One notable challenge in an international career search is how best to create a curriculum vitae (CV) or resume that conforms with local norms. CV formats vary widely from country to country, and if you want your job application to be taken seriously, yours needs to follow the right layout. A frequent question when applying abroad is whether you should provide a photo with your CV, when it is not specified in the job announcement.
Differences in CV styles are based in part on cultural preferences. Increasingly, however, a CV’s contents are also dictated by laws restricting what personal information employers are permitted to ask an applicant. And in this case, photos play a big role. Personal photos potentially reveal a lot about you — gender, age, ethnicity, religion, physical characteristics. In many countries, employers may not be allowed to solicit this information directly.
This leaves international jobseekers in something of a quandary: refuse to include a personal photo on your CV in a country where it’s expected, and you risk having your application disregarded as unserious. Add a headshot in a locale where photos are never provided, and you appear unprofessional or naive.
Here are some general guidelines that will help you decide when to send a photo with your CV:
YES, Include a Photo
- European countries (except Ireland, UK, Netherlands and Sweden)
Employers expect to see a photo included with the CV in these countries. In fact, your application might be ignored without one. In some areas (Germany, for example), companies are not allowed to request a photo in the vacancy announcement due to privacy laws, but they want one nonetheless.
Employers argue that a CV with photo provides a more complete representation of the applicant, and lets them make a connection with the person in a way that’s easier than just scanning words on paper.
NO, Don’t Include a Photo
- United Kingdom
Labor and anti-discrimination laws in these countries prevent employers from requesting a good deal of personal information. As a result, organizations rarely request a photo as part of a job application nor do they expect one, particularly for professional positions. So steer clear of providing a picture or any other details that reveal too much personal data.
If you are like many job seekers, however, you’ll include in your resume a link to your social media profiles or personal website, where photos are recommended. In this case, just make sure that your photo is a professional-looking headshot.
There are not any clear-cut practices for these countries. Vacancy announcements may state if a photo is required. If not and you think a photo strengthens the application — say, for positions in design or sales — then consider including one. Otherwise, err on the side of caution and leave it out.
Another strategy is to omit the photo in the CV but clearly provide links to your professional social media sites or a video CV. This effectively gives the employer the option of easily viewing your photo if they wish to.
Regardless of the country, if you do add a photo to your CV, be sure that it is a businesslike portrait. Photos should be recent, show only the head and shoulders on a neutral background, and feature you in your normal professional attire.
Don’t let the wrong CV format stand in the way of a successful international job search. By adapting your application to the style that the employer is used to seeing – with or without a photo – you are making sure they focus on your skills and experience, rather than question your suitability to work in their country.
Kate Rodriguez is a freelance marketing copywriter based in Munich. She has over 20 years of professional experience in public and private organizations. A former international trade analyst for the U.S. government, she also worked as a university career coach, specializing in international career search. Most recently, she was employed at Experteer as a customer service agent and online marketing manager.