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I understand in general, it is safer to NOT list hobbies on a CV.

My question is about whether is it a good idea to put these on my academic website.

I am a PhD student in a STEM field. Right now I only have CV on my website, and I want to put pictures there. I do photography as a hobby, and my intent for putting pictures there is to add a more human touch. I am aiming for jobs in academia.

The pictures will not be listed on my CV (I tailor each CV to its purpose). These are most likely to be added as a separate tab.

Are there any potential drawbacks to adding pictures on my academic website?

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    In pure maths I usually see at most 3 hobby pictures on personal academic websites. I always appreciate a photo of someone hiking, or a picture they took visiting an interesting landmark. It's a nice 5 seconds mini break from work for me. A bigger number of hobby pictures, in particular if there is not much scientific content on the remaining website, would seem unprofessional to me. If you want to show off more than 3 hobby pictures, I would find a flickr link more appropriate.
    – user505117
    Aug 8 at 9:33
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    "I understand in general, it is safer to NOT list hobbies on a CV." Why?? Imagine you're applying for a job in a STEM field, and your hobbies are chess and rock-climbing. You write that in your CV, and it tells the potential employers "I like chess because I enjoy problem-solving, and I like climbing because I have a healthy life balance where I don't spend 24h/day in front of a computer." Why would it be "unsafe" to mention chess and climbing on your CV? Unless your hobbies are pretty controversial?
    – Stef
    Aug 8 at 12:23
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    For the love of all that's beautiful, do not allow comments under your photos.
    – Mołot
    Aug 8 at 13:36
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    @Stef While reading hobbies listed in a CV might make me 0.0001% better inclined towards the candidate, in my experience I usually only remember them if they turn me off the candidate. It seems like a high potential risk for tiny potential benefit. I still remember a candidate, from more than a decade ago, who had listed "cultivating succulent plants" as a hobby. Is there anything wrong with that? Absolutely not! But it was so unexpected and oddly specific that we focused on that more than the rest of the CV. It's the only thing I remember now. And we didn't hire them (not because of this).
    – terdon
    Aug 8 at 16:06
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    Many academics have a "Personal" webpage on their website. I think it is a widespread practice. Aug 8 at 19:17

10 Answers 10

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Here's an unhappy but sadly well-documented observation. In fields like STEM where bias (particularly gender bias) is widespread, people unconciously filter what they see through biased frames: they expect to find evidence for the suitability of applicants from the dominant group, while they expect to find red flags for applicants from the oppressed group. The same hobby can then generate differential reactions like "Ah this feels like a positive aspect for this (privileged) applicant" but "Hm this (underrepresented) applicant maybe isn't serious about STEM".

So, since the question is "are there any potential drawbacks", I must add: for members of equity-seeking groups, anything outside the norm could potentially give people a subconscious reason to take those applicants less seriously.

(Comments are welcome, but only civil and constructive comments.)

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    Do you have any data on the relation to privilege, or is it just a guess? Aug 9 at 10:02
  • 8
    I'd really like to see data on your claims. I guess I respectfully disagree, while fully aware that I am what you might call in the "dominant" group in most regards, except for a few areas. And I have not noticed any difference in any areas. Now, people that find practicing a particular hobby to be a red flag for performance/bad attitude/lack of social skills will always have those biases. I just don't understand how and why this is linked to any bias, especially gender bias. Aug 9 at 15:17
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    Comments are welcome, but only civil and constructive comments: indeed, your comment is simply a badly formulated opinion. But it may have some content, although at present it doesn't.
    – John B
    Aug 9 at 15:56
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    Amazing how the denialism rears its willfully clueless head every time someone mentions this very well-documented fact. Here's one example that jumped to mind. The evidence has only mounted since then. link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1018839203698 Aug 9 at 18:50
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    @ElizabethHenning: Is there anything about the perception of hobbies in that reference? Aug 9 at 19:44
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I'll assume you are smart enough not to put pictures there that harm your case or make you seem unserious professionally.

