The article, ‘3 Reasons A Strong Online Photo Prompts Career Gold’ that I came across last week on the ‘Vault Careers’ website, prompted me to revisit the question of whether including a photo within a CV or in the context of internet-based job search, is a legitimate strategy. The question is more complex than it seems.

It is clear that having a professional-looking photo of yourself along with your ‘CV’ can assist you in finding employment and in engaging with others in your professional area as your career progresses.   But let’s look at what the statement means in practice if you choose to agree with, and follow the advice.

A professional-looking photo could be anything from passport-style to a professionally taken portrait with digital enhancement or design elements that go beyond the task of a basic photograph. A CV on the internet could be a traditional CV in some instances but for social media and networking sites such as LinkedIn, a CV must be précised into a series of brief, key-word-based statements about your background, skills and accomplishments, capable of being absorbed in 30 seconds.

There is clearly a potential ‘personal benefit’ from including a photo and a definite benefit if you are photogenic. For most of us the pragmatics of earning a living is the priority and therefore more important than the more fundamental issue, of whether it is OK to judge or be judged by appearances whether it’s via a photograph or in person.

We know about the power of first impressions. We have absorbed ideas about what is facially beautiful or ugly, attractive or unattractive, boring or arresting, common-place or singular. We are perhaps more culturally aware as a society and planet than we have ever been before but we still gravitate in our social and professional relationships, to others who are most like ourselves visually and culturally. Should we trust in our ability to view a photograph uncritically? Or should we anticipate that many, if not most of us, given the opportunity, will permit our conscious and unconscious preferences and prejudices free rein?

Are you obliged to think beyond personal benefit and consider potential consequences for others if having a photograph becomes an expectation or the norm? Would this be reasonable, desirable or equitable? Is there potential for career disadvantage or harm?  There is plenty of evidence that actual career disadvantage and harm based on appearance does occur, and for this reason, in some countries, including a photograph in a job application, or requiring it to be included, is illegal.

But in the digital context many accepted practices and even regulations are set aside and laws and legal remedies either can’t be applied or are difficult to enforce. We behave with far less caution and consideration for micro- and macro-consequences in the digital context than we do in the world of face to face and paper-based communications, perhaps under the illusion of impermanence and even anonymity. Most people would not question the fact that increasingly photos (and even videos) of potential recruits are available on-line alongside their credentials. So the decision, pragmatism (and risk) versus ethics (and macro-consequences) on the photograph question, is a personal one. I don’t think that pragmatism is wrong but not acknowledging the bigger picture is.

It is important to treat the internet with caution. Think carefully about your on-line presence: the quality of the information, how you will maintain it, who has access to it and what information about you can be extracted with or without your permission. You can read the article 3 Reasons A Strong Online Photo Prompts Career Goldhere.


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Advice, Job application, Opinion, Profile, Social media


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