You see it every once in awhile. A job posting will ask for a recent photo to accompany your cover letter, résumé, and salary history. They’ll say they need it for “security reasons.”
The problem with submitting a photo is that it can lend itself to age and race discrimination. While this may be rare, the more common problem with sending a picture of yourself is that recruiters and HR managers are human and will make snap judgments about you based on your appearance. The internal psychology at work here is seemingly endless. While your photo may be perfectly professional, you could remind them of a teacher they hated, their “ex,” or a kid who beat them up once. The bottom line: you’re rolling the dice when you include a photo.
One question many job applicants naturally ask is, can employers legally require a photo as part of a job application? According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, asking for a photograph before you’re offered a job falls under its Prohibited Employment Policies/Practices: “Employers should not ask for a photograph of an applicant. If needed for identification purposes, a photograph may be obtained after an offer of employment is made and accepted.”
But there are other factors at play when you send in a photo—especially for women. The Social Science Research Network recently found that female job applicants who sent in a resume without a photo had far more callbacks than attractive women who included a photo. Their conclusion: female jealousy of attractive women in the workplace. Conversely, handsome guys who included a photo received more callbacks than men who included no photo. A Forbes article noted that the nation’s HR departments are comprised of over 70% women. So GQ guys, try your luck; ladies, it's a toss up.
Most reputable (and legally savvy) employers will not ask for your photograph. They know that if you’re rejected, you could file a discrimination lawsuit (especially if you’re a member of an ethnic minority or older applicant). To avoid the risk of litigation, they’ll simply toss out your résumé without looking at it. And there goes your chance for an interview.
One final thought. Yes, an HR manager or recruiter can easily look up your Facebook or LinkedIn profile and see your photo(s). But only after they’ve read your cover letter and scanned your resume. Attach a photo to your job application and people, being visually inclined, will look at your picture first. It’s human nature. Which means, while they’re reading your cover letter and your resume, the photo will be there, front and center in their minds. Incidentally, do clean up your Facebook and LinkedIn photos to look as professional as possible.
Include a photo with your job application? Not a good idea—unless it’s a headshot for a movie audition.
Image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net