Facebook does it. So does My Space. In fact, almost every website does it–post pictures of people who are in the company or in the public eye. We do it for recognition, and because people look at other people–even if it’s just in a photograph. In fact, eye-tracking studies have shown that people will look at the photograph of another person, particularly at the eyes, before they read copy.
I’ve become uncomfortable with the fact that organizations I belong to ask me to post my picture in my listing or on the page they provide me with. One of the facts that has come out in research on hiring practices is that we are drawn to people who look like we do, and who are similar to us. So a blond hiring manager is likely to offer the job to another blond, although the reason given is “the applicant is a good fit.”
So I did a small experiment. I took a picture of a much younger, thinner me and posted it on two listing sites for one month. I then removed it and put up an unfortunate picture taken of me squinting into the sun, with strong shadows under my eyes. I left it up for the same amount of time. While it’s not a scientific survey, the results were not surprising: the month the younger me was representing my company, I got almost twice as many requests for information.
I think that in listings that include photos, we unconsciously (or perhaps deliberately) choose the person who is attractive–young, slim, fit, good-looking. We don’t look at the qualifications first. We go for the glamor. So I’m beginning to wonder if it might not be a good idea to not post photos on the Web. I don’t want to go as far as to post someone else’s picture, but I’d rather not be eliminated for race, gender, age, weight, hairstyle, or the amount of shine on my teeth.
What do you think? Is it important to have up a good-looking photo on your website or listing? And if you aren’t good-looking, what’s an honest alternative?
–Quinn McDonald is a trainer in business writing and speaking. She also gives workshops in journal writing. (c) 2008-9 All rights reserved.
Image: 1912 class of Corsicana High School on http://www.rootsweb.com