Is the use of a photo on a CV a help or a hindrance?

The inclusion of a candidate’s photo on a CV is not a practice which is widely used in the UK unless specifically required by a hirer or recruiter. This is different from some other countries where it is normal practice.

This begs the questions should we be including photos on CV’s? Are there benefits to candidates in including a picture on a CV or does it in fact hamper a candidates job prospects and is there risk to a hirer or recruiter in taking pictures into account in screening candidates?

A recently reported study suggests that a CV which includes a photograph of a candidate can have an impact on a candidates job prospects. Whether the impact is positive or negative depends upon the candidates gender and whether they are considered attractive. Whilst you might think that an attractive candidate is more likely to succeed, the study by the by the Royal Economic Society has found that for pretty female applicants the reverse is true; prettier female applicants who attached a photo to their CV were less successful than less attractive candidate or candidates who did not include a photo. The research also found that for male applicants the position is different, attractive male candidates, whose photo is on a CV were more successful than where no photo was included.

The research concluded that the reason for the difference lay with who screened the CV’s. The research was carried out in Israel where photos on CV’s is customary practice and it was discovered that the staff screening the CV’s were predominantly young, female and single, with jealousy suggested as the reason why attractive female applicants were less successful – surely neither a fair nor objective criteria for screening job applicants.

It is to be noted that a process in which male applicants receive more favourable treatment as compared to female applicants will almost certainly give rise to discrimination issues. However, the situation regarding candidates of the same sex where decisions are made based upon their respective levels of attractiveness is more complex, as a choice between two equal female candidates based upon attractiveness may, in the absence of any other discriminatory grounds, be unlikely to be considered discrimination.

There may in some cases be a reason why a hirer wishes to see a photograph of a candidate, for example, to see if they are well presented, if they portray the right image for the company and thus acceptable to place before clients or customers. However, a picture can also provide a lot more information about a candidate. For example, it may identify their sex, race, religion, approximate age and even a disability and may therefore open up a recruiter or a hirer to a greater risk of a claim.  After all it may be a reasonable assumption for a candidate with the requisite skills and qualifications, but who is rejected at CV stage to see the information evident from a photograph as relevant in the screening process. Recruiters should therefore be cautious in adopting any processing or agreeing to request form clients whereby photos are used as part of a screening process.

Overall there are a number of issues which could rise from the use of photographs in recruitment, discrimination being one such issue and it is unlikely that the practice will become commonplace in the UK. However the use of social and professional networking sites and availability of information, including photos on the internet may see this position change.

If you have any concerns regarding recruitment processes or discrimination. Lawspeed can help. Contact us on 01273 2136236 to discuss further.