Should I include a photo on my resume in Australia?


A fairly common question we are asked at O'Byrne Executive is ‘should I put my photo on my resume?’ If you are applying for roles in the Australian job market, the answer is going to be no 99.98% of the time. So yes, that snazzy headshot you have been waiting to show off isn’t going to enhance your chances of landing a role, in fact it will likely do the opposite. There are several reasons for this, which I will outline below:

It can be used to discriminate 

This is one of the key reasons recruiters and employers do not want photos included on resumes. To ensure they are not being biased or discriminating based on race, age, gender or other factors, they will discard resumes with a photo. You also don’t want to come off as if you are trying to harness any of these factors to land an interview, rather than your skills and experience. In many organisations, HR departments have policies in place that prohibit resumes with pictures in them from being considered.

I was speaking about this topic with a client the other day who raised and interesting point – ‘But everyone has biases, you may as well just let them see your photo instead of wasting time in an interview that won’t go anywhere.’ I appreciated this, as in some cases, this could be true, however from what we have seen, such discrimination is far less common than it once was. While there is sometimes discrimination based on the university you went to (certain Lawyers will understand this well), or the perceived calibre of companies you have previously worked for, you should be less worried about the potential discrimination factors previously mentioned, and more about what you can bring to the table skills wise.

I have had a couple of female clients who said that leveraging their attractiveness for customers service / receptionist roles would help them stand out. While this could possibly be true in some cases, including a photo still sends the wrong message to a hiring manager. Even for roles where factors like attractiveness may be a factor, you don’t want to lead with it. You also don’t want to encourage toxic managers to hire you for superficial reasons, as that likely won’t end well.

Poor Applicant Tracking System Compatibility

Photos are confusing to many applicant tracking systems (ATS), as these systems are designed to analyse text. This often results in them assuming there is a formatting error with your resume, and will downgrade the score given to it. This could lead to a recruiter or employer overlooking your job application, even if you were a great candidate for the role. While you may get away with it if you bypass an ATS by emailing a recruiter directly or printing out your resume, issues around biases will still apply.

A client I worked with a little while ago made a good point on this topic which was – Tom, if I include a link to my LinkedIn profile, won’t they see what I look like anyway? This is a good point, however it does not negate the fact that an ATS still does not like photos and your resume quality will suffer because of it. As LinkedIn profiles become more prevalent among professionals, this may change in the future. I say this, because LinkedIn itself may make resumes obsolete.

It’s Unnecessary and Unprofessional

As mentioned in the first point, having your photo (even a professional headshot) is unprofessional and sends a bad message to employers. Not only that, but it takes up valuable space (usually in the contact section), which means potentially less room for more important details. One of the hardest aspects about writing resumes for most people is ensuring all your relevant skills, qualifications and experience fit within two-four pages (two-three is optimal for most professionals).

Always remember that the purpose of a resume should be to address your experience and skills in a clear, concise and professional manner. It does not take long for an experienced recruiter to spot errors or poorly structured content, so don’t give them a reason to dismiss you with an unnecessary photo. At the end of the day, it is about showing as much value as possible, and allowing your strengths to shine through and be striking and obvious to employers and recruiters.

If you need any more convincing, a top recruiter at Facebook famously posted on the popular social question-and-answer website Quora that – ‘We just want to know about things that pertain to your work history. So please take your photo off your resume. If we want to see what you look like, recruiters can just stalk you on LinkedIn.’

Exceptions to the Rule

As with all rules, there are always exceptions. We have some clients who are models and actors, where of course your appearance matters. We have specialised templates tailored for these kinds of professionals. Furthermore, if an employer for whatever reason requests photo, of course you will need to add it in, however this is very rare.

When is a Professional Photo Appropriate?

As mentioned by the recruiter from Facebook, if someone wants to know what you look like, they will find you on social media. On social media platforms (particularly LinkedIn), a photo can help give people an idea of who you are and what you are about.

When selecting a professional headshot for your LinkedIn profile, there a couple of dos and don’ts that we recommend you take into consideration:

  • Do: Select a professional-looking photo, preferably a front-facing headshot with a solid, light background.
  • Do: Make sure the picture is well-shot with a high resolution and is not blurry or out of focus.
  • Do: Ensure the photo fits in with, and complements, the overall professional impression you want to portray.
  • Don’t: Upload a selfie or a posed, party or group photo taken down at a pub, nightclub or beach.
  • Don’t: Select an avatar, cartoon or funny photo. It is better to go the clean approach.
  • Don’t: Use an old or altered photo. Choose a current one that is representative of you today.

That’s about it for using photos in resumes. Until times change and LinkedIn renders resumes irrelevant, it is best to save your professional headshots for social media for now.

Tom O’Byrne – Owner/Founder of O'Byrne Executive

Tom O’Byrne
Owner and Founder of O’Byrne Executive

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