If a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, does it make sense to include a photo of yourself when you apply for a job?
This issue re-surfaced for me recently during a chat with a fellow who worked in a local restaurant, and had noted an increase in resumés which included photos of the candidate. He found this trend intriguing, as he could remember a previous time when photos on resumés were in vogue, before slipping out of out of fashion for a long stretch.
Myself, I haven’t been in “the biz” quite long enough to remember when photos were common on job applications. Of all the resumés I’ve helped create or reviewed as part of a hiring team, almost none have included photos. (This stands in contrast to much of Europe, where including the applicant’s picture is a standard part of the job search.) I can only assume this mini-revival is due to the desire of job-seekers in an ever-tightening labour market to find any means of getting a leg -- or a face? -- up on the competition.
In Canada, a photo would normally only accompany a job application in cases where physical appearance is essential to the job (e.g. as part of an acting or modeling portfolio). In other cases, it’s a risky move. The cold, hard fact is that nearly all of us judge other people based on their looks. This is no less true for employers, whose personal biases may lead them to dismiss your application based on their subjective reaction to your appearance.
I’m reminded of an advertising design workshop I once took in which we analyzed an ad for a counseling service that included a photo of the counsellor. The workshop leader noted, both wryly and accurately, that the photo made the advertiser look “rather predatory” -- a good example of how a well-intentioned image can inadvertently work against you.
(Curiously, while most of us would probably expect physical attractiveness to work to a candidate’s advantage on the job trail, a recent study suggests the opposite may be true… at least for women. The study found that beautiful women had a greater chance of being passed over for the job -- not because they were perceived as less capable or less intelligent, but because hiring managers, who were predominantly female, saw their attractiveness as a threat.)
If your target employer harbours some prejudice against a group to which you happen to belong -- youth, older workers, Asians, men, twentysomething brunettes with freckles -- they may reject you out of hand before you even have a chance to make your case in a “live” interview. That’s why I’d strongly recommend sticking to words, accompanied by a face-to-face introduction, to make your case. Providing one more unnecessary and arbitrary reason to exclude you won’t move you ahead on the job trail.
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: “An easy task becomes difficult when you do it with reluctance.” (Terence, Roman playwright, 185–159 BC)