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I came across an advertisement of an academic position (in Europe) that states explicitly:

Application package should include:
 (1) a complete curriculum vitae (with a photo), (...)

I have never seen a photo on CV to be a requirement (although the fact that is included in parenthesis might implicitly mean that is optional?)

In any case I find it mildly strange.

Assuming that its is indeed a requirement, what is the rationale behind this? What are the benefits (for the person advertising the position) of doing so?

I am not asking what are the benefits for the applicant (for which there is a related question) but I am asking from the point of view of the person receiving the applications. Even though the position is located in Europe (Switzerland), feel free to answer for your own region!

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – eykanal Nov 3 '17 at 19:51
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I have never seen a photo on CV to be a requirement (although the fact that is included in parenthesis might implicitly mean that is optional?)

My interaction with colleagues in Europe (especially Germany) seems to suggest that this is a relatively common requirement, or at least a default expectation for what is a "complete" CV that they may feel the need to specify due to an international applicant base.

Assuming that its is indeed a requirement, what is the rationale behind this? What are the benefits (for the person advertising the position) of doing so?

I imagine many of the rationales boil down to "This is how it's done". Every justification I've ever seen is about making a "personal connection" and evaluating some soft factors based on the photo.

Whether this is a good idea or not is left as an exercise to the reader.

29

This is not uncommon when you have a large pool of applicants, because makes it easier to identify you vs other candidates. It is likely that this approach has been adopted for all recruitment at this institution, in a one size fits all strategy rather than specifically for this post.

Some people remember faces better than names, so having both available serves both. For example: If I have interviewed 8 people in one day and another 8 on the previous day and am discussing you with other members of the hiring committee who may have seen you in a different order then we don't have a conversation that starts "Was PsySp the guy with the pink hair?", we would just refer to the photo, then we would be on the same page.

Source: Several years ago I was involved in mass recruitment for entry level IT roles.

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    Yes, that's what I understand. In my location, almost everything requires photo. Your ID card, your diploma, your job application, your CV , all have photo on them, Basically, photos are for ID purpose. I used to go to photo store to take a photo and then ask for a couple of dozen photos because I need them everywhere. – scaaahu Nov 3 '17 at 13:15
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    This does not read as a description of a competent interviewing process. – David Aldridge Nov 3 '17 at 15:01
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    I find this justification hard to believe. Also that is most likely not the reason it is asked in OP's case. Photos in CVs in Switzerland are supposed to convey information about presentation skills/soft skills but are mainly there because of tradition. – Cape Code Nov 3 '17 at 15:38
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    The question is what benefit is there to the recruiter, and why is it being asked. It is likely not useful to the recruiter in the OP's case, however it does happen. Is it really that hard to believe that some people remember faces better than names? – Phil Nov 3 '17 at 15:41
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    @DavidAldridge: Could you elaborate why you think so? It seems to me like the explanation provided in this answer is spot-on; at least it matches exactly what is stated over and over in web and print articles on how to successfully apply for a job in Germany, so it is well conceivable the same applies to Switzerland. People's photos are simply more diverse at first glance than visually relatively nondescript pages of text, and accordingly easier to memorize as a mental anchor for all the information contained in the application. – O. R. Mapper Nov 3 '17 at 16:06
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In many countries (UK, US) it's very unusual and possibly illegal to request a photo on a CV and it's very rare that people put one spontaneously. In Switzerland however, it's still pretty much standard.

While there is growing criticism about the obvious bias issues associated with that practice, I'm not surprised to still see that requirement in Switzerland, even for academic institutions.

There are no real reasons for it other than a general slowness to recognize sources of bias in hiring in that region.

p.s. Switzerland is not part of the EU.

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    As per the standards in Switzerland, it will start to be discussed 25 years after the whole world has agreed that it created bias with no added benefit. – Nico Nov 3 '17 at 14:27
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    While asking for a photo might expose you to liability for discrimination claims, I find it hard to believe that it would be illegal. Can you provide a reference that it is illegal in the US or UK (I never know what to make of French labor law)? – StrongBad Nov 3 '17 at 15:10
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    German CV's and the Europass CV standard both expect photos to be included. – aeismail Nov 3 '17 at 15:35
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    @CapeCode From the US EEOC: (eeoc.gov/laws/practices) "As a general rule, the information obtained and requested through the pre-employment process should be limited to those essential for determining if a person is qualified for the job.....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." I agree that this does not make it always illegal. It does, however, land you in the "thin ice" section of the employer pool. – Adam Nov 3 '17 at 18:49
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    As part of common academic job applications in France one must submit a copy of one's ID card or passport, which contains a photo. I am not sure about the CV, but given that it's somewhat of a moot point. – quid Nov 3 '17 at 20:04
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Several countries in Europe do this, although it is becoming less common due to the obvious problems with bias, so you should not treat it as an extraordinary request. What will happen if you do not do it is hard to predict, but may range from nothing to your CV simply being binned.

