Resume Writing Tips: Is a photograph a must on the Resume?


By Chathurika Jayawardana, Founder, Career Kit – Professional Resumes

Including a photo doesn’t necessarily increase the probability of being called for an interview. It’s best to include one, only if the job advert requests one. In Sri Lanka, companies promoting equal opportunities don’t expect one. Most companies in Australia, USA & UK do not request a photograph due to anti-discrimination laws, hence they tend to ignore the photograph even if it is included.

Exceptional cases can be: recruitment companies requesting for a photo by default. In which case, your only choice is to send your resume with a photo. Alternatively, you can find out if the client company has asked for one before forwarding your resume.

Generally, photographs are requested in job fields where the physical appearance is of significance for the job, namely, customer services, hospitality sector, fashion and beauty industry and so on. For such jobs, the photograph is a vital part of your resume and the screening process.

Should you choose to have a photograph by choice or because it’s requested by the employer, make sure it’s a professionally captured one, inclusive of the attributes mentioned below:

A headshot
Think of the photo on your resume as the logo of your profile, the visual representation of your personal brand, that’ll help you convey your seriousness about wanting to be successful and making a great first impression. A full body picture will make your head look smaller, hence your facial features won’t be vividly visible to help you get noticed and make a lasting impression.

Posture & side
While a well-postured photograph shows confidence, some things to take into consideration when striking the pose are your facial features and your preferred side of the face. Some people are aware of which side of their face is more photogenic. Also, most of us are self- conscious of certain features on the face. In such cases, we’d prefer to make them less prominent in the photograph.

A recent shot
Many of us are always tempted to use a picture taken in our younger days on the CV, when the skin looked better and when the head was fuller with hair, but we cannot ignore the fact that we will have to face the employer with the current self.

Dressed in formal attire
Your attire should suit your profession. Formal/official for corporate fields – saree or shirt & skirt for ladies, shirt & pants or suit for either of the genders. Avoid disturbing prints & graphics, stick to plain. Clothes should be well fitting and non-baggy, in order to look smart and neat. Sunglasses might make you look smart and cool at the same time. But, they don’t go with official attire, nor do they reveal the most important feature of your face. Opt for simple jewellery, because the focal point of your picture should not be your jewellery.

Make up & hair
Make sure you don’t add a picture you’ve taken at a party where you would have worn bold makeup. When taking a photograph, going natural would work best or a light touchup would suffice, given that your intention is to present your most professional self. Any stubborn strands of hair should be tamed with hair gel or spray, for a tidy look. It’s worth making a booking with your professional beautician before you get a picture taken at the studio, to make the best out of your professional photograph.

Practice your smile Practice your smile in front of the mirror before you get the picture taken. Ask a trusted friend if it’s better to show your teeth or keep your lips closed when smiling. Either way, it’s important to portray your positivity and personable nature. Any employer will like to hire a happy individual!

Not an obvious selfie
If having a picture taken is not possible, and a selfie is what you will have to do with, make sure that it’s not an obvious one. Take it against a plain light backdrop, avoiding busy and distracting backgrounds, so as to imitate a professional set up.

Although most of the above mentioned tips are based on common sense, it’s surprising to find that most people do not give importance to many of them. A candidate once sent a selfie in which he was squinting his eyes against the glare of the sun, to include on his CV. He was quite insistent on adding a photo even after it was explained to him that it was not essential for his field and category of employment. His professionally made CV would have been totally redundant if the given picture was used. Another candidate had sent a CV for the post of Brand Manager. In the picture, she was wearing a striking red shirt and dazzling jewellery, against a greenish background, and it wasn’t even Christmas!

If you don’t have an appropriate photograph, not including one will put you in a better position, rather than including it and getting rejected. Bear in mind that a picture on your resume is a professional representation of you, prior to the actual face-to-face interview. Have it only if you think it can spark the enthusiasm to see you in person!

Related: Resume Writing Tips: How long should the Resume be?