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Should I put a photograph on a CV?

You have carefully crafted the perfect CV and you wonder, should I put a photograph on a CV?

A photo seems like it would add visual interest and they can be found on many CV templates. However, the simple answer is no, you should not put a photo on a CV (with a couple of exceptions).

Why not put a photograph on a CV?

We live in a highly visual age, where photos are widespread and we are regularly exposed to images of people. With this in mind, you took a great headshot. You are smiling, looking confident and you are wearing your sharpest professional attire. You have seen photos on CVs online and it seems like an obvious choice to include one.

As with all aspects of preparing your application documents, it’s vital to think about the reader (i.e., the employer or recruiter). We need to consider how they will interpret your photo and the specific benefit to securing the job.

The simple fact is that recruiters, HR personnel and hiring managers are all human. Despite their very best intentions and awareness of such issues, putting a photograph on a CV can result in unconscious bias on the part of the reader.

This refers to the unconscious or automated process of making decisions, where our brains make rapid judgements influenced by preconceptions associated with factors such as social background, culture, or personal experience.1

Consider a newspaper or other text-rich document, with one photo on the page. Particularly if it is a person, your eye will be immediately drawn to the image. Before the employer has read a word of your CV, your photo may have unintentionally coloured their judgement. This can be the case regardless of your personal appearance, characteristics, or how good the photo is. Instead, your CV should only focus on the skills, qualifications and expertise relevant to the job.

When should you put a photo on a CV?

There are a couple of exceptions to the above. You should put a photo on a CV or application when the selection process specifically requests you to do so. This is the case with a limited number of professions where personal appearance is a facet of the role. The other exception is where you are applying for positions outside of Ireland, where there may be a convention of including a photograph on a CV. Check with local recruiters if in doubt.

If you are required to put a photo on your CV, follow these key tips:

  • Wear professional attire and ensure you are well groomed.
  • Show head / shoulders or upper body only (unless otherwise specified).
  • Smile and face the camera directly.
  • Ensure a neutral or professional background.
  • Crop the photo neatly, ensure it is clear, and the size fits cleanly into your CV design.
  • Do not use photos that partially or fully include other people or anything distracting (i.e., no personal type photos with alcohol visible, holiday snaps etc.)

For more information or to have your CV reviewed by a professional CV writer, contact The CV Agency at cv@cvagency.ie or call us in Dublin on +35314991466