Smile please, this is candidate camera

Many employers now want your photo as well as your CV. That can be good - and bad - for your prospects, says Kate Hilpern
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The Independent Online

The latest dilemma in the world of recruitment is whether or not the trend of including a photograph with a CV is such a good idea. The logic is clear, claims recruitment consultancy, Office Angels: you have the rare opportunity of reflecting a little of your personality as well as ensuring that your CV stands out. "Revealing anything of your character to employers is usually only possible at the CV stage by having a sub-heading of 'Interests'. With a photograph, however, everything from your hairstyle, glasses, jewellery and make up indicates something about you," explains Paul Jacobs, director of communications. "This can seem fantastic because you can convey exactly what you want to."

According to an Institute of Personnel and Development spokeswoman, enclosing a photograph has the bonus of pleasing most human resources departments. "It is not unusual for recruiters to have to interview tens of people in a single day, so it can be invaluable to have a photo attached to the application. The officer might think: 'Ah yes, I remember her now,' whereas they might not do when simply faced with a series of documents. There is even a danger of attributing something to the wrong person if the applicants' faces are only stored in your mind."

She adds: "If you have access to a digital camera and scan your photo on to on-line applications, it will reveal to the employer that you are experienced in the use of the latest technology."

Debra Allcock at the Industrial Society points out that it also prevents the rare, although existent, fraudulent practice of someone turning up to an interview pretending to be someone else.

"It is partly for this reason that increasing numbers of companies actually request photographs with CVs," claims Ms Allcock. But she firmly believes it's a practice that can encourage prejudice. "Even if employers are trying not to be prejudiced - and let's face it, most of us are trying not to be - it is well known within recruitment that first impressions are often the most influential factor. So my advice is that candidates should not comply, even when told they won't get an interview unless they include a photo."

Jacquy Jacobs, who was instrumental in setting up Forties People, an agency that recruits mature secretaries, agrees. "Many older women wouldn't have a hope of getting a look in if they sent in a photo because they're the 'wrong' age," she explains.

It could even be that the recruiter takes a dislike to the fact that you wear bright red lipstick or that you don't wear any lipstick at all. Perhaps he or she can't stand bottle-blonde women or your capped teeth remind him or her of a hated aunt. At least if you have the chance to attend an interview, you can dispel these immediate and irrational assumptions that might have arisen from your photo alone.

Paul Jacobs believes candidates should act with caution for other reasons. "CVs should be simple and concise, revealing only why you are suitable for the job. If you're applying for a job in a creative, media-based company, wild and wacky designs can be in your favour, but otherwise photos can be considered as much a pretentious distraction as brightly coloured paper or calligraphy-style type-faces."

By all means take a photo along to the interview, says Ms Allcock. "The recruiter will probably be thrilled. But follow the rule of thumb that if you're even thinking about adapting the style of your CV from the norm, don't make any decisions until you have asked yourself exactly why you're doing it."