My advice is to proceed as if failing to provide it will result in your application being binned. Most job openings have many more applicants than desired and simple criteria - such as failed to follow the application instructions - are a quick way to reduce the numbers. Anecdotally, when I was still in the UK, one of our professors was from Italy and had to be stopped from binning all the CVs without pictures as it was so completely the norm where he was from.

From a more cynical point of view: if you are white, and particularly if you are white and male, you likely have nothing to lose from including a photo.

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    In Italy it is usually required a copy of an ID (with photo: ID card or passport for foreign citizens), but not a photo on the CV. However, quite frequently, people attach a photo to the CV also. Being aware of different customs, I usually tell my students to avoid attaching photos when applying in the US or UK. – Massimo Ortolano Nov 3 '17 at 18:36
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    @DavidAldridge FYI it's the same in France which in my field (math) according to some more or less popular recent list has two of the top five departments worldwide, or something like that. – quid Nov 3 '17 at 20:13
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    Maybe I live in a bubble, but diverse applicants (i.e. non-white and/or female) in my field have a strong advantage compared to white men. Without knowing particulars it's hard to say that white men have nothing to lose. – David Nov 7 '17 at 3:02
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It's just a matter of cultural standard.

While including a photo may occur "mildly strange" to you (probably from a US background?) it is, for instance, in Germany as normal as stating your given name: You would just not hand in a CV without this information, even if (technically) it should not matter for the job.

The following is a quote from the "CV Recommendations for Students applying for Internships in Germany" from the Steuben-Schurz Gesellschaft. No emphasis added:

STRUCTURE: All German resumes include a picture either in the upper left- or right-hand corner.

...

Please include ALL of the following information.

1) Picture

All resumes must include a picture. This should be a face shot. Please make sure that this is a professional photo – a cropped picture of you at a party is not appropriate. Please scan the picture onto your resume before saving it as a PDF file.

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    "even if (technically) it should not matter for the job" - it depends on what should not matter. The choice of the photo can indeed tell something legitimately interesting about the applicant's professionality (as alluded to by the recommendation against "a cropped picture of you at a party"). I fully agree with a photo being "as normal as stating your given name"; Bewerbungsfoto (application photo) is even a set term in German, just like cover letter or CV may be in English. – O. R. Mapper Nov 5 '17 at 15:10
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    It certainly matters when applying for jobs in industry in the UK. It's not at all unheard of for the applicant (especially one from overseas) to send someone else (probably with better language skills) to the interview. – alephzero Nov 5 '17 at 17:04
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    Good answer, but it isn’t “just” a matter of cultural standard: it’s objectively aiding discrimination and unconscious bias (there are studies). So expecting a photo CV is a bad cultural standard (and one I’m optimistic will change, albeit very slowly). – Konrad Rudolph Nov 6 '17 at 14:09
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    @KonradRudolph: Given that your name usually gives a decent indication about your gender, the culture you grew up in, one should not exaggerate the additional impact of a photo. However, it does help to identify you for an on-site interview. And as alephzero wrote, there are people who try to get others to do their tests. – Heinrich Nov 6 '17 at 16:31
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    @KonradRudolph: Does that bias really vanish just based upon seeing the candidate's face a bit later (during the interview, or an online video-call), or outside of the application documents (LinkedIn, other publicly accessible appearances of the candidate)? – O. R. Mapper Nov 6 '17 at 20:53
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I live in Switzerland and in the last 6 Years I have send dozens of CVs, every single one with a picture. Some may not require it but it definitely is standard and if you don't send one it may look odd. As for why, I don't really know. Its probably just the way it always been.

  • Thanks! I have academic experience in Switzerland. I never encountered CV with a photo, that's why I was surprised. Quite possibly, I was an outlier. – PsySp Nov 6 '17 at 17:06
3

Consider not sending a photo, but be prepared to send one on request.

Here in the UK, it has been proven by sending identical CVs with different names (and I'll find you the links if you want) that female applicants are invited for interview less frequently than male applicants, and that ethnic-origin applicants are invited for interview less frequently than applicants with "traditional British" names.

With that in mind, many recruiters are extremely wary of anything which could look prejudicial to equal-opportunities hiring. Best practise in most places is to not include photos, questions about ethnic origin, questions about religion, and so on. Whether an interviewee gets hired is another matter, but at least the recruiter can demonstrate that their approach to inviting candidates for interview is relatively colour-blind.

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    No. Consider not sending a photo, but be prepared to have your application rejected. – Massimo Ortolano Nov 3 '17 at 18:57
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    Assuming UK in the answer. OP is asking about Switzerland – Fábio Dias Nov 3 '17 at 19:01
  • @FábioDias In fairness to Graham, the question claims that the position is in the EU, and the "switzerland" tag was added in a later edit. – Pont Nov 6 '17 at 10:03

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