WHY GERMAN CV PHOTOS ARE NOT NECESSARY

Should you add a photo to your German CV? When applying for jobs in Germany, adding a photo to your CV is pretty commonplace. However, just because something is widely practiced doesn’t mean that it’s necessary and what’s more, it doesn’t mean that it’s right. Let’s talk about why. 

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BAD AND CONFLICTING ADVICE ABOUT GERMAN CV PHOTOS

There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there about whether you should have a photo on your German CV. To help you make a decision about whether or not to add one, let’s take a deep dive into the topic.

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Some People Will Tell You That A CV Photo Is Absolutely Required 

Many content creators will tell you that adding a photo to your CV is necessary when seeking work in Germany. Some HR professionals will even reject your CV if it doesn’t have a photo. They further claim that the lack of a photo arouses suspicion and makes you look like an untrustworthy candidate. I had one HR person tell me personally that they think people who didn’t take the time to follow German job application standards are “lazy.” Even worse, some of them actually believe a photo demonstrates your competence and aptitude for a job.

This mentality and way of thinking are so bonkers that I can’t even find appropriate words.

For a country that desperately needs immigrants to fill hundreds of thousands of highly skilled positions in the labor market, this is one area where German HR professionals urgently need to change their outdated way of thinking.

Immigrants are the ones who are most discriminated against during the hiring process. It’s well-documented that foreign professionals make much less money than German employees, for example. As a result, foreigners are going to be less inclined to add a photo to their CV.

So, let’s give a broadcast message to all German HR professionals and hiring managers out there:

⭐ There is no reason for an HR person to be suspicious of a candidate who does not want to be judged by their appearance.

⭐ Candidates are not lazy and are obviously justified in not wanting to place their photo on a CV.

⭐ You cannot determine a person’s capabilities or attitude from looks alone.

Instead dear HR people, take a look at a person’s job application and dig into their education, certifications, professional experience, career evolution, and more. See how they present themselves in their cover letter and be curious about their motivations for working for you.

Stop making judgements based on people’s photos or lack of photos. Stop trying to rationalize discrimination by saying it’s part of the “German culture.” 

Thank you for coming to our TED Talk!

Will Omitting A Photo Prevent Me From Securing Work? 

Because many HR professionals still harbor some of the beliefs we outlined above, in some cases, not adding a photo could cost you the opportunity of getting an interview. Even though it’s actually against the law in Germany to discriminate against people during the hiring process based on their photo and whether or not one is present on their CV, the old beliefs still pervade.

So what should you do? I advise looking at the company’s website and getting a feel for its overall culture and vibe. If the company appears more traditional, a photo on your CV may, unfortunately, be necessary. If the company feels more modern and cool, definitely go ahead and submit a CV without a photo.

Generally speaking, I hear from the people I coach and those within The Berlin Life community that they are still able to secure jobs in Germany by creating a solid job application. Through a compelling cover letter and CV, they convince employers to get in touch based on their skills, education, and experience instead of how they look. In another lovely development, it’s also not uncommon these days for some German companies to ask candidates to submit job applications without a photo. 

The bottom line is that adding a photo to your CV is not totally necessary when applying for jobs in Germany. It’s really up to you to decide what you’re comfortable doing and what the culture within that company is.

People May Tell You That CV Photos Are Very “German”

Some people claim that adding a photo to your German CV is a “unique” practice in Germany. While this may have been true a decade ago, adding a photo to your CV is something that’s widely practiced around the globe and isn’t something only Germans do.

Since CV Photos Are So Normal, Does It Make Sense To Not To Have One?

There aren’t too many LinkedIn profiles where you don’t see a photo. If you Google someone, it’s not unlikely that you’ll find pictures. If a potential employer really wants to know what you look like, they’ll find you somewhere.

But just because your photo is in so many places, doesn’t mean you have to include it on your CV. As already mentioned above, it’s fairly common to add photos to your German CV and it’s totally acceptable for you to do so if you’re comfortable.

It’s naturally up to you to decide, so long as you’re aware of why adding a photo could impact potentially impact your ability to find a job.

Why Shouldn’t I Add A Photo To My German CV?

The biggest reason not to include a photo on your German CV is that you may get hired based solely on your appearance. Even worse, you may not get hired because of how you look. Whether people want to admit it or not, humans are filled with conscious and unconscious bias and may discriminate against you based on your photo. Discrimination can come across in many forms, including gender, ethnicity, age, and even how “good” you look.

It’s fairly well established that racism, ageism, and more profoundly influence a person’s ability to find a job, get raises, and/or equal pay. But do you know that people are so affected by other forms of bias, that studies show that people who are perceived as attractive are more likely to get hired? Other studies highlight taller people earn more money than shorter people.

It’s mind-blowing when you think about it. No matter how much anyone tells you that your profile will speak for itself, there couldn’t be anything further from the truth. Over the years, as a hiring manager or part of a hiring team, I’ve been witness to conversations where people have said things like this:

When seeing someone who looks “old” When seeing someone’s skin color When seeing someone’s gender When seeing a “look” on someone’s face

– “That person looks ancient. They’ll never fit into our company culture. Most people here are in their 20’s.”

– “I don’t want to hire a person with too much experience. They’re too expensive and are stuck in their ways.”

– “We have too many people from that country. I don’t want more here as they’ll become too influential.”

– “Those kinds of people are so hardworking and reliable. We really should hire them.”

– “Is it really a good idea to hire a woman into an all-male team?”

– “She recently married. I’m worried that she’ll take time off to have children.”

– “That person looks really arrogant in their photo. Forget about them.”

– “He looks creepy in his photo. He makes me feel uncomfortable.”

These examples are unfortunately all real. Not everyone will be as blatantly obvious as people were during the conversations mentioned above, but people will still find excuses not to hire people after a quick glance at a person’s photo.

Even though it’s completely against the law to not hire people based on their appearance, it’s hard to prove. Discrimination is normalized and in some German workplaces, even rewarded behavior. 

Won’t I Be Judged Anyway When They See Me During An Interview?

Of course, discrimination can still occur when they see you in person for the first time, but at least you got the interview based on your skills, knowledge, and experience and not on how you look.

Are Photos Necessary For Some Professions?

Most definitely. If you work as an actor, make-up artist, TV journalist, model, etc. – including photos is absolutely required. For most other job types though, it’s usually not necessary.

What Kind Of Photo Should I Use For My German CV?

If you decide to feature a photo on your CV, follow these guidelines:

⭐ A portrait (headshot) is usually the best. Full-body shots aren’t ever, ever needed.

⭐ Smile and look as confident as possible. Look straight at the camera.

⭐ Keep your photo professional-looking. Avoid duck-faced selfies and dress in a nice outfit. This doesn’t mean you need to wear a suit, but make an effort to look presentable, whatever that means. 😊

⭐ A smallish photo works. Something that you add to the top of your CV, along with your contact information. Large photos that take up an entire page can come across as a bit much and even worse, take up valuable real estate on your CV.

⭐ If you have the budget, get your photo taken by a professional photographer. You can get one done fairly cheaply at almost any studio in Germany for almost the same price as a passport photo, and they’ll even do touch-ups. But honestly, phone cameras are so good these days; a shot done in portrait mode will give you a decent photo without anyone noticing the difference.

An important message:

When you read articles telling you to go all out and spend hundreds of euros on a photographer, don’t feel pressured to do so. Remember what I’ve written here if you’re out of work and don’t have the money for such a luxury. Photos done at home with your mobile phone are absolutely fine and totally acceptable.

Your Takeaways For German CV Photos

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether or not you want to add a photo. However, these should be your big takeaways:

⭐ Photos aren’t usually necessary for German CVs and are completely optional. Some German companies will request that you not add photos to your CV. Hint – these are the companies you really want to work for!

⭐ Not adding a photo to your CV isn’t going to stop you from getting a job (in most cases).

⭐ At the same time, adding photos to CVs in Germany is common practice. So, if you’re comfortable, adding one is perfectly acceptable.

⭐ Photos done by a professional photographer aren’t necessary.

Knowing this, don’t forget that adding a photo to your CV could cause people to discriminate against you and not contact you for job opportunities.

What do you think about our stance on German CV photos? Do you agree or disagree? Drop us a note in the comments.

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Cheryl Howard, Founder @ The Berlin Life

Cheryl Howard, Founder @ The Berlin Life

Hi, I’m Cheryl. My mission is to help you move to Berlin and find work.

A Canadian in Berlin for 10+ years, I have the unique experience of moving to Berlin – not once, but twice. During my time in Berlin, I’ve had five different visas and worked as both a freelancer and a permanent employee for numerous Berlin companies. I even managed to find a new job during the pandemic and again in 2023, during Germany’s recession and massive layoffs in tech. 

My day job has involved work as a hiring manager, overseeing the recruitment of countless people, as well as a team coach helping teams and individuals work better and find happiness in their careers. Through my side projects, I’ve also shared my personal experiences by publishing a series of helpful blog posts, creating a thriving community of job seekers, and hosting events to help people find work in Berlin. In 2021, I decided to put my coaching and recruiting talents to use by creating The Berlin Life, bringing my existing content and community together in one spot.

The combination of my personal and professional experience means I know exactly what it takes to move to Berlin and find work.