October 9, 2018

Are application photos a thing of the past?

Anonymized applications draw attention to qualifications and experience. In many places, anonymized applications are normal—and photos in application portfolios are frowned upon.

“In our opinion, age, gender, and origin do not make a positive contribution to the application process,” say the people behind employment website BIAMU.de. Instead of uploading letters, CVs, and photos, the applicants sit a job-related recruitment test to show potential employers what they are capable of.

Although European applicants and recruiters still find the idea unusual, it’s now quite normal in Canada, in the UK and the US. For example, HR experts in the United States explicitly advise applicants not to include photos with their job applications. Recruiters would immediately sort out the portfolios with photos because the applicants obviously don’t know what’s appropriate in the application process. Employers may ask for photos only in exceptional cases. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) consistently prosecutes infringements.

Trials with positive results

In Europe, anonymous application procedures are not well established, although there are plenty of indications that certain applicants have experienced discrimination. According to the German Institute of Labor Economics (IZA), if applicants have Turkish sounding surnames, on average, their chances of being invited to a job interview are reduced by 14 percent, which rises to 24 percent with small and medium-sized enterprises. Considering that there is a lack of skilled employees in many industries these days, companies are wasting opportunities unnecessarily. Trials in Germany and various other EU countries show that migrants, women, and older people are immediately more interesting for employers when their application portfolios do not contain photos or personal details.

A pilot project by the IZA, in which companies and authorities conducted more than 8,500 anonymized application procedures with young talents, skilled employees, and managers, showed that most people in charge of the HR process also felt more comfortable with anony-mization. In particular, the fact that there were not photos allowed them to focus on qualifications. In the project, many people ended up on the short list who may well not have received an invitation to a job interview with the conventional procedure.