Should You Put Pictures on Your Resume? (Spoiler: It Depends!)

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September 30, 2022
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min read

3 key takeaways

  • Why you should keep pictures off your resume in the US
  • Guidelines for professional pictures or headshots online
  • Rare occasions where pictures on resumes might be okay 

Technology has made building your resume much easier—but it has also made it more complicated. As a result, resumes are more elaborate than ever. However, modern design features can often work against you.

Take adding a picture, for example. Unfortunately, they can cause more harm than good—if you’re searching for a job in the US.

Should you put an image on your resume?

The short answer is no; if you live or work in the US, the risk isn’t worth the reward (even if it pairs well with your resume design or helps hiring managers identify you in the interview). 

Adding images to resumes isn’t a new trend, but avoiding it is a current resume trend you should be aware of. 

Your resume is about your skills, work experience, and what you can bring to a role—not how you look. You want a hiring manager’s attention to go straight to your strongest qualities and not just your appearance. 

Why you should leave pictures off your resume 

Navigating the job market requires a fine balance between showcasing personality and maintaining professionalism. Now, you might be thinking, "Why not add a photo to give my resume that personal touch?"

It seems like a straightforward way to stand out, right? But before you crop and resize that poised professional headshot, here are the reasons why leaving it off might just be the best decision for your career aspirations.

Applicant Tracking Systems don’t support pictures

Do you know what an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is? This software streamlines the application process for recruiters and hiring managers. Think of it as a digital filing system.

However, the ATS only parses text. If your resume contains design elements or images, it won’t be able to scan it. Pictures, special graphics, colors, obscure fonts—all of these make it more likely for your resume to scan incorrectly before a real person has a chance to read it.. 

Tips for a resume that can be scanned by the ATS

In today's market, job seekers like you need to understand the nuances of an ATS.

  • Keep formatting simple. No special graphics, colors, or fonts. (Including pictures.) Your resume should be black and white (or you can use simple accent colors). The font should be an easy-to-read one like Helvetica, Times New Roman, or Arial.
  • Incorporate job keywords. Refer to the job posting and identify any resume keywords you can honestly incorporate into your resume. This will help hiring professionals find your content within the ATS when they search for the skills and qualifications they’re looking for. 
  • Submit the right file. In the US, a PDF file is your best bet (unless the job application specifies otherwise). 

Creating an ATS-friendly resume might require a few tweaks, but it drastically increases your chances of getting noticed. If the process feels daunting, Teal has you covered. 

The Teal AI Resume Builder can help you align your resume perfectly with these requirements. 

With Teal, you can:

  • Incorporate the right keywords from any job description by using those identified by the Job Application Tracker and the Resume Builder 
  • Create a resume from one of four templates optimized for ATS scannability 
  • Download your resume as a PDF as many times as you need to
Keywords from a job description
Use Teal to find the right keywords for every application

Pictures take up useful resume space

You only have one to two pages to communicate years of experience; don’t waste it with a picture. 

When building your resume, you need to look at every open spot as hot resume real estate. You’re marketing your skills and experience, and that’s what your resume should reflect. A picture doesn’t communicate your accomplishments or tell hiring managers how you will perform in the potential role. 

Instead of adding a picture, think of how you can better use that space. Have you won any awards? Are you certified in a specific area of expertise? Make use of your resume space by only including examples of why you are the best person for that particular job. 

Pro Tip: The free Teal AI Resume Builder has dedicated sections for Projects, Awards, Certifications, and more so you can highlight your top accomplishments with ease.

Add experience instead of pictures on your resume
Highlight relevant experience on your resume

Images may distract from your qualifications

Recruiters and hiring managers are often inundated with hundreds of resumes for a single position. And that means you have a pretty brief window to capture attention and make a lasting impression.

When you include a photo, there's a significant risk that those crucial seconds are consumed by the visual representation of you rather than the substance of your qualifications.

Regardless of the quality or professionalism of the photo, it's an immediate focal point. This can shift attention away from your skills, experiences, and accomplishments.

Keep the focus on relevant content. Minimize distractions, emphasize your skills, and present a clear narrative of your professional journey.

Pictures encourage unconscious bias

Unconscious bias is the systemic bias humans unconsciously hold. Stereotypes, prejudices, and judgments about certain groups or individuals are examples of unconscious biases people have to work to unlearn.

Everyone has unconscious bias, regardless of their intention. Scientists trace these impulses back to early human ancestors. Fighting for limited resources, early humans developed primal instincts to identify if certain groups or individuals posed a threat. As a developed society, these instincts are no longer necessary; however, people still carry them and have to work to break the cycle. 

Unfortunately, race, gender, and ethnicity can trigger unconscious bias in the recruiting and hiring process. Adding a picture can exacerbate this, and a hiring manager could pass over your resume as a result. 

Reduce the chance of unconscious bias by keeping your picture off your resume.

A picture-free resume aligns better with professional expectations

In the modern job market, it's essential to prioritize content over style. 

