The art of creating the perfect, attention-grabbing, professional resume is a difficult one to master.
There are tons of ways to pull it off or mess it up, especially if you’re intent on standing out from your competitors. In fact, more and more applicants are adding photos of themselves to their resumes in an attempt to do just that. It’s easy to do thanks to the availability of resume templates on sites like Canva and Etsy, which offer aesthetically pleasing options with a space saved for a headshot.
“But, I would encourage folks not to fall into that trap,” advises Angela Copeland, a Memphis-based career coach who operates Copeland Coaching.
A resume, in most cases, is the first chance recruiters and hiring managers have to consider you for a job. You may think adding a photo could make your resume more personable and unique. It instead could open an unnecessarily risky can of worms.
A career coach, resume writer, and a human resources manager all tell MONEY that you should never put a photo of yourself on your resume. Here’s why.
Your resume will stand out — in a bad way
Historically, photos aren’t a common component of resumes, so adding one may create additional risk, says Peter Yang, the CEO of ResumeGo, a resume writing service.
“Though it’s more popular these days,” Yang says, “it may stand out in a bad way just because people aren’t used to it.”
That lack of adherence to traditional hiring procedures may inadvertently portray you as inexperienced and unprofessional, says Copeland, the career coach in Memphis.
“It’s something someone who may not know any different would do,” she adds.
To be clear, providing a photo of yourself is necessary for certain creative fields and for some gigs outside of the U.S. Actors, for example, often are required to provide professional headshots with their resumes at an audition and on their personal websites. And including a photo with your CV in Europe is relatively commonplace. But, the majority of industries in the U.S. don’t have the same requirements.
“From a practical standpoint, it just doesn’t seem relevant,” says Nicole Belyna, a member of the talent acquisition expertise panel at the Society of Human Resource Management.
It could introduce unconscious bias
Workplace discrimination laws in the U.S. make it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, or disability, at any point in the employment process. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces workplace discrimination laws, advises employers to “not ask for a photograph of an applicant,” unless needed for “identification purposes” after “an offer of employment is made and accepted.”
Whether you intend to or not, “you’re totally introducing unconscious bias into the whole mix” by adding a photo to your resume, Copeland says. Unconscious biases are the deeply ingrained stereotypes people may unintentionally act upon socially, in the workplace, and in the hiring process. And some HR managers worry they could be accused of making these kinds of judgments early on in their selection process, says Belyna, of the Society of Human Resource Management.
“They get really anxious when they open a resume and somebody’s face is in front of them,” she says.
Even if you think a photo of yourself wouldn’t deter someone from hiring you based on their unconscious biases, it’s best to prevent any kind of discrimination whenever possible, experts say.
“Whether we like it or not, there is discrimination and ageism in the workforce,” Yang says. “It can be too risky to include your photo on your resume.”
It’s distracting and takes up valuable space
These photos also take up space and distract people from actually reading your resume.
That physical space could instead be used to emphasize other accomplishments or career highlights, says Yang. “People may focus on [the photo] rather than your experience and credentials.”
It can also take the reader’s focus away from more important details. A recent study from Ladders found that recruiters spend just over seven seconds reviewing a single resume on average. In that time, HR managers tend to look for specific keywords, experiences, companies, and educational backgrounds, Belyna says.
“You want the employer to pay attention to your accomplishments,” adds Copeland. “So you don’t want to waste it on a photo.”
…but ALWAYS use a profile image on LinkedIn
While you should avoid a photo on your resume, profile images are a central component in LinkedIn profiles. Experts say having a photo of yourself on the platform is crucial, as it completes your profile.
“If you’re the one person who doesn’t have a photo, it’s really impermissible in the realm of LinkedIn,” Copeland says.
LinkedIn also serves as a chance to share your photo with recruiters if you’re really itching to. Experts say you can include a link to your profile on your resume, if desired.
But just “make sure it’s a professional photo [on LinkedIn] as opposed to a bathroom selfie,” he says.
This post has been updated with information from a more recent Ladders study.