To See or Not To See? Photo-Inclusive Resumes Are the Question

Published on 10/17/2009 by Jimmy Hurff

Categories: Recruiting Software Blog

Tags: discriminationhiring processhiring trendsresumeresumes

This woman's eyes were so scary, they made me shudder. Her toothy rectangle of a smile was frozen under a clearly cosmetically enhanced nose which formed the T-square support for a pair of repulsively bulbous orbs. I think she must have been a Crappie fish in a former life. When I was flipping through a mound of applicants and turned over her resume, I let out an involuntary "Aagh!" and dropped it like it might give me the flu.

Perhaps I should have considered that her choice to adorn the top of her CV with her 4-color head-shot was a declaration that her bold confidence and brazen assertiveness made her worthy of an interview for her fortitude alone. She must have been proud with this mug. And maybe her perspective of the overall relevance of physical beauty is much less shallow and superficial than mine. Kudos to her for that. But her Portraits-R-Us special also revealed one very noticeable factor. She was likely in her mid-to-late 50's.

Unless we were in the acting business, why would a candidate openly advertise their age?

In an era of continuously increasing discriminatory hiring practices, the fact that this candidate would shine a spotlight on her maturity simply has to raise a few eyebrows. Age discrimination charges, according to the EEOC, numbered over 24,000 in 2008, and as the workforce continues to age exponentially, these claims are likely to only increase.

It's possible that the photo-inclusive resume is a much more common practice for a PR role or marketing, and understandably to a certain extent. But to add a 3x5 glossy when applying to a clerical role within the financial services industry seems to serve little purpose. It is very interesting, too, that of the dozen or so photo-inclusive applications I have received in the last year have all been female.

I have to wonder why that is. Are the females simply more aware of the unspoken tendencies within marketing to lean towards what is considered attractive by our society? Or are we simply just better to look at than most men?

Of course her age doesn't matter.

At least I know for certain it truly doesn't matter to me, and I know that according to the EEOC, her age shouldn't matter. But the sad reality is, it will matter to some employers, and this candidate's resume will go quietly into the circular file without her ever knowing why she wasn't considered for a job she may have really been qualified for. It would be a very interesting experiment to recirculate this particular resume sans the photo, and see how many more responses she receives compared to the responses from her first go around.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in recruiting, for me it's only worth three. "Don't do it."


Nanci Lamborn

BrightMove Team Blogger/Writer


Nanci Lamborn is a 20-year veteran of human resources and recruiting. She currently recruits in the Atlanta area for the insurance industry and recently obtained her SPHR designation.

Important Note: This article is not speaking about a specific incident but is trying analyze the realities of using photos in resumes. We do not condone or support interviewing, recruiting or hiring based on age, race or physical appearance.

About the Author, Jimmy Hurff

Jimmy is a seasoned technology executive & entrepreneur noted for leading business transformations. Over his 25+ year career, Jimmy has developed multi-platform expertise in the domains of engineering, data analytics, security, compliance & business transformation. Starting in 1995, Jimmy worked with his best friend, David Webb, to develop one of the world's first Internet job board and resume bank applications. From then to now, Jimmy has been consistently helping his customers to build great teams, using best practices and world-class technology.

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