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Ooh she’s hot! Let’s hire her!

April 16, 2009

Seriously, have you ever thought about why companies want you to submit your photo with your application?

Do you think its to award the job to the handsomest or cutest applicant? To deny someone the job if he didn’t look like he would fit in? Or is it to spot people whom they recognize and would rather not have in the company?

Some companies claim they need it to make employee IDs should the applicant get the job. Well, here’s my problem with that idea.

Which one makes more sense to you? To ask the successful candidate for a photo AFTER he’d been offered the job or to ask photos from a hundred applicants and then throw away all but the successful candidate’s?

Furthermore, have you ever noticed how the photo on a CV almost never looks like the actual applicant? Don’t they know that people like to submit photos that don’t look like them?

No, these photos have nothing to do with making IDs because when you get the job, they’ll ask you for 3 more copies for an ID, or have HR take a photo of you with their camera.

The only plausible reason I can think of is they need it to remember who’s who when they shortlist you and call you for another interview. But there’s a problem with that idea too. First, potential hires are usually sorted by scores derived from their interview performance. Even without a photo, you can decide based on their scores. Second, the people who conduct the first interview are often not the same people who conduct the 2nd interview, 3rd interview, etc. Photos have no redeeming value to different batches of people other than to tell them how big your nose is.

Know what I think? I think there is an unspoken but widely practiced tendency to equate appearance with employability. The same you-look-hot technique people use to pick up one night stands at the bar seems to have been quietly adopted by HR. If you think appearance does matter, recall the 10 richest men in Asia. Now tell me, how many of them look hot to you.

And if that doesn’t convince you, recall the number of girls lured into prostitution by handsome men and the number of men lured into financial ruin by pretty, high-maintenance women. Didn’t your mom teach you that beauty is only skin deep?

So if how one looks has no bearing on one’s honesty, integrity, and the ability to bring actual success, then why insist on photos on a CV?

If you know the answer to that, please do tell.

Note: When I was in talent management, we did ask for photos but only after a candidate had accepted our offer and not before. And the photo would go on an actual staff ID because we didn’t have a digital camera then, the cheapskates that we were. Furthermore we recognized that people were picky about their photos so we decided what the hell, let them pick the photo they like. πŸ™‚

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2009 9:26 am

    I’ve never put my photos in the CV. πŸ˜› And I don’t suggest people to do so also unless they are going for jobs in PR. Even sales jobs don need pic as long as you have a proven track record.

    Some companies disqualify applications without photo. Even in job ads, they say “Please submit your CV with recent photo” and that’s the part that disturbs me. To be fair, I think most hiring managers don’t care about photos. I think its usually HR that imposes it, the bureaucrats who want to put a face on the application but end up opening the door to discrimination over appearances. It looks like a small thing but if you think about it, it sets a chilling precedence.

  2. April 16, 2009 11:01 am

    Well, if the HR disqualify people based on the photo, then it’s better not to join such a company. πŸ˜‰

    Also, putting your photo might actually create unnecessary expectations. “Wah, such good looking guy, let’s call him for interview” —> “Crap, this guy looks so different. Perhaps he cheated by not putting his real photo”

    And that guy will fail, definitely, not because he’s not good, but because he didn’t put the latest photo or he somehow ruined the interviewer’s expectation.

    I think this is why the Susan Boyle phenomena hit so many nerves. She represents the underdog – the unappreciated, unfashionable, the unkissed. She gave the unpretty some hope. When our culture is so driven by packaged beauty, we need reminders of what it means to be real time and again.

  3. LC Teh permalink
    April 16, 2009 1:22 pm

    I believe photos in CVs started when someone sat for another person in a pre-selection written test and then for the actual interview the real McCoy showed up and by the gift of his gab he managed to get the job. He got away until they discovered he wasn’t that qualified after all.

    Another reason could be: Have you ever looked in the telephone directory at the number of people who share the same name? Pick a random name like Mohd Ali and you’d probably see at least half a dozen in it. Now imagine the coincidence of having a few candidates that have this name come in for the same job…

    I haven’t had the luck to come across 2 candidates with the same name yet but its not impossible. And yeah, I suppose photos can deter cheating via proxy if anyone is foolish enough to try it these days. Careers could be over if caught red handed.

    But if you believe in the art of Mian Xiang (face reading) then the photo is important. In the days when there’s no way to verify what you put on paper, they know one source that won’t lie – your face. Could that be what HR is doing with our pics… πŸ™‚

  4. LC Teh permalink
    April 16, 2009 9:34 pm

    I gave Susan Boyle two thumbs up.

    So did I. She looks like she’ll fit right into a scene at Hogwarts. πŸ™‚

  5. April 16, 2009 9:51 pm

    I guess the reasons photos are wanted are 1. just for fun, ie. good looking vs ugly, have a pre-judgement, eg he/she looks cunning, demure, (rough superficial facial reading), 3. to see whether they, the management have had seen the applicant somewhere else before. Naturally other scores are important if not more.

    Its hard to escape gross judgementalism in social life but to find it institutionalized in standard employment procedures is mind boggling. It is also illegal in some countries.

  6. April 17, 2009 6:44 am

    I agree what you post. In some countries like Canada, it is actually against the law to have job application forms that require the candidate to fill in their race, religion or provide a picture of themselves or submit a CV with the above requirement. Candidates should be hired base on job experience and not by looks, race or religion.

    Yes, equal opportunity in employment is also a legal requirement in the U.S. and practiced in the UK although I don’t know if its legally required there.

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