Pictures & Job Applications

Part of the normal daily grind at Acadiate is hearing the opinions of students, employers, and educational faculty on the topic of student employment. We love to hear their ideas and opinions because it helps us improve Acadiate and gives us a clearer picture of what is really going on in the employment market. More importantly it gives us the opportunity to share feedback so that individuals can make more informed decisions.

Today we want to put forward some feedback we’ve seen on the the topic of personal picture usage in job applications. For a seemingly small addition to a job application there are many strong opinions on the topic. There are those who believe the use of pictures introduce the opportunity for discrimination and there are those who believe there is nothing wrong with adding a little more ‘you’ to the job application.

At Acadiate we are of the mindset that this is really decision that should be left to the applicant. It is entirely a personal decision  and should be made according to what an applicant is comfortable with without added pressure from either side.

We have been increasingly seeing that many career services centres through out various educational establishments advise students against the usage of personal pictures in their applications. This advice comes from a good place, it makes an honest attempt to protect students from discrimination, however we are seeing that this advice comes along with its own negative effects on students that we would like to point out.


Unfair Generalization of Employers

Advising students against the use of personal pictures because of the belief it will lead to discrimination presents students with a discriminating image for Canadian employers at large. It suggests that Canadian employers are incapable of upholding fair hiring practices in the presence of an image. If a picture of an applicant is perceived to be enough to invoke discrimination then imagine the level of discrimination a student feels they will be facing at an interview. If we advise a student to not include a picture to protect them, shouldn’t we also advise students change their names to more ‘common’ ones and to avoid telephone interviews as they can also lead to discrimination? The reality is that the vast majority of Canadian employers will see and talk to candidates before offering them employment.


Shifting the Blame and Loss of Accountability

The ease of which students can blame discrimination for an inability to secure employment is another side effect of this discriminating illustration of Canadian employers. Blaming discrimination prevents students from taking personal accountability for their own employment. Removing the excuse of discrimination allows the student to dig deeper into the likely culprit, a lack of personal selling skills, short comings in communication skills, or an education that simply isn’t in demand amongst employers.


Some Students Find the Advice Offensive

Although the advice is given with good intent, many students are offended by the notion that a picture of themselves is harmful to their employability. The advice comes as a blow to student self-confidence and self-confidence is one of the most important things to have while looking for employment. Henry Ford famously said “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right”.  If students believe they are going to be discriminated against, it changes their entire outlook on employment – they feel they have to overcompensate for their differences and are already at odds with employers. Contrast that with someone who doesn’t believe they are going to be discriminated against, it allows them to focus on what is important, selling themselves and their talents.


Our Take

We think that students should feel free to be themselves and not have to hide in the face of discrimination. The best way to confront discrimination is to confront it and not to allow it to dictate how you represent yourself. One of the great things about Canada is that there are successful people in virtually every career from a wide array of different cultures.

Give students the prerogative to make their own decision on whether or not they want to add a picture of themselves in their job applications. With discrimination fears out of the way students can focus on whats really important, selling themselves and their education.

Until next time.