurry photo from a social occasion or with distracting backgrounds of office files or binders.

  3. Anonymous*

    One other thing to note: you CAN choose privacy settings for photos on linkedin. Uploading a photo doesn't mean you have to let everyone in the whole world see it.

  4. Henning Makholm*

    "Required practice in Europe"? I wonder how it can be that I have a job, then.

    I've never heard anything about photos on CVs being "required" here.

  5. De Minimis*

    I am glad you have warned against photos on resumes–I recently met with someone I had interviewed with in the past who insisted that photos on a resume were a good idea. I didn't feel comfortable with it, but was considering doing it until I checked to see what you had to say about it. I think you are probably way more in touch with what is acceptable than this individual is. As you once said, if you ask ten people for resume advice you are likely to get ten different opinions.

    Thanks so much for your website! I have found it very helpful, both as an employee and as a job seeker.

  6. Anonymous*

    It's not "required" in Europe, but it is done in some countries. However, in other countries — especially countries with a large population of highly skilled migrants — the practice is going out of style. I'm an American working in Holland, and I didn't provide a photo with my CV. I've reviewed the CVs of Americans and Europeans applying for jobs, and about half provide a photo and half don't. I'd be surprised if omitting a photo would prevent you from getting an interview you would have otherwise had.

  7. Clare*

    I agree with Henning, though it might depend on which country in Europe. I haven't seen photos on CVs here in Italy, and it's also frowned on in the UK. Still, that doesn't stop some candidates from including their photos.

  8. Kate Hutchinson*

    I think a professional looking photo for online profiles (LinkedIn, etc.) is a good idea, just because the web really lends itself to visuals. For my photo I found a discount offer for a photo session at Sears and got nice looking digital photos for not too much money.

  9. Danny*

    Actually, I think having a photo on a resume is a good idea, precisely because most people don't do it; if the photo is good (a headshot, you're dressed appropriately, it isn't a social setting, etc.), then it helps the recruiter put a name to a face, and remember you out of the crowd.

    Some recruiters really like it, and some recruiters really hate it – that's going to be the case with whatever practice you might try. But all the ones that are more or less indifferent are more likely to remember you, and in a crowded job market it's important to stand out in a personal way.

  10. Anonymous*

    I say if it's your Facebook or something, have whatever profile picture you want, but set it so that non-friends can't view it (or any of your pictures for that matter). If it's a professional thing like your business card or LinkedIn, I'd say spend the extra money and go to Sears or WalMart and have them take a shot of you in a business suit.

  11. Richard*

    I was looking through some CVs recently and made a note to NOT search for social networking profiles prior to making my candidate choices – People's personal and professional lives can be very different, and their activities on Facebook may not properly reflect how they work.

  12. Anonymous*

    I am curious about Richard's comments about choosing not to look at Facebook profiles.

    Was looking really an option? 99% of Facebook users utilize privacy settings that would prevent you from seeing all but their name and one profile photo. Very few people will let you look through their entire account. So to look at their profiles, you would need to be a Facebook member yourself AND extend them a friend request AND have it accepted (which very few people would be stupid enough to do).

    LinkedIn is different, anyone can see most of your profile even if they don't have an account themselves. But again to see everything, you would need to have an account and be linked to them in some way.

    It seems I hear a lot of comments about online profiles and social networking websites from people who have never even seen what the websites look like or how they work–most of all, they seem to assume that anything a member writes or uploads is available for the entire world to see.

  13. Richard*

    You would be surprised how many people have open profiles! I make it easier by not even checking to see if that's the case :)

  14. Sarah G*

    As a professional photographer, I would just add that the photo should be sharp, not some fuzzy image cropped from a snapshot. If not professional, then it should at least be a flattering headshot in which you look happy (like Alison said). Maybe you have a friend who's an amateur photographer and knows what they're doing — photography's a common hobby these days.

  15. history of love*

    It's not required here in the U.K, not as far as I know. I have had times when they've asked me to bring a photo with me though.

  16. Karen*

    For Facebook, I have a picture of my cat. That way, the only judgment that can be passed is that I may be a crazy cat lady:-D!

    With Facebook, I thought about making myself unsearchable (there is an option for that in settings), but then I decided against it, where having some sort of an online presence is all the rage these days. I also make myself searchable (by name or email) so that someone doesn't confuse me with all the other Jane Smith's on FB. I have a common name, so I figured I'd rather an employer find ME, as opposed to someone else and think the someone else was me!

  17. Anonymous*

    I hadn't thought of going to Sears (or similar) for cheap professional head-shots… excellent idea! I also have my picture on a website for a board I sit on, and having a professional head-shot would be so much nicer than having the cheesy snapshot taken in front of a white wall for background that's up there. Thanks AAM commenters!

  18. Heather R. Huhman*

    I think it's great that you're cognizant of your online image. So many job candidates still do not leverage digital technologies to their advantage, or rather, they ignore this platform entirely.

    Personally, I believe social media platform affects your brand, and I would advise you to pose the question, "Do I really want a prospective employer viewing this?" before updating a new profile picture. I know this may seem like a chore, but it is the price we have to pay for the the excessive mass consumption of Web 2.0 and its impressionable impact on prospective employers.

Comments are closed.