Do you suggest adding these to an academic CV?

  • 3
    Sean Carroll's comments about hobbies in his blog post aren't about what to list on the CV, but rather about what hobbies to have in the first place. (His position is that there are certain hobbies that will make your colleagues think you could be working harder if they discover you have them, and that it is safest to avoid these hobbies completely.) In particular, he doesn't discuss the issue of listing hobbies in your CV. Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 22:27
  • Yes, but what I liked is that he mentioned that this is a "subjective" and there are "permissible hobbies". Others just say avoid. Do the departments want a human or robot?
    – Thomas Lee
    Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 22:31
  • Related (possible duplicate): Is listing non-academic interests on academic CVs important?
    – ff524
    Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 23:10
  • 1
    @ThomasLee: in the case of Manchester I'd bet they want a human, but prefer one who can follow simple instructions and leave their hobbies out of their academic CV ;-) Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 0:39
  • 11
    isn't it important to show that the applicant is not a robot? — No. Sane department already know that you're not a robot, and insane deparments don't care.
    – JeffE
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 4:30

4 Answers 4


An academic CV is not intended to describe you as a whole person, but rather to describe your qualifications and accomplishments as an academic. The assumption is that of course you lead an ordinary human life (with hobbies, friends, family, religious beliefs or the lack thereof, etc.), but the people reading your CV are not trying to evaluate you as a human being and aren't interested in reading about the rest of your life.

Anything academic is fair game for an academic CV, including reviewing. How much to emphasize it depends on how many more important things you have to list.

Language skills are relevant to academia because they can assist with research, teaching, and public communication. You are right that this information could be used to discriminate, but I doubt this particular form of discrimination occurs often enough to be worth much worry.

Hobbies and non-academic service are generally not relevant (although there could be exceptions). It's not necessary to discuss them at all, and nobody will assume you have no hobbies or service activities if you don't mention any. It's OK to mention them in a very short section at the end of the CV if you feel it's important, but you should definitely not emphasize them. There are at least two reasons for this:

  1. It could come across as cluelessness, like you think they are an important factor in hiring/tenure decisions. This certainly won't ruin your chances, but it could look silly.

  2. It could be viewed as a defiant statement, along the lines of