While some sectors or countries might be more accepting of photos on resumes, many industries and employers value the omission of personal images.

This approach ensures that potential employers evaluate candidates based on merit and not on visuals.

While online platforms often highlight visual profiles, a professional resume serves a different purpose. It's a concise, focused representation of your career and resume accomplishments.

Keeping your resume photo-free signals to employers that you prioritize professionalism and the content of your resume over personal presentation. 

Maintaining a professional appearance online

Navigating the nuances of job hunting in the digital age comes with its unique set of rules. For instance, while it's a smart choice to go without a resume picture, your online presence tells a different story. 

Your virtual identity, which extends to social media platforms like LinkedIn, is a visual stage where many recruiters and hiring managers get their first glimpse of your professional brand. It's not merely about looking polished; it's about reflecting consistency, reliability, and a grasp of the modern professional landscape across all your social media profiles.

A LinkedIn profile without a professional headshot can come off as incomplete or overlooked, which might result in missed opportunities. Remember, platforms like LinkedIn are crucial junctions for networking, personal branding, and job hunting in today's digital age.

LinkedIn profile picture guidelines

While your resume may be better off without a photo, LinkedIn operates on different principles. Here, your profile picture plays a pivotal role, often serving as one of the first impressions for potential employers, networking opportunities, or collaborators.

A professional photo on LinkedIn helps with conveying trustworthiness and a commitment to your field. Let's dive into how you can strike the perfect balance with your profile picture so your LinkedIn profile stands out.

High-quality image

These days, presenting a grainy, poorly lit photo simply won't cut it. Ensure your LinkedIn image boasts:

  • High resolution
  • Clarity
  • Appropriate lighting

Professional attire

Your LinkedIn attire should mirror your industry’s expectations. While you might not need to wear a three-piece suit, it's crucial to dress consistently with your field.

Think of it as gearing up for an interview or a typical day at the office. Your clothing should communicate:

  • Respect
  • Competence
  • An understanding of your industry's norms

Headshot style

While it might be tempting to use a full-length photo or selfie, headshots work best for LinkedIn. 

Your face should ideally occupy about 60% of the frame, with the photo spanning from the top of your shoulders to just above your head. This style ensures viewers can easily recognize you, fostering a sense of connection and trust.

Natural expression

Your expression should resonate with your industry's tone. While a genuine smile often works wonders across the board, it's essential to consider the roles you're seeking.

A corporate lawyer might opt for a more neutral expression, while a marketing specialist might lean into a cheerful demeanor. The key is authenticity; let your expression reflect your genuine professional persona.

Current photo

Time flies, and your appearance changes in that time. Your LinkedIn photo should be a genuine representation of your current self.

This ensures that if you're meeting a contact or attending an interview, there are no surprises. It's advisable to refresh your photo every one to two years, keeping it relevant and up-to-date.

Pro Tip: If you want to polish your online presence, the free Teal Chrome Extension has a LinkedIn review tool to help. Once you install the extension, just head to your profile page and click on the Teal logo. You’ll see a list of recommendations on how best to optimize your profile, and then you can make updates as needed.

Is there an occasion where it’s okay to add a picture?

There are rare situations where it’s okay to add a picture to your resume. 

While photos on resumes might be not standard practice in the US, there are some countries where this is a generally accepted or even preferred practice.

Always do your research and understand the expectations of the region or country you're applying to during your job search. (And when in doubt, remember that the risk might not be worth the reward.)

Give your resume a boost with Teal

When crafting the best-looking resume, getting an outside opinion is often useful. What if you had an always-ready expert at your fingertips to help with your resume writing?

That’s the purpose of Teal’s AI Resume Builder. It helps you improve your resume and seamlessly create multiple versions customized for each job. It also offers optimized templates, keyword identification, and more to create a document that’s both scannable by the ATS and searchable by a human hiring professional. 

Teal also stores all your job history in one place, ensuring you drop only the most pertinent information into the resume templates you choose.

Get started with Teal’s AI Resume Builder for free today and leverage technology to build your best resume!

Frequently Asked Questions

In which countries is it more acceptable to include a picture on my resume?

Including a picture on your resume is more acceptable in certain European countries, such as Germany or France, where it's often expected as part of the application process. However, always research the specific norms for the country you're applying in, as these expectations can vary widely.

How can including a picture on my resume affect my job application in the US?

In the US, including a picture on your resume can lead to unconscious bias or discrimination and is generally discouraged. Employers are wary of potential discrimination claims and may disregard resumes with photos to avoid any implication of bias in their hiring process.

What should I focus on instead of a picture to make my resume stand out?

Instead of a picture, focus on tailoring your resume to the job description, highlighting relevant skills and experiences, and ensuring a clean, professional layout. Use action verbs and quantifiable achievements to draw attention to your accomplishments and make a strong impression.

Dave Fano

Founder and CEO of Teal, Dave is a serial entrepreneur with 20+ years of experience building products & services to help people leverage technology and achieve more with less.

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