But, while such things won't actually account for much, they might induce a few readers to look around a bit. But if they don't find the professional items while looking it won't amount to much.

I can't speak against it, however, as too many "professional" web sites are overly pedantic.

Just don't lose track of what is important and make sure the site focuses on those things.

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I think it's nice to see some photos, personal information, and/or hobbies on an academic website; as you say, it gives the place a human touch. So long as the photos themselves aren't offensive, I can't see it detracting from your website.

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It depends on how your site is structured. If you have a tab for "Studies", "Travel", "Photography", "CV", "About", ... then yes, this is not a problem.

Having your pictures on the same page as the CV and other "professional" information is a bit weird.

I understand in general, it is safer to NOT list hobbies on a CV.

I always look at hobbies when reviewing a candidate's CV. It gives surprisingly deep insights on them (positive or negative). So it is useful to list some but within reason.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – cag51
    Aug 10 at 1:14
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One idea might be to mention "I enjoy photography" and then link to a photography-based presence (e.g. twitter, instagram, web site), with perhaps zero, one or two photos on the academic website accompanying the link; then people can indeed enjoy the photos and find out more about you as a rounded person, but it doesn't distract from the main purpose of the web site. This is just a suggestion; I can see already people feel very differently about this issue as a whole.

Just another quick thought is that many potential recruiters, collaborators, prospective students might look you up online more broadly anyway to get a fuller picture.

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In my experience browsing people's websites and (in very few cases) assessing them based (partly!) on these websites, I can speak only of one potential pitfall with hobby-related content:

Make sure it doesn't make the main (professional) content of your website any harder to find or access.

Specifically in the case of photos, this means that you don't put them centered at the top of your page where they distract from other material (auto-flipping albums are particularly bad), nor set up your site in such a way that it is unnavigable without Javascript ("artsy" WiX templates are one of the worst offenders in this space). Anything behind a "photography" link is OK. This generalizes to other hobbies and aesthetical preferences, such as hacker-style green-on-black text. The order of importance for an academic website should be roughly "research > teaching > other content > visuals".

In my little experience with hiring processes, I have never seen hobbies used against applicants. Arguably, I haven't seen them brought up in favor of applicants either. But job hunting is only a minor part of what your website is for.

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If you are not part of a minority in your field:

For 95+% of hobbies it won't make a lick of a difference if you put them on your website or not. People won't think you are brilliant because you are into playing the violin, and they won't think you are a lazy bum because you are into video games. It's your personal preference if you want to put your hobbies on your website to add some personality flavour or not, it won't meaningfully change the direction of your career either way.

The only (obvious) exception are hobbies that are offensive to a significant chunk of the population - stay clear of the same topics that you also would not raise when meeting your significant other's parents for the first time (sex, politics, religion, illegal activities) and you should be fine.

If you are part of a minority in your field:

Keep your website professional. There is a serious chance that anything you put out will somehow be held against you in the future, for no real upside.

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I think it's a good idea in general, however do consider that it's trivial to download an image on a webpage and do a reverse image lookup on it.

By doing that, someone can find potentially embarrassing social media posts if you have social media accounts on facebook, twitter, instagram etc.

My advice would be if you're going to do this, use unique photographs that you don't use on other websites.

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This almost certainly won't matter practically, but one downside to putting hobby-related content on your professional webpage is that it's very likely that your university has a policy against doing this if they're hosting the website. For example, my university says: "Do not use Pages to share hobbies, family information, favorite links, or other personal content that is unrelated to your professional, research, or academic work."

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  • That’s bizarre! Do they actually enforce that rule? Aug 12 at 3:02
  • I expect it’s mostly enforced in cases of controversy? I doubt anyone is being paid to look through the websites. Aug 12 at 13:34
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Perhaps it is good if it is likely that other people in your field share that hobby. For example, I have joined some hiking parties when attending a conference --- hiking is a relatively popular hobby. I have also gone climbing together with people at conferences. These activities are great for also simultaneously discussing research.

So maybe the hobby can act as an icebreaker.

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