There’s a lot of advice on what makes a good resume. One topic that is often debated is whether or not you should include a picture on your resume. You might want to add a photo to make it stand out and showcase your personality. However, there are several reasons why it might not be a good idea.

A study revealed that recruiters view resumes for an average of 7.4 seconds. You want to make sure that what they see in those seven seconds tells them that you’re the best candidate.

It might seem like a small part of your resume or cover letter, but it’s something that every job seeker needs to make the right decision on in their job application.

Here are three reasons why you should not include a photo on your resume.

Pictures can cause discrimination in the hiring process

Photos on resumes can be risky because of unconscious bias and discrimination. Because of that risk, many employers in the United States prefer to avoid resumes with photos altogether. It keeps them from being liable for breaking strict anti-discrimination laws.

Even if the company doesn’t have a policy of auto-rejecting resumes with photos, it’s not worth the risk.

A photo may take attention from your qualifications

Adding a photo of yourself on your resume might distract someone from your work experience. If it’s unprofessional, low quality, or just large and busy, they’ll spend a good portion of the 7.4 seconds looking at the photo rather than your skills.

Instead of wasting valuable space with pictures, showcase your relevant skills, experience, education, and achievements. The goal is to show that you’re capable of fulfilling the role’s responsibilities and daily tasks. Recruiters use social media profiles like LinkedIn to screen candidates. If you have a photo there, they’ll see it!

Your photo may make you look unprofessional

Taking a professional headshot is not as simple as snapping a selfie and uploading the photo. As you’ll see from the tips below, you need proper lighting, attire, and a background. If you don’t have the ability to take a professional photo, then it’s better to leave one off.

Even if you feel like your picture is “good enough”, the recruiter might not agree.

And their opinion is the only one that matters.

Are pictures ATS-friendly?

If you’ve researched this topic extensively, you’ve probably heard people say that images are not ATS-friendly. (ATS is short for applicant tracking system. It’s software companies use to manage candidates, documents, and interviews.) They might say that the system can’t read your image and that it might reject your application completely. At the very least, it could cause your resume to be a jumbled mess by the time it reaches the recruiter.

Is that really true?


ATS have come a long way. In the past, our tests showed that ATS couldn’t understand images. This caused the text in the resume to be parsed incorrectly. That made it difficult for the recruiter to understand it.

Some ATS still have this problem. But many don’t. In our tests, popular ATS like JazzHR and Lever handled resumes with photos just fine.

It’s hard to say how every single ATS processes photos. What we do know is that it’s not as bad as it used to be. Still, it’s better to be safe than sorry when writing your resume.

A study by Harvard Business School and Accenture revealed that 90 percent of employers use a system to filter or rank potential middle-skills and high-skills candidates. The failings of these systems led to 88 percent of employers saying that qualified high-skills candidates are vetted out of the process because they do not match the exact criteria established by the job description.

The moral of the story? A photo is the least of your concerns and probably one thing you should not include on your resume. The important thing is to make sure you highlight the right skills. (And make sure you use an ATS-friendly resume builder or ATS-friendly resume template.)

When should you put a headshot on a resume?

There are only a few reasons why you might want to put a photo on your resume:

  1. The employer requests it.
  2. You’re applying for a job in an industry like modeling, acting, or real estate.
  3. Photos are often included on resumes in the country where the job is.
  4. You’re sending your resume directly to the hiring manager after a job interview.

If you are sending your resume directly to someone after an interview, you can include a professional photo. They have already met you in-person (or virtually) and know what you look like. And since you are emailing it directly to a person, you don’t have to worry about an ATS reading it incorrectly.

However, it’s still important to remember that your qualifications and skills should be the focus – not your appearance. You could even just give the person a business card rather than create a new resume with a photo.

Resume picture tips: Best practices for taking a resume or LinkedIn headshot

Follow these best practices to create a perfect resume picture for your application:

  1. Choose a neutral background to avoid distraction
  2. Dress appropriately for the industry you’re applying to
  3. Using natural lighting and avoid harsh shadows or glares
  4. Make eye contact with the camera
  5. Prepare your hair and makeup for the shot
  6. Use a neutral and approachable expression
  7. Avoid digital manipulation of the photo

You might even consider hiring a professional photographer to take your picture. True, that might take more time and money, but the details matter in your job search. A quick selfie on your phone just won’t cut it. A professional picture is worth it. A strong first impression can go a long way in the recruitment process!

Resume picture examples: Do’s and don’ts

If you decide to include a photo, there are certain things you should avoid. Understanding the “don’ts” of resume photos will ensure that you don’t detract from your qualifications during the application process.

Focus on tailoring your resume in a way that aligns with the requirements of the job description. Strike a balance between presenting yourself well and avoiding heavy emphasis on your appearance.

Here are some good examples of a resume picture. Notice the expression, attire, angle, and lighting.

several professional headshots as good examples of a resume picture

Here are some bad examples. You should not include photos like these because they either wouldn’t represent you as a professional or show enough to reveal your positive traits.

several professional headshots as bad examples of a resume picture

Alternatives to a picture on your resume

If you want to show off your personality, a picture isn’t always necessary. It could even be a mistake. Create a resume that showcases your qualifications without relying on images. Focus on highlighting unique skills and experiences that set you apart from others. Incorporate a resume summary that showcases your values and personality. Concentrate on keywords and relevant skills that catch the recruiter’s attention. Instead of relying on a photo, link recruiters to your LinkedIn profile or personal website.

Jobscan’s free resume builder uses ATS-friendly templates. Use a resume optimization tool like Jobscan to make that you get through the initial screening process.

When you scan your resume into Jobscan, you’ll get a report that shows you everything you need to correct on it. The formatting section reveals issues being caused by margins, tables, images, and more.

A screenshot of the formatting section of Jobscan's resume scanner report

By taking advantage of these resources, you can stay ahead in a competitive job market.

Use an ATS-friendly resume template

An ATS-friendly resume template can increase your chances of getting past the initial screening process and landing an interview.

Remember what I explained above about how ATS can’t understand images and graphics? A true ATS-friendly template won’t have any of those. Your skills, work experience, and education will be understood by the system.

web banner with a link to jobscan's ats-friendly resume templates

And even if a company doesn’t use a screening process, a professional resume template makes your application look more polished. A clean design and organized layout will make it easier for the hiring manager to quickly locate the information they need.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of a photo on resume?

A photo on a resume helps recruiters and hiring managers connect a name with a face, but it may cause bias and discrimination. Its inclusion depends on cultural norms and industry standards. Some countries have it as common practice while others recommend against it.

Where should I put my picture in resume?

In 2023, it is generally advised not to include a photo on your resume. But if you choose to do so, place it at the top of the first page. Make sure that the picture is professional and matches the job you are applying for. Be careful not to take up too much space.

How do you take a professional resume picture?

Dress professionally and groom yourself well. Find good lighting and choose a plain background to eliminate distractions. Keep your pose and facial expression natural and avoid any distracting gestures. Consider hiring a professional photographer for high-quality results.

What size should a resume photo be?

Make sure it is a high-quality headshot with a neutral background, around 2×2 inches in size. Remember that photos are not always necessary and should only be included if relevant or requested.

What to wear for a resume photo?

For a resume photo, dress conservatively and professionally. Avoid flashy or distracting clothing. Opt for neutral colors like black, white, or navy blue. Ensure your outfit is clean and wrinkle-free to present a polished appearance. Consider the industry you’re applying to and dress accordingly.

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Sydney Myers

Content Marketing Manager at Jobscan.

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