Many schools and agencies require you to include a photo with your application. Don't be put off by this, there are a few good reasons why they want it to be included. It's not a beauty contest or superficial process at all, but is part of the process all the same.
What you may not have realized is, recruiters are not looking at how good looking or photogenic you are by any means, they're instead looking at the photo itself.
Is it professional? Do you look friendly? Have you bothered to include the photo at all?
These are questions that they'll be asking when reviewing your application.
As with other aspects of the application, the photo is also used as a filter. The sheer volume of applications that most recruiters receive means that they'll need a way of weeding out the bad candidates from the good ones so that they can pursue the more promising candidates. Having the right sort of photo is one way of making sure your application ends up in the right pile.
What Sort Of Photo Is The "Right" Sort?
Look The Part
The first thing you need to do is think about the sort of job you're applying for. Young Learner teaching positions might require you to show that you have personality and can be friendly towards children. You don't need to dress like a clown, but make sure you smile and don't look too boring.
Adult or business English classes will probably require a more formal look. A shirt and tie would do well here. Remember that the first thing prospective schools will do is look at you and picture how you'd look in their school, so make sure you help them by looking the part.
You might think this is obvious, but we've seen many photos that are of the candidate in a pub or on the beach. While it's nice to see that they are smiling, it doesn't look very professional.
Often, the sheer fact that you've not put any thought into your photo and just thrown any old one in with your application is "proof" that you're not going to take your job seriously.
You don't have to take one specifically for your applications (although this does give you the opportunity to get it right), but your photos should be fairly recent. Within the last 10 months would be ideal.
In this day and age it should be easy to find a recent photo, so don't be lazy and choose an old one. Remember, it doesn't have to be your favorite photo or one that captures "your best side", just recent and professional looking.
Similarly, you want a clear photo that is good quality. HD is a bonus, not a necessity, but you just need to show that you've taken your application seriously and care about how you are perceived.
You also want the file size to be reasonable as well. If you can find a happy medium between good quality and good file size, that's perfect. As an example, keep it below 1mb. You can easily get good file quality at that size anyway.
What To Include
You don't need to show that you have friends or that you have a loving family, keep the focus on you. It doesn't need to be a full body shot either. Go for something similar to a passport photo (head and shoulders shot) in terms of distance from camera. Of course, you don't need to make it as formal or boring as a passport photo!
You CAN Still Be Creative
We'd like to point out that while you should keep your photo good quality, professional, and in the right context, you still have some room for creativity.
Think about how you could demonstrate your worth. Perhaps a photo in a foreign location to show that you are a good traveler? Or maybe a photo of you in a classroom with happy, smiling children? As long as you keep it in a good context and follow the suggestions above, there's no reason to think that a formal "passport" photo is the only option.
If You're Unsure, Play It Safe
Just remember our first tip - think about what kind of job you are applying for. Teaching is a highly respected profession in Asia, so bear that in mind. If in doubt, wear a shirt and a smile, and let recruiters feel, "This person will take their job seriously".
Lastly, we don't want you to second-guess yourself and decide not to apply for any jobs because you don't have that "perfect" photo, we just want to make sure that you also don't include that "wrong" photo either. Find a happy medium.