Should you put a picture on your resume?
Thanks to the wonderful world of social media, one would think that the question of whether or not to include a photograph on your resume would be almost completely inconsequential. Yet, bizarrely, the whole photo-or-no-photo question persists.
In a valiant attempt to address this issue, brilliant minds in the EU created a one-size-fits-all job application format – which generally discourages the use of photos – called the Europass CV. But that hasn’t worked out too well. In Germany, for instance, if you don’t follow the standard German CV format – which typically includes a photo – you’re basically doomed (regardless of anti-discrimination laws), whereas in the Netherlands and Finland, photos are frowned upon. In France, though, job seekers practically insist on being allowed to include photos on their resumes (especially Parisians), while UK standards pay lip service to the notion that photo-less CVs are inherently fairer. Clearly, a consensus isn’t going to be reached on the matter any time soon.
But why not? When access to images of potential recruits are a mouse-click away on Facebook profile pages, why do certain interest groups continue to oppose the practice of putting photos on resumes? As many recruiters will tell you, a photograph humanizes an applicant who would otherwise be limited to a bland list of skills and work history. Is it possible that hiring managers need to see images of all potential applicants in order to make the most thorough and informed decisions possible? Maybe it’s time that we just end the debate – abandon the whole politically correct charade of fair and unbiased hiring practices – and happily offer photographic evidence of our outward appearances rather than anonymously applying and wishing for the best.
The argument for blind auditions
The problem is: not all hiring managers are created equal. Some of them may, in fact, be idiots. And when the person reviewing your resume has a penchant for excluding applicants based on assumptions about age, gender, or ethnicity – attributes likely on display in a clear, well-lit image of yourself – what are you supposed to do?
Without a systemic change in the hiring practices of companies, it’s hard to imagine an easy answer to that question. Fortunately, methods have already been developed to curtail discriminatory hiring practices that privilege bias over ability. And one of those methods was pioneered in the field of classical music.
Back in the 1970’s and ’80’s, in response to accusations of gender-bias in predominantly male symphony orchestras in the US and Europe, musician-applicants were required to audition behind a screen so that they could be judged solely on their ability to play their instruments. Consequently, the percentage of females hired between 1970 and 1993 rose from 6% to 21%; and, in multi-round auditions, use of a screen increased the likelihood of females advancing to the next round by 11 percentage points. According to the study that reported these findings, “during the final round, “blind” auditions increased the likelihood of female musicians being selected by 30%.”
Women didn’t just miraculously learn how to master their instruments back in the 1970’s. When the bias of those doing the hiring was removed, the best candidates were finally discovered.
The next phase of the blind audition
“We’ve scaled the proven blind auditions method from the orchestra stage to the business world.“
That’s the claim behind GapJumpers, a software platform that helps companies find the best employees by having applicants complete a series of job-specific challenges online. Designed by the team at GapJumpers, these challenges ensure that only those individuals able to perform them with a high degree of competency will move onto the next stage of the hiring process. Photos and resumes are irrelevant – which not only removes biases based on age, gender, and ethnicity, as well socioeconomic biases. Whether you graduated from MIT or taught yourself everything you know at home, if you can prove your abilities through the GapJumpers challenges, your chances of getting a job are a lot greater than if your fate rests on the judgement of a potentially biased hiring manager relying on keyword-matching algorithms and photographs.
Challenging the fallibility of hiring managers
According to a 2015 study published by the Harvard Business School entitled Discretion in Hiring, companies that rely on “an online questionnaire comprising a battery of personality, cognitive skills, and job scenario questions” do significantly better at finding talented, committed employees than companies that rely on the judgement of their hiring managers (who are more prone to ignore empirical data in favour of “gut” reactions – i.e. biases).
While job seekers everywhere await that glorious era when discriminatory hiring practices are rare, we can help increase our chances of success by adopting creative strategies that highlight our talents. From building innovative online portfolios or personal websites that display well-honed abilities, to creating unique resumes that show ingenuity and drive, we can find ways to challenge and hopefully overcome potential biases (it also never hurts to have a stellar list of references.)
And if all goes well, the upcoming generation of entrepreneurs will get the memo that proven performance beats a pretty picture any day, and they’ll institute hiring practices that reward skill rather than appearance.