To photo or not to photo? Whether to include or exclude a picture on your CV

To photo or not to photo? Whether to include or exclude a picture on your CV

A hotly debated topic at the moment is the issue of whether or not candidates should include a photo on their CV.

What are the general rules?

This is largely a cultural and legal issue, dictated by the laws of the country in which you are applying to work, to the culture of the company in which you are applying. For example, in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Netherlands and U.S investment banks, in general, photos on CVs are considered verboten and CVs with them are automatically rejected. Unless you are an actor, a headshot is not considered appropriate CV material!

On the other hand, Spain and other European countries encourage photos on CVs, and it is considered absolutely acceptable to include a professional taken, business-style, tasteful and appropriate photo (no duck-face bathroom selfies!).

What’s a candidate to do?

If in doubt, always ask the recruitment department!

Check with the target company's HR and recruitment department to ensure you are following the company convention. Why? Because if you are taking the time to familiarise yourself with the firm’s culture and preferences, you are going to a long way to [showing that you are a fit] ( In addition, there is no greater shame than using one of ExpressCV’s stylish template, creating a strong CV and having all of your skills and efforts overlooked because you did or not not follow the firm’s photo/photoless policy.

To photo or not to photo: The for and against arguments

There are a variety of reasons why a company is pro or anti photos on CVs. Let’s look at the for and against arguments; although always remember to check with the recruitment department of the company in question first!

The arguments against photos on CVs

  • Using the UK as an example, anti-discrimination is a very serious aspect of employment law. In the same way that you do not have to state your date of birth on your CV in the UK, a photo would be considered a potentiality discriminatory inclusion. Job decisions cannot be made on the basis of sexual orientation, age or race — so including any information pertaining to these is considered a no-no in Ireland and the UK.

  • In other cultures, such as the egalitarian Swedish and Dutch job markets, it is also considered unprofessional to include a photo on your CV and cause for potentially actionable discriminatory decisions — so, it is best to avoid this hot potato entirely and keep everything neutral.

  • This is a similarly held opinion in Canada and the U.S.

  • If you are in the UK and applying for a job in the UK, Canada, U.S, Netherlands, Sweden or another more conservative and anti-discrimination conscious country, keep the pictures for your social media and focus instead on the professional content of your CV and your skills.

  • A study conducted by Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel revealed that recruiters held an unconscious bias — CV pictures of attractive men were more likely to result in a successful applications, whereas CV pictures of attractive women were more likely to end up on the reject pile. Never underestimate the unconscious biases that exist — and keep your CV photo-free to avoid these!

  • If you are not sure, check with the company concerned, but be advised that the safe policy is to leave the photo off the CV ad use the space to show your credentials, skills and experience rather than your photogenic face.

The arguments for photos on CVs

Notwithstanding the cultural and company norms mentioned above (which always prevail!), there are some interesting argument for why some job markets and regions are pro-CV photos. In some other European and Asian countries, CV photos are welcomed because:

  • The old adage of “putting a name to a face” can help you to stand out.

  • It makes your CV more warm and personable.

  • For certain industries and job markets (like acting —- the “headshot”) - this is standard.

  • For others, like veterinary medicine, medicine, or caring professions, it is useful for recruiters to see your face as this can tell them how well you can connect with others.

  • It can be a useful pre-interview tool, to help recognise a candidate and get a sense of who they are before you see them.

What alternatives can I use for cultures and industries where photos on CVs are not appropriate?

Some argue that, in this age of social media, photos on CVs are superfluous as anyone with social media can check your picture picture if you are indexed. In this case, one professionally appropriate and acceptable alternative is to include your LinkedIn profile in your CV or covering letter, or (if you have one) your website and portfolio. If you have a picture there it can be seen, without violating the rules of anti-discrimination or company culture.

Want to learn more about dos and don’ts of CV writing? Check out the other ExpressCV blog posts, updated weekly with more practical tips and guidance.

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