Resume Photo: To See, Or Not To See?

When I was a graduate student at the University of Missouri, few topics of discussion generated the ferocity of debate as the question of whether you should attach a photo to your resume. For most readers, this is a completely new idea. It’s rarely mentioned in any books on the subject, and ten bucks says you’ve never had a career counselor tell you to add a resume photo.

For me, there’s no debate at all: you should definitely attach a photo if you’ve got a nice one. But I’ll present both sides of the argument below, though I make no promises about shielding you from my bias (because I’m right and they’re wrong).

First, let’s set some parameters. When I say “photo,” I mean a professionally done headshot. Not a Polaroid, not a snapshot of you on vacation, not even a candid of you in formalwear cropped from the neck up. I’m talking about a professional headshot that you can get done for about $39 from any photographer in your town. If you’re a man, you wear a jacket and tie in the photo. If you don’t have a jacket and tie, borrow one from someone you know for an hour while you get the picture taken (then go buy one, because eventually you’ll need one). If you’re a woman, wear a “smart business suit,” as the magazines call it. If you don’t have one, borrow one, or go buy one and return it the next day after you get your photo taken.

Why would you attach a photo to your resume, anyway? For one, it’s simply a good way for the employer to put a face with a name. Another reason is a simple fact of life: Appearance counts; in fact, it counts a lot. That doesn’t mean you have to be an Adonis or a beauty queen to get a job – let’s face it, if it did, our unemployment rate would be MUCH higher than it is.

No, it just means you have to tend to your appearance when you’re trying to get a job, even if you rarely do at any other time. If you look good, clean and well-groomed, then you’ve automatically made a good first impression in that area. And from an employer’s perspective, there’s something nice about knowing what the person’s going to look like when he/she walks through the door for the interview.

Here’s another, even simpler reason to include a photo: Resumes with photos stand out immediately and are always remembered. 99 percent of people don’t include them, so those who do burn themselves into your future boss’s memory almost instantly.


You can’t address this subject completely and honestly without addressing the subject of physical attractiveness. Someone always mentions that attractive men & women use photos to gain an advantage that’s unmerited, and also debases the job itself by attempting to artificially inject sex appeal into the job criteria. This argument always reminds me of a survey that’s released every so often about what regular people would do in certain ethical situations. The following question or a similar one always seems to come up:

You’re offered a job that you really want. You have yet to accept the job when you’re told that part of the reason you were hired is because of your physical attractiveness. Do you still take the job?

Most people say yes. It’s a rare person who turns down a job because someone thought they were pretty. Or studly. Or whatever.

How would you answer that question? Never mind, I don’t really care. The point is, if you’re like a majority of job-seekers, you don’t care if your looks work to your advantage from time to time, so the fact that this might occur probably shouldn’t deter you from including a photo of yourself when you send out your resume.

Yes, but is it fair? Honestly, questions of “fairness” like these are of almost no interest to me whatsoever. One of the first things I can remember learning from my parents is that life isn’t fair. They were right, and everyone knows it. Is it fair that tall men are promoted to executive positions at a far higher rate than short men are? Of course it’s not. But it still happens, and that really stinks if you’re a short guy. At the same time, you don’t find many tall men sawing off their legs at the knee just to level the playing field, do you?

The playing field isn’t completely level – never has been, never will be. Princes are embraced more often than frogs. Way it goes.

I say, it’s better to confront this slanted playing field up front, and you do that with a photo. If I’m going to lose out on a job to an equally competent woman with great legs and a short skirt, then that’s life – and I’d rather know it up front. The alternative is for me to fly halfway across the country to interview the job, rent a hotel, rent a car, do a fruitless interview, fly back home – and STILL lose the job to my sexy peer. Think about it – if the person making hiring decisions will discard your resume based on your photo, do you really think he/she wouldn’t do the same after seeing your mug in person?

if you think it’ll help you get the job, do it, professional-looking pic. some say that if you’re a woman or an ethnic minority (your’e not white), it encourages others to be filter you out based on bias. i think that if someone’s not going to hire you because you’re black or a woman or Hispanic, then they’re not going to hire you when you show up in person, either. My opinion. Also, there’s bias of looks. But would you take a job on something other than merit? Up to you.

2 thoughts on “Resume Photo: To See, Or Not To See?”

  1. No, I would not. As a young woman, it makes me uncomfortable. It feels predatorial, or at the very least like I’m putting myself in danger. I don’t want to work for someone who’s enough of a jackass that they decided based on my looks.
    And, too, I’m proud. I value my brains more than my looks, and it seems cheap to use prettiness to get a job.

  2. What if you’re an unattractive person? Would it be better not to include a picture then? If you are ugly wouldn’t it be smarter to let your accomplishments persuade them instead? I’d probably take a job based on my looks if I was pretty, but since that isn’t the case I think I won’t ever include a picture but make sure to make the resume and interview outstanding.

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