When is it beneficial to include a picture on a CV?
Updated 16 March 2023
When you're writing your curriculum vitae (CV), it's likely that you're wondering how to make a great first impression on potential employers. Your CV is very often your first contact with a prospective employer, so including a photo may seem like a way to make a good impression, but it's not always advisable. Learning more about when and when not to include a photo with your application can help you create a functional and professional CV that impresses the hiring team.
In this article, we explore when to put a picture on a CV, discuss when to avoid it, explain which industries typically prefer a picture to be included and offer tips for taking a professional photograph if you do choose to include one.
When is it beneficial to put a picture on a CV?
Alongside a summary of skills, academic qualifications and experience, some candidates include a colour picture on a CV when applying for roles. There are countries where this is common practice, such as Spain, France and many areas in Asia and Latin America. But in the UK and many other countries like the US and Canada, it's typically not advisable to use a photo on your CV. There is an exception for roles like acting and modelling. If you find a job description that requests a photo with your application, consider whether your appearance is relevant to the role.
Why is it advisable not to include a photo on your CV?
A CV provides a summary of your qualifications, experience, work history and skills. It shows your potential to employers and helps determine whether a hiring manager believes you're suitable for the job you're applying for. In most careers, your appearance has no relevance to your ability to do a job well, so is not relevant to your application. Here are some reasons not to include a photo on your CV:
Avoids conflict with anti-discrimination laws
There are strict rules regarding discrimination in the workplace. It's illegal to discriminate against someone based on how they look. The anti-discrimination laws in Britain protect job candidates from bias because of their age, race, gender or any other feature that is recognisable from a photograph. Most hiring managers prefer you to leave your photo off your CV to avoid any possible grounds for a discrimination claim.
Increases the chances of recruiters reviewing your CV
Placing your photo on your CV may show that you're not familiar with employment law. What you look like has no impact on your ability to do a job. Some companies may automatically discard any CVs that include a photo to avoid possible allegations of discrimination. Some recruiters remove any information from your CV before giving it to hiring managers for their assessment, to avoid any accusations of discrimination, so it's beneficial to leave out anything that might identify your age or race.
Avoids an empty space
If you do include a photo, recruiters sometimes remove it from your CV if they shortlist you and forward it to a prospective employer. This can leave your CV with an empty or blacked-out space which you might have used to include more relevant details about your experience. Some recruiters also use software to filter out any CVs with photos, so leaving a photo off your CV can increase the likelihood of it being shortlisted for a more in-depth review.
Makes a good first impression
Sending a professional CV is an excellent opportunity to make a great first impression on a potential employer. There are other opportunities to show hiring managers more about your personality, such as during an interview. It may be easier to make a good first impression at an interview in person, rather than from your photograph on a piece of paper or a digital file.
Provides more space
It's advisable to limit your CV to one page or, at the most, two sides of A4 paper. It can take a lot of editing to fit all your relevant information onto one or two pages while ensuring it looks clean, uncluttered and readable. If you then add a photo, it can use up as much as 25% of your space. It's more effective to use that space to expand on your experience and skills to demonstrate why you're a great candidate for the job you're applying for.
Your professional profile is online
If an employer is considering inviting you for an interview, the chances are they may search for your profile online. They may check for red flags, like a criminal record, inappropriate social media content, or criticism of a previous employer or colleagues. There's a good chance they may see your photo on your social media or on your profile page anyway, so adding it to your CV is unnecessary. If you're in a field where a personal website is considered essential, such as a writer, actor, television personality or celebrity, you can always add a link to your website on your CV.
When to include a photo on your CV
There are some industries in which employers expect you to include a professional headshot of yourself on your CV. Those industries include entertainment and beauty, for roles like actors, models and makeup artists. The way you look is important if you're applying for a job in these sectors. Employers and agents therefore expect you to send them a photo with your application and typically request it in the job description.
Related: How to become a model
What to think about when putting a photo on your CV
If you're applying for a job as an actor or a model, it's advisable to attach a picture taken by a professional photographer, rather than using a selfie. You can follow these tips to provide the best profile picture:
Get a professional shot
It's important to get a professional picture for your CV. Your photo is an important part of your personal brand. Portrait photographers usually take a selection of landscape/horizontal and portrait/upright shots for you to choose from. Portrait pictures are easier to format for the space on your CV. The industry standard size for an actor's headshot is 8"x10" which you can re-size to a smaller image to fit on your CV.
Agencies and casting directors generally prefer colour pictures rather than black and white, although some people still use monochrome photos. You may consider providing both. If you change your appearance, for example, by dying your hair or getting a prominent tattoo, it's advisable to get a fresh portrait picture taken so that your picture portrays your current look.
Wear a plain top
A plain top in a solid colour or shade is the best choice to focus attention on your face. Patterns such as stripes may create optical effects on a screen or in a photo. Some employers or agencies may convert photos to black and white, so it may be best to wear clothes with plenty of contrast. A common requirement for acting headshots is to wear a plain black t-shirt. Review the job description to see if the hiring manager has outlined any details about what to wear.
Visit the hair salon
If you're applying for modelling jobs, your hair is likely a consideration. For a photo that's professional and focuses more on your natural looks, choose a neutral hairstyle to avoid distracting the viewer. Getting a professional haircut and ensuring you have washed and styled your hair can help you feel more confident. In a similar way to a job interview, the aim is to look neat and professional. If you're including a photo as an application for an acting role, consider a hairstyle that suits the character you're interested in playing.
Consider the angle
To help the photographer take a more flattering picture of you, it's important to think about the angle of the camera. Choose the right height and try to ensure your face is even with or just below the camera lens, which is the best way to capture a more flattering angle. If you wear glasses, it's useful to get some photographs with and without them on to provide more variety.
A genuine smile helps you to look more approachable and friendly, which can increase your chances of success. Try to smile into the camera and ensure your smile reaches your eyes to make it feel more natural. You can benefit from appearing friendly and easy to work with, in the same way that you might strive to appear approachable at an interview.
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