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Topic Tuesday: Job Applications

Mary Ramirez Community Leader Oct 30, 2018

Have you ever came across a job application with a photo requirement? Recently I chatted with a friend about this and we were at odds.

Should submitting a photo be a requirement?

What do you think the photo's purpose is for management?

Can the "wrong" selfie eliminate you as a contender?


I'd love to hear your thoughts!


I know a lot of bar work requires a photograph, and while the reasons can seem obvious it is alarming to think how readily accepted this is.

It's interesting to note that (probably) most of us have a LinkedIn profile, and (probably) most of us have a profile picture on there - mine is the same image I used for my community avatar, for example! I actually found my role through LinkedIn, applying to the job and then reaching out to the contact for the company via LinkedIn messages.

We are very used to presenting that chosen image in a professional way, I feel, but to answer your questions (in my view):

  • No, I'm uncomfortable with the prospect of being *required* to submit a photo for an application; however I feel it is perfectly acceptable to require/request one for HR systems after you've started so that it can be possible to identify you or pass it on to authorities in certain cases (building on fire, gone missing, problems when travelling, etc)
  • I am not able to really answer this, it depends on the industry, the role, and the level (in terms of hierarchy) of the role. I can't think of a good reason for management to require a photograph, unless perhaps you are an actor and they're after a specific look.
  • I think you can tell by now, I don't agree that (unless you're an actor) you should be judged as competent for the role based on your looks or an image you've been requested to submit as part of the application, but I can see how a low quality dark image when you're drunk in the club is probably not as appropriate as a direct headshot taken in regular room lighting while wearing a shirt and tie or other business attire...
Like Linette likes this
Linette Atlassian Team Oct 31, 2018

Whilst I'm sure some that ask do so with the best of intentions, it's certainly encouraging bias, and very early in the process. Studies have show that even the name on an application can cause unconscious bias, and a photo would magnify this effect tenfold.

As @Aaron Williams mentioned, aside from an actor, I can see only one reason for requiring a photo with an employment application: screening based on race, gender, age, disability, etc...

In The United States at least it's illegal to require a photo prior to extending an offer.

Source: "Similarly, employers should not ask for a photograph of an applicant. If needed for identification purposes, a photograph may be obtained after an offer of employment is made and accepted."

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Prohibited Employment Policies/Practices

Kat Marketplace Partner Oct 31, 2018

Some companies in the retail space ask for a photo to help assess brand fit especially when staff are strongly encouraged to wear the clothing brand they will be selling.

I have known of other companies that ask for a photo which many assume means a selfie however they are just looking for an insight into the person and and conversation starter in the interview - did they upload a pic off the internet? Are they with smiling friends and family? Are they showcasing a hobby?

Kat Marketplace Partner Oct 31, 2018

It is easy to suspect negative motives, however many recruiters and hiring managers are people wanting to hire people. They want to be able to recognise who they are meeting and greet them by name.

Conscious and unconscious bias exists - but most of the questionable information collected around recruiting I have seen has been to help efficiency (collecting information that might be needed at later stages as part of the initial application), standardised applications (questions covering what every role in the company needs rather than just the subset relevant to the role being applied for), and management reporting (including information hat is not made visible to the hiring manager).

I would also assume that asking for a photo is not innocuous and could be just to gain some insights as you mentioned, but that could also be my "privilege" showing (Something I've recently recognized does exist in the world.)

Imagine an applicant for a high level electrical engineering position named Pat Smith...As a white 48 year old man working in a technical field, I picture Pat also as a white guy in his mid 40's....I can't help it, but I can recognize my bias based solely on the name and position and do something about it. 

Now imagine that a picture is required with the application before any further screening and the hiring manager gets a photo of Pat, an African American woman with graying hair in an inner city setting.  I'd have to make a conscious effort to ignore race, gender, age, and background when reviewing candidates for the "first cut."

Edit: I want to add that this is a product of the environment where I grew up, not because of any personal beliefs or racism. I know there are stereotypes floating around in my head,  I just choose to ignore them. 


Like Kat likes this

I would personally steer clear or any organization requiring a photo in this way. Weird...

What an interesting topic! I cannot remember coming across a photo requirement during an application before.
I am really intrigued why companies ask of it, especially those looking to discriminate.
I wonder in which countries/cultures this issue exists
Certainly not here in Holland.

In the world of project managers everyone has so many professional social media sites  set-up that requesting a photo would be considered lazy by a hiring manager. 

Like Amanda Kirk likes this


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