Say cheese! Here's all you need to know about including a picture on a CV

“Ahh, look at your face. Isn't it lovely? And that smile… well, you're an absolute sight to behold.”

These are things your mum has probably said to you in the past, or even now. And that's appropriate, isn't it? She loves you, and she loves your face. But outside your home, a professional like you probably won't hear – nor need – similar affirmations when navigating today's working world.

Indeed, most recruiters in the UK would agree that looks hardly matter in job applications. So while including a picture on a CV used to be a fairly regular occurrence, employers in the UK no longer expect candidates to do so.

Why including a picture on a CV isn't common practice anymore

The reason is simple.

What you look like doesn't have anything to do with how well you can perform your new role.

The only exception to this rule would be professionals who are pursuing acting or modelling careers, as how they look is important to these roles.

In fact, thanks to the anti-discrimination laws in the UK, detailed in the Equality Act 2010, some companies outside of the entertainment industry automatically disregard CVs that contain photos in order to avoid potential discrimination allegations from the outset.

The UK is not alone in adopting this practice. If you're applying for a job in any of the following geographical areas, you should not include a picture on your CV / resume:

  • United States

  • Canada

  • Israel

  • Some countries in Africa (check the particular country you're aiming for before adding a photo)

  • India

  • Australia

  • Mexico

When to include a picture on your CV

There are, however, other countries where employers may still expect candidates to include a picture on their CV. These include:

  • Certain member countries within the European Union (EU), such as France and Spain, with a picture on a CV remaining optional in Russia

  • Latin America including Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, and Argentina, with the exception of Mexico

  • Southeast Asia covering the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam

  • The Middle East – especially in Dubai, where a picture on a CV is still common in client-facing roles

Reasons not to include a picture on your CV

This is a tricky one because, even if some countries require a picture on a CV, there are disadvantages in this day and age to having one on there. Apart from ensuring compliance with anti-discrimination laws in the UK and certain countries, you might want to keep your CV picture-free for the following reasons:

To avoid being rejected by ATS

Applicant tracking system software often can't scan anything other than text, so your CV might be automatically rejected before it's seen by anyone. It's best to keep your CV ATS-friendly by including only the crucial information stated in the job advert.

To keep recruiters focused on what matters

With busy recruiters only spending an average of six seconds scanning your CV initially, a photo might distract them, leaving them less time to gauge your qualities and achievements.

To let your profile speak for itself

Applying with a professional CV that ticks all the boxes, includes all relevant details, and excludes everything that isn't necessary will set you off on the right foot to securing an interview. In addition, employers in the UK (and other countries where putting a picture on your CV is illegal) may also expect professionals like you to know about anti-discrimination laws, so applying with a picture on your CV may give them the wrong impression about you.

To maximise CV space

A picture on a CV can take up a lot of space, and with CVs restricted to just one or two pages at the most, you want to use the space you have for your strengths, accomplishments, and qualifications.

Additionally, with practically everyone on social media nowadays, it's highly likely that a potential employer will look you up on social media platforms anyway, to check for red flags, such as inappropriate content or a criminal record. While researching you, they'll see what you look like, so it's unnecessary to put a picture on your CV.

What to do when including a picture on a CV

If you're applying for a job in a country where a picture on a CV is still considered a standard part of the job application process, follow the same guidelines that you would when selecting a photo for your LinkedIn profile.

When deciding which CV image to use, keep the following in mind:

Make it look professional

The selfie you took during last weekend's pub crawl is not suitable for your CV. Opt for a professional-looking photo that will complement your application, rather than damage it. If you're short on funds, or are simply not interested in investing in a professional headshot, ask someone you know who owns a decent camera to take a picture of you in a well-lit area with a simple backdrop that won't compete with your face for attention.

Wear appropriate clothing

Your attire in the photo should reflect the industry you're pursuing. When selecting your wardrobe, think about what you would wear to an interview. If in doubt, dress more conservatively than you would for a regular day at the office. Ensure your hair is neat, there are no stains on your collar, and any accessories are kept to a minimum. Just like a passport photo, don't conceal half of your face with a hat or sunglasses. Unlike a passport photo, you're allowed to smile!

Keep it relevant

Select a current photo of yourself – and only of yourself. Employers won't look kindly upon family photos, group shots, or pictures that are a decade old. Your picture should reflect what you look like now, or interviewers might get a bit of a shock when you walk into the interview room and they have no idea who you are!

Crop for maximum effect

Your photo should be a cropped headshot, rather than a full-length body shot. Aim for your face to take up approximately 60% of the frame. Crop the image from just below the top of your shoulders to just above your head, so that the emphasis is placed on your face.

Where to put your picture on a CV

While some countries expect a picture on a CV, it's wise not to make your picture so big that it takes up too much space, leaving little room for your career journey and achievements. Placing the picture in the top right-hand corner of the CV keeps it out of the way, so it doesn't encroach on your contact details or professional profile.

And what size should the photo be on a CV? Keep it to a size that's small enough to be discreet, but big enough so your face can be seen clearly.

Top tip: To understand the best placement for your photo, check out examples of CVs from the countries you're applying to work in.

What else shouldn't be on a CV?

There are a variety of personal details that are no longer required on a UK CV, such as your full address and your gender.

This also includes your date of birth, and by a process of elimination that means your age, so you can't be discriminated against because of how old you are.

You also can't, by law, be discriminated against because of a disability, should you declare it either on your CV or disclose it during an interview.

In the UK, the recruitment process is supposed to be fair, motivated by equality, and free from unconscious bias, so everyone has an equal chance at landing an interview, and potentially the job.

Stand out with the right CV

Be sure to include the right sort of information, with regards to personal details and a picture on a CV, depending on where in the world you're seeking a position. It's vital you get this right at the first stage, otherwise your application may not progress any further.

Remember that for UK CVs, it's best practice not to include a picture, unless you're a model or an actor. It smacks of unprofessionalism if you do include one when you shouldn't, as it shows that you're not up-to-date with the latest recruitment processes. 

Has it been a while since you last updated your CV? Make sure your application passes muster with today's employers by requesting a free CV review, which will help you on the road to securing a new role.

This article was originally written by Amanda Augustine and has been updated by Elizabeth Openshaw.

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