When applying in the US, it is advised not to include any personal information that could lead to discrimination charges (photo, age, nationality, etc.). Apparently, an application may be discarded by HR for not complying with this policy. It makes sense, of course, that everyone sticks to this rule.

However, in some European countries like Switzerland and Germany it is, on the contrary, expected that you include a picture (out of tradition, I guess), nationality (let's them figure out quickly if work permit problems could arise), age, and sometimes others. Here, HR would view a CV as incomplete if it didn't include them - see e.g. this study (in German). EDIT: While employers don't ask for it, most career guides I could find (e.g. from university career centers) strongly suggest to include it. Please note, while it may be a questionable custom, it is still a custom that when not followed, could severely undermine one's chances.

Now if an applicant wants to submit their CV to a Silicon Valley company for an advertised job open at their Swiss office, to which standard should it hold? If it includes a picture, I'm afraid it might be processed and discarded by someone in US HR before it even gets to the local branch. If it doesn't include it, it might be discarded by a local employee for not adhering to customary standards.

What's a good way to proceed here?

edit: it would be an application through the company's international website, where the job is advertised with the specific location.

  • You may want to first ask the question of whether you should include that information in a resume for DE or CH. It's indeed historically customary to include a picture in many EU countries but I've never done so and see plenty of resumes that don't include it. Odds of being rejected over a missing picture would appear low.
    – Lilienthal
    Apr 24, 2020 at 14:29
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    @Lilienthal: Having talked to people in charge of hiring in an area where pictures are usual, I disagree with you. Arguments where "I know it may sound a little bit discriminatory, but I need to see a picture to judge if the person is a good fit for the team." Every career guide I read suggests including it. It may be different for super-specialized expert position, but for the avarage position where there are too many appliciants, the probability of being rejected over a missing picture would be high.
    – guest
    Apr 24, 2020 at 16:00
  • @guest That kind of judgement is blatantly illegal in most of Europe. The same is true in the US but the culture there has resulted in resumes with pictures being immediately rejected to avoid appearance of bias. We're indeed not at that point yet. I'd argue that any place that would reject a resume without a picture is not one worth working for. Of course, in some situations people are desperate for any job and that's a different matter. Do note that any company of the size the OP is targeting would be extremely unlikely to require pictures for the same legal reasons.
    – Lilienthal
    Apr 25, 2020 at 16:08
  • 1
    @Lilienthal: It might be illegal, but as long as it is not officially required, these things happen. Note that there is no law against sending pictures, so how could the legal reasons play in? I googled for german carrier guides, the first one I found said "4 of 5 HR people prefer CVs with photos" and has statements of HR people of major companoes (eg Siemens) who speak positivly about photos (they are probably not allowed to say they require one). I think this is strong evidence that photos should be on German CVs karrierebibel.de/bewerbungsfoto
    – guest
    Apr 25, 2020 at 20:17

2 Answers 2


Ask the company whether they'd like an american style CV or a german one.

If you can't ask, I'd take a clue from the language of the job posting. If they ask for a "resume" or "CV" they probably expect an american style CV, but if they ask for a "lebenslauf" they probably expect a submission in the german style.

I recommend this because in my experience it really depends on how autonomous the local office operates. In particular, if they are quite independent and have their own HR, they might expect local norms, whereas an office with little autonomy and centralized HR would most likely expect an american style CV.

  • 4
    Boils down to: "If in doubt, send reasonable questions about an opening before you send the application."
    – Alexander
    Apr 24, 2020 at 9:51

Note that article you link to is from "before GDPR" and most of the thing you mention should not be included in CV unleast it's an important part for hiring process (for example age when you are in "safe time before retirment"). Maritial status and age should not play a role in hiring process according to The Employment Equality Framework Directive. Also Switzerland is not part of EU so there are few different rules than in Germany for example.

Also under GDPR your CV should by GDPR compliant. Enough contact info to contact you and your work/education experience.

If this a multinational company I would advise that the CV should follow the company guidelines for CV's. They should be listed on the offer. Do they ask for age, sex, sexual life, Ethnic or racial origin?

There might be "customary standards" that are just not legal.

Ok, a little explanation: Article 9 of the GDPR

  1. Processing of personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, or trade union membership, and the processing of genetic data, biometric data for the purpose of uniquely identifying a natural person, data concerning health or data concerning a natural person's sex life or sexual orientation shall be prohibited.

[Bolding mine] italics mine to emphasis that in this case GDPR is about prohibiting

Point 2 explain where point 1 should not be applied BUT the reason for it to no be applie should be stated on the ad itself as applicant must give consent to proccesing therefore he must be informed of the reasons BEFORE. Also point h) of point 2 say

processing is necessary for the purposes of preventive or occupational medicine, for the assessment of the working capacity of the employee, medical diagnosis, the provision of health or social care or treatment or the management of health or social care systems and services on the basis of Union or Member State law or pursuant to contract with a health professional and subject to the conditions and safeguards referred to in paragraph 3;

[Bolding mine]

Which explain that if the reason boils from the job description IT should also be explained in the reasons to gather such data. [i.e. age for selling alcohol or religion to handle meat]
Some might argue that above data might be need for equal opportunities monitoring BUT such data should be collected in a way that the data cannot be traced back to individuals. So different special form without CV informations. Data gathers on later stage of recruitment and so on.

From the OP comment below we can see how such requirments make no sense. What is nationality needed if you work in US based company in Switzerland? Obtaining a work permit? Needed only if you need one. Also much better information would be if applicant is from EU or third-state national.

  • Thanks for pointing out the GDPR. I didn't view it in that context. Concerning your question: Employers don't ask for it (that would very likely be illegal), but according to all the local career guides I could find (e.g. from university career centers) strongly suggest to include at least picture, dob, and nationality for jobs in this region. It wouldn't help the applicant to brush off this "customary standard" if they severely limit their chance of landing a job.
    – sciquant
    Apr 23, 2020 at 15:44
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    Can you elaborate which part of the GDPR restricts the information people may put in their CV? Specifically, what the requirements for a CV to be "GDPR compliant" are?
    – meriton
    Apr 23, 2020 at 18:35
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    I am from Germany and I seriously doubt there is such a thing as "GDPR compliant CV" What you may see is, that they want you to confirmation link where you agree to them storing and processing your data for the purpose of your application under GDPR. Other than that GDPR does not have much an effect on CV´s. Note also that GDPR is not so much about prohibiting use and collection of data, but about getting consent and inform your customer about data handling.
    – Daniel
    Apr 23, 2020 at 20:28
  • 6
    Note that GDPR does not restrict you in handing out your data at all, only the storage and processing by the recipient. So the handling of my CV by HR has to be GDPR compliant (= only store as long as necessary, only share with people directly involved in the hiring process etc.), but my CV may contain any personal information I am willing to share.
    – Alexander
    Apr 24, 2020 at 9:48
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    I think this answer is wrong for "average positions" in Germany. I think it's like gaps in the CV: You might leave a gap, but the company will think you were in prison. You can leave your your age or your picture, but the company may assume you are too old or have something to hide. This is sad but true. Typically, a hiring comitee consists not of machines who give everyone equal oppurtunities but of humans with believes, prejudices and daily-changing emotions.
    – guest
    Apr 24, 2020 at 16:06

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