General Question

tinyfaery's avatar

Why would a potential employer request my headshot?

Asked by tinyfaery (36014 points ) April 17th, 2012 from iPhone

I know this is L.A., but I’m not auditioning for a role or anything like that.

The job is for a personal assistant and I get to do 50% of the job from home. Wanting a headshot of me feels weird.

Why could an employer want this, except for creepy purposes?

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38 Answers

Trillian's avatar

I read somewhere that this is SOP in LA and Hollywood. You have to look a certain way as part of the corporate image.
It’s creepy in that your facial symmetry may be a deciding factor more so than your actual other qualifications.
That’s a shame. Should I hope that you get the job? How ‘bout if I wish a good outcome for you? You may get it and then discover you can’t stomach the politics.
Good luck.

gambitking's avatar

Usually this happens when you’re applying for a position where you’ll be in front of clients, customers or otherwise representing the company in person.

On the surface, they can lean on the justifiable desire to make sure you don’t have a bunch of piercings, tattoos, a mohawk or any number of typically non-professional ‘decorations’.

For the PA position, these are equally reasonable requests, especially if you’ll end up in front of close colleagues to the executive.

Unfortunately, many employers dismiss potential candidates based on other factors. I usually take these requests with scrutiny, passing on them mostly due to the shadiness factor, you can never really tell what their intent is.

wundayatta's avatar

Depends on who the employer is. Given that it is LA, it could be someone in the public eye, and who you will be representing in public, on occasion. They want to make sure your face is sufficiently good looking to represent them.

marinelife's avatar

It may be as simple as keeping a photo with personnel files or having an array of employee photos.

There is nothing sinister about it. I have worked places that used photos.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Any person or company that requires a photo with an application is a lawsuit waiting to happen in the US.

JLeslie's avatar

Very odd. Although, most companies as for an in person interview, or very common now a skype interview. Head shot is not much different in that they will know what you look like, but it is still very odd in America. I think the reason we don’t do it with applications is because of discrimination possibilities. If they have already hired you and need for your file it might be ok.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Many companies ask for this now. It is optional. If it were me, I wouldn’t do it. As @Pied_Pfeffer stated, it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen as it sets the company up for all sorts of discrimination suits.

jca's avatar

If the job is for reception or something similar, they may not want someone with a lot of facial jewelry, facial hair, stuff like that. We live in a very looks-obsessed culture, IMHO.

Ron_C's avatar

Either the employer needs the picture for your I.D. card or he thinks you’re cute. It is possible that the company has a policy of not hiring ugly people and he needs you picture to prove, to his boss, that you’re not a dog.

tedd's avatar

I’ve heard (specifically from cracked.com, an online joke-site that is based in L.A.) that this is pretty much the norm out there. Even jobs where looks have absolutely no bearing require head shots.

Not sure what that’s about.

Pandora's avatar

My guess is to make sure your face matches what is on file with DMV to make sure you’re not illegal who has come in with phony documents.
Or as @gambitking suggest, it is to make sure you don’t currently have any wierd tats or piercings or that you look like some crazy homeless person. No matter what job you take, you will always represent the company you work for. Image is everything when it comes to getting clients.
I know of a guy who was let go of his job because he decided one day to spike up his hair. He was asked to get rid of it. They told him that when they hired him they told him there was a dress code. That would include his hair. Customers wouldn’t go to him for help because they were intimidated. He said you can’t fire me because of my hair. Well they did. He didn’t realize he lived in a state where you can get fired without an explaination.

JLeslie's avatar

She would have to provide a picture ID to be hired, wouldn’t she? License or passport or green card, etc.

Judi's avatar

This relates because Fair Employment and Fair Housing laws are so similar.
In the apartments we own we used to have the managers take a copy of the drivers license with the application to verify identity. We were advised by our attorney not to do that because the picture could reveal their ethnicity and we could be accused of discrimination if we denied someone.
Since they are asking for the picture BEFORE they hire you, I would think that this could be considered discriminatory as well. Unless they could prove that your looks were important to the essential job function Ike an actress) then they could be accused of discrimination, especially in California, where “arbitrary discrimination” is illegal. (At least it’s illegal in housing, I’m not sure about employment. )

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@JLeslie Requiring a head shot on an application is different than conducting an online or in-person interview. A personal interview supplies additional information about candidates that aren’t available on an application. Requesting documentation of a person’s validity (license, passport, green card) is required (or asked for) after an offer extended, with the contingency that the document(s) prove valid.

@jca It’s true that the hiring manager may feel that a visual assessment of the candidate’s appearance is important for the filtering process of reviewing applications. It doesn’t mean that it is correct. A person can be quite competent at the job if they have the right training, resources and support. Their appearance has nothing to do with it.

@Ron_C Unless a company can prove that a certain look is required and it is outlined in the job description, plus approved by the legal world of California, they have no leg to stand on. The Wonderful World of Disney has taken this route. It’s why we don’t see Snow White and Cinderella and Prince Charming sporting tattoos and piercings and cross-dressing. It is written in the job description and approved by the law. The employees are considered actors that require a certain look.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer I said that. I said when someone is hired they need to provide ID, and that asking for a photo before can be intepreted as discrimination. Read my first answer.

zigmund's avatar

I think it’s so they don’t accidentally hire ugly people, right?

Tinyfaery, I have always found your posts to be the well crafted, thought out product of a beautiful mind. I’m sure the outside is just as lovely. What are you worried about?

jca's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer: Absolutely. I am definitely not disagreeing with you. I don’t think I ever said that those things equate to someone being incompetent. However, it’s a reality of the world we live in that the employer may want to put forth a certain impression, and facial jewelry, excessive tattoos or facial hair may not be what the employer wishes to have at their reception area (or other customer service areas).

Jude's avatar

I’ve seen tinyfarey in the flesh, and she’s a beautiful woman.

Good luck!

zigmund's avatar

Exactly!

tinyfaery's avatar

Aww…shucks.

Jude's avatar

Girl, you know it’s true.

6rant6's avatar

Could be they want to subject you to discrimination that isn’t strictly allowed. Hard to fight it.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@JLeslie Thank you for the clarification. ”…would have to provide a picture ID to be hired..”. is not clear. A hiring manager may interpret it as they need to check IDs during the application process. ”...when someone is hired they need to provide ID..” adds clarification. Any business that practices this step in the hiring process is hopefully smart enough to extend an offer letter on the contingency of the background check results.

@jca Thank you for the clarification as well. Sure, there are certain jobs where a person’s appearance might cause a pause, but how often would deter someone from conducting business there or applying for a job? .

A job should never be based upon someone’s appearance unless required and backed up by the law.

bewailknot's avatar

Rare in the US except for performers and a potential lawsuit in the making, but standard procedure in many other countries. I worked for a while in HR for a business which hired from around the world, and the information some applicants included made me wince. In addition to a photo they might include age, height and weight, marital status, children and religion. Acck!

6rant6's avatar

Well.

At least they didn’t ask for your Facebook password.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer Fair enough, that sentence could be interpreted two ways, but I did say later in the paragraph that asking for photos during the application process could be viewed as discriminatory. I had thought my train of thought was clear, I guess it wasn’t. I also talked about the necessary ID’s to be hired but I see how people might not understand that to mean as a final part of the hiring process once the offer is already extended. Thanks for pointing out how my wording was unclear.

tinyfaery's avatar

Well, I sent the photo. Guess we’ll see what happens now.

Jude's avatar

Nikki thinks that the personal assistant job is for a “fluffer” and you’re applying for a Ron Jerermy job!

tinyfaery's avatar

She has got a sick mind. Sick.

Jude's avatar

We were cracking up. We love you, though. ;)

jca's avatar

@tinyfaery: Good luck with the job! Hope you get it (if you want it).

AshlynM's avatar

Not exactly sure…have you talked with this potential employer just to ask why they require a headshot of you? Have you met with this employer? If your job isn’t involved with television, acting or modeling in any type of way, I don’t see how a head shot is relevant. Considering it’s LA, I’d be very cautious with this.

Maybe it’s for one of their id cards they give their employees? But if that’s the case, I don’t see why you just wouldn’t go in to their office to take your picture.

I’d call them to find out why they need a headshot. I wouldn’t send in a professional picture or even a good picture. You never know what they may do with it. And it could very possibly lead to racial profiling and discrimination and may have an effect on whether or not you get the job.

Nullo's avatar

Might it be to satisfy a race/sex minority employment requirement? This is Cali; they do weird things over there.

tinyfaery's avatar

Uh…we have the toughest anti-discrimination policies in the country.

JLeslie's avatar

@tinyfaery Were you responding to @Nullo? I think that is what he meant.

Nullo's avatar

@tinyfaery That was, in fact, my point. I consider quotas to be another kind of discrimination, but not everybody does.

flo's avatar

Would you ask him/her why and see what they give as a reason, and then let us know? It is creepy by the way.

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