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Your resume: photo or no photo?


You’ve perfected the words and formatting of your resume. Now it’s time to decide whether to include a photo.

This is a much-debated question. Some recruiters say no way. Some say definitely.

We’ve been in biz since 2005 and our view is that the answer is a RESOUNDING YES.

In this article we explain why and outline the ‘rules’ around including a photo. We share tips on taking a photo and provide a final thought to ponder.

Why include a photo

  • When recruiters and employers see a well-presented person in a photo with a smile, they’re more motivated to read the resume.
  • Most recruiters and employers will check your online footprint and no doubt find images that are informal and casual. Including a professional-looking photo provides balance.
  • If, by chance, you don’t have a social media footprint, providing a photo gives recruiters and employers a chance to ‘see’ who you are.
  • Providing a photo can give you a competitive edge. If, for example, you’re neck-to-neck with another candidate and your resume has a photo and theirs doesn’t, it could be a tick in your favour.

Rules around your photos are inspired to read the resumes

  • your photo should represent you as if you’re on your way to an interview for the position at hand
  • dress in appropriate attire
  • be well groomed with your hair cut and styled
  • shoot the photo anywhere from the waist up
  • include your chest, shoulders and fabulous smiling face
  • have great posture (people with good posture look more alert)
  • look straight into the camera and SMILE—eye contact is always engaging

What to avoid

  • social snaps, happy snaps and fun selfies (like the one we’ve posted with this article)
  • photos of you in evening attire (even though you look fabulous) or sports shots, say of that mega fish you caught while camping with the boys (even though it’s a huge fish), or casual weekend gear (even though you look trendy)
  • for women, no deep v-neck attire (even if you can pull this off) and for men, no shirts unbuttoned (even if you have an amazing chest)
  • don’t slump since this can make you look lazy
  • don’t look stiff and uncomfortable—be yourself

How to take the photo

  • If you can, have a professional shot taken.
  • If you can’t afford that, arrange for a friend or acquaintance who is good with a camera to help. The world isn’t quite ready for selfies on resumes.

Tips on attire

The key is to dress appropriately for the job you’re applying for. So, if you’re applying for:

  • white collar and professional roles then suit up—it’s better to overdress than underdress and a suit will help you look smart
  • blue collar and/or construction entry level roles then a suit may be over the top—males should wear a nice polo or neat shirt and trousers; females a neat top and pants/skirt or a simple dress
  • a job in a specific field, like sports or recreation, then feel free to wear smart casual with a sports feel; if you’re applying to be in the fashion industry you can get away with a bit more flair.

A final note to ponder

Some candidates say it’s not right that a photo should influence a decision relating to getting picked for that dream job. They say recruitment should be purely merit based. We get that. Many studies published over many decades, however, show that society treats people who look good more favourably. It’s internally wired in us.

Is this fair? Of course not. However, information is knowledge, so why not use it to your advantage? It can’t hurt to include a photo (from our point of view) but it sure can help.

Remember: More than 85% of recruiters and potential employers will check you out on social media anyway.

Want to learn more?

Our Managing Director, Kate Prior, has written a dynamite book to help candidates find meaningful work. It includes valuable information on recruitment, interviews and resumes, including great ideas for the types of photos that will and won’t work. Resume Success Secrets shot to #1 on Amazon in its category within days of being released. You can buy a copy online.

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