The perfect application photo

Have you ever asked yourself whether a photo belongs on a resume? This is a tricky question because it is easy to violate the Equal Treatment Act. No one may be discriminated against based on gender, age, ethnicity, religion, ideology, sexual orientation, or disability. Therefore, job advertisement writers are well-advised not to ask applicants to attach an application photo. This can be interpreted as indirect discrimination.

Of course, this does not mean that applicants are not allowed to attach a photo to their resume or that this is generally undesirable. Cultural differences often come into play here. A picture is somewhat unusual in North America and some European countries. In contrast, in our part of the world, a professional application photo enhances a resume and gives the entire application a cheerful expression. It is even expected to a certain extent by some recruiters.

The subjective assessment

Judging the photo on the application without meeting the person has nothing to do with superficialities but whether a person can sell him or herself well for a job. It is the first piece of the puzzle for the overall picture. It makes a good impression of whether the applicant has thought about something when choosing the photo and whether the candidate wants to express something positive with it. Everything essential is assessed by the content and later in its entirety during a personal interview.

But before you, as a personnel consultant, company boss, or HR employee, even invite someone, ensure that all professional qualifications and education are consistent with initial impression. Sometimes, a few seconds can decide whether you look likable and competent in a photo or not. That’s why you should never do without advice in advance and professional support.


An absolute no-go for applications is vacation photos of all kinds or unprofessionally cropped pictures. Especially if one or the other body part of another person is shown, unflattering shadows and poorly positioned objects in the background can also hurt the image. Refrain from taking selfies, too! A few more euros for a great photo from a professional photographer are a worthwhile investment, looking ahead to the job change or career entry.

Before starting the photo shoot, you should clarify with the photographer the purpose of the application photo, including the position and the industry you are aiming to reach. When reading an application, a comparison is unconsciously made here or there between a person’s career and training stations and the corresponding picture. If this does not match, there is a significant risk that one is labeled as less than authentic in the back of one’s mind. Of course, outdated pictures do not belong in the application documents either. In case of doubt, you should have recent photos taken if they are older than about three years unless the appearance has not changed significantly.

Individuality is required

Creating pictures that match the person’s type in a photo shoot is essential. For this reason, it is best to clarify with the photographer what impression one wants to convey and for which industry or position one is applying. Application photos for a creative agency may turn out differently than pictures for a financial company. So, for an innovative application, you can also use a black and white photo, a full-body image, or possibly just a cropped portrait.

Make sure that haircuts, make-up, and clothing are all consistent. Then there is the optimal light, preferably a professional photo camera, and, of course, the trained eye of the photographer, who can judge with his experience what looks good and which angle gives the photo the appropriate expression. If you are unsure about an outfit, you can take several with you to the studio. Then try out together with the photographer what works best. A professional photographer’s tasks are getting to know the customer, implementing wishes, and delivering the highest quality digital image.

Checklist for good application photos

  • What is the purpose of the application photos? What position in what industry are you trying to reach?
  • Clothing that corresponds to the industry dress code and the target position.
  • A general well-groomed appearance.
  • Pay attention to make-up and choice of jewelry – do not overdo it, keep a business look – with or without a tie.
  • Radiate authenticity and self-confidence, observe posture, convey sympathy, and express your personality.
  • Discuss the picture format with the photographer
  • Application photos in color look more authentic but don’t hesitate to use a unique image for creative jobs (e.g., cropping, black and white, full-body photo)
  • optimal light makes your appearance look even more advantageous
  • Superior photo quality due to the professional camera and experience of the photographer.

Contents count

The first impression of a professional application photo is an attractive eye-catcher. But it is true – no image is better than a bad one. It is often perceived as superficial if the picture is unflattering because of a hurried job.

However, it would be best if you did not forget that the content and clarity of the resume are what count and score points in the application process.

If you should need support here, we are gladly available to you as experienced personnel consultants and career coaches for optimization or reorganization!