To Picture or Not to Picture – That is the Question

In the article 10 Things You Should NEVER Put on Your CV [INFOGRAPHIC], the job rejection rate is said to be 88% if you include a picture with your resume/CV.  Another article, CV advice: top tips from our experts, also counsels against attaching a picture with a job application.  Both point out – rightly, I believe – that a picture with a job application can lead to discrimination, whether conscious or not, against you based on your appearance, race, sex, etc.

Yet consider: the “conventional wisdom” is that LinkedIn profiles should have pictures attached. A typical assumption is that something is “wrong” if a person doesn’t have a picture with their profile.  In the article 8 Mistakes You Should Never Make On LinkedIn, LinkedIn career expert Nicole Williams is quoted as saying “One of the biggest mistakes I see is no photo… You’re seven times more likely to have your profile viewed if you have one. Like a house that’s on sale, the assumption is that if there’s no photo, something’s wrong.”

Another article, 8 Profile Picture Rules Every Professional Should Follow, seconds this, quoting career coach Barbara Pachter, who said that it is important to always have a picture.  The article also cites a study by The Ladders, a career-search company, that recruiters spend 19% of their time on your profile looking at your picture.

All well and good, you say; have a picture on your LinkedIn profile and don’t include one with an application.

Does Not Compute

These days if you’re applying for a job and are at the they’re-looking-at-you stage, you will be searched for on google, bing, etc.; you will be looked up on Facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn.  And odds are you will be searched for before you are invited for an interview (in fact, an article written for hiring agents recommends this – see point 2).  Which means that the advice to not include a picture with your application is moot – at least from a discrimination standpoint.  Hiring managers and HR will find your picture, and any biases they have will have already been activated before you’re in the door.  Assuming, of course, they don’t bar you from the door.  And assuming they’ve got the right person!

Another Benefit to Pictures Online

Unless you have a name that’s unique to you, there are others.  Likely, many others (e.g., I noted a person who wrote a potentially off-putting article here – I’d have bet money they had a unique-to-America name, but as I mentioned, LinkedIn proved me wrong!).  These people probably have pictures out there as well.  Likewise if someone searches for images associated with your name on google, bing, etc., not only will whatever you have come up, but whatever other people have will come up.  And it’s a near dead-certain bet that if they turn off safe search to see what illicit material might be there, illicit material will come up.  Count on it.  And if they don’t know what you look like, they may make assumptions about you based on pictures of other people.

LinkedIn, facebook, and twitter will be where they look first.  So by having pictures there – especially on LinkedIn, they’ll have an idea of what you look like – and can gloss over the picture of a person sharing your name chugging a beer funnel (or worse).

One Reason to Not Include a Picture on a Resume

One word: space.  Pictures take up space that could be taken up showing accomplishments, ideally quantifiable accomplishments.  And while a picture can communicate your physical presence and professional image, it holds three potential drawbacks:

  1. As stated above, there is the potential for discrimination (of any type).

  2. Some people just aren’t photogenic.  Never mind that 2D pictures tend to add 10-20 pounds to your appearance, some people just do not photograph well (I, alas, think I’m among that grouping!).  Were pictures on resumes to become standard, such people would face the choice of having readers go “Yeeesh!” to their picture, or not including it thus making readers wonder what they’re hiding.

  3. A picture is not dynamic.  It sits there, potentially drawing attention away from your accomplishments.  Which segues to a marriage of social media and your resume…

Video Marketing and Resumes

Some of the “new trends” in recruiting – and in differentiating yourself from the gazillion other candidates also vying for the position you want – are to create video resumes and/or attention-getting videos.

(As a side plug: I did an hour-long interview with a local TV station on the topic of networking in a job search; I also did a radio interview about my job search looking for Mechanical Engineering positions.  With the video in particular, I balanced the risk of having my visual appearance so prominently displayed against the chance to – hopefully! – show off that I am articulate, composed, and have a professional presentation and demeanor.  But anyone who watches that video is going to observe the fact that I’m male, Caucasian, and Jewish.  Obviously I believed the risk worth it… and anyone so biased against whites, males, or Jews is not someone I want to work with or for anyway.)

Follow the Sizzle to the Steak

I often say in my “Cover Letter” section of my blog’s article aggregates that cover letters are nothing more than a marketing document to get people to look at your resume; just as a resume is nothing more than a marketing document to get you an interview.  A snippet-based video, like the one mentioned above, is certainly a glitzy way of also attracting people to look at you in further depth.  But the depth must be there.

So a way to create depth would be to have a video resume online.  My online resume, which has pointers to portfolio pages and articles I’ve written on my blog – just has static pages.  Instead of links to static pages, have the links be to short videos of a presentation on the topic clicked.  Use PowerPoint and other presentation tools to highlight the background and fill in details of the accomplishment.  For example, one of my accomplishments – picked not-quite-randomly – would be:

Led Design for Assembly effort to reduce labor costs in new generation of electro-mechanical capital equipment, saving over $5 million in L&OH within three years of launch and reducing assembly floor area needed over 50%.

This could link to – instead of the static page shown – a 5-10 minute video on the topic, as though you were in an interview and had been asked to talk at length about the subject.  Or, even better, help you show your expertise as an invited speaker somewhere.  And maybe best… a video page with your presentation, and a link to your presentation slides or a one-pager like this one.  That way they have something to see, as well as things they can read and possibly print.

Countering the “O” Word

Apparent age and weight are often taken as a proxy snap-judgment assessment of energy level.  This could be an excellent way to dispel concerns, especially if you are a “seasoned” worker.  A video showing you energetically presenting could excite potential hiring agents, even if you do have some grey hairs.  After all, in most interviews you and your interviewer are both seated and relatively inert.  By using such videos people could see beforehand, their unconscious impression will be replaying the dynamic person they have already watched as you sit there in the room talking with them.

The Three Questions

All interviews boil down to three questions:

  1. Are you able to do the job, and its corollary, are you the best-value candidate?

  2. Will you do the job?

  3. Will you “fit” into the existing team and culture?

No resume, no video, no nothing can substitute for the impressions that you create when you are physically there for an interview.  The first few seconds matter when you meet someone.  But the use of advanced techniques like this can increase the likelihood you will be invited in.

Engaging the Rational Mind

First impressions are critically important, and form within seconds of a meeting.                So if you have anything that might create a bad impression – grey hairs, weight issues, and so on, have that initial “shock item” over and done by letting them see you ahead of time.  And, more importantly, they will see you in a dynamic venue where you show you have energy, drive, and are knowledgeable and articulate.  Then, by the time they meet you face to face, their rational mind has overcome any latent negative emotional response that would have formed when they met you for the first time.

What do you think?


© 2014, David Hunt, PE

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