Why I Never Shy Away From Using Photos In Proposal Resumes

There is an age-old debate about whether you should include photos of staff members in their resumes. You see, someone could look at the photo and decide (just by their appearance) that they do not want to work with that person. And your firm could lose a valuable contract as a result.

I’m here to tell you that in this world, there are people who will reject someone because of the way they look. And yes, you could lose contracts because of how someone on your team looks. But I’m going to explain why, in over 1,000 proposals, I’ve never shied away from adding a photo to someone’s resume.

Mustache For The Win

One day, I was proposing a construction scheduler for a large project in New York City as a subconsultant to a large firm. I had put together an impressive resume for a woman in her 20s to send to this firm.

The project was a highway restoration. And this woman’s experience consisted almost entirely of providing scheduling services on highway construction projects. Many of the projects were near identical to the project in question. She was the perfect fit.

But the prime firm rejected the resume. They didn’t feel like she was a “good fit.” That, of course, was (in my professional opinion) ridiculous.

So, I put together a resume for a young man who had merely a fraction of the woman’s experience. However, he had just grown a mustache and looked like a “construction guy.” When the prime received that resume, they said, “this one is perfect.”

I was convinced that they rejected the first resume due to the staff member’s gender.

Should We Rethink Photos In Resumes

This experience started a discussion between my firm president and me. Should we stop using photos in our resumes?

The decision we came to:

“That’s just not the world we want to live in.”

We recognize the possibility that someone might reject us because a team member is black, a woman, or just so ugly they have to trick or treat over the phone. But we don’t want to live in that world.

We want to live in a world where people aren’t judged by their looks. There is no magic wand we can wave to make that a reality. But we can operate in a way that assumes if we’re not there now…we’ll be there shortly.

So, when I put a resume in a proposal (unless it’s a SF330 form), I always include a headshot.

Time Changes Society

In my opinion, you can’t control how others behave.

The reality is time changes society. We’ll take one step forward, two steps back, and then three steps forward. It’s a long process. But I like to believe, despite what we see on TV, that we’re slowly growing into a less racist/sexist society.

I joke with my wife that one day my son will bring his girlfriend home to meet us. When I realize it’s a robot, I’ll exclaim, “You can’t love a robot! Robot’s aren’t alive!” He’ll just look at me with the distain one might reserve today for someone who thinks a woman shouldn’t be on their highway construction project.

As progressive as you or I might think we are today, I have found that time has a funny way of challenging your beliefs. What I think we can do is be the change that we wish to see in the world.

What Do You Think?

Were you offended by this article? Did you find it helpful. Write your thoughts in the comments.


  1. Huzzah to you and your President. I can’t lie, I’m more than a little sick by your story but I too know that it is true. Cheers to hoping for and moving toward a better world!

  2. Thanks for the article, Matt! I think using photos is important to help us connect with our clients on a personal level. And while I share your hope that our world is becoming more just, equitable, and inclusive, there will unfortunately always be decision-makers who are sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. So I hope that when our firms realize we have clients who are that way, like the sexist client in your example, that we can choose to not do business with them. That of course is a decision marketers can rarely make, but we can influence.

  3. John Feiler says

    I usually find your insights to be spot on. Not this time! We write because the people for whom we write want to win with their proposal. We are not social justice warriors. It may be that a picture can positively influence the people to whom we are providing our résumés and proposals. However, it is also at least as possible that a hair part might offend the reader. Why take a chance? After serving 28 years in the USAF, the air force has eliminated the picture from the promotion folders. They recognized that we should be promoting on accomplishments and not on appearance. I believe the other branches of the military all also eliminating photos from their promotion folders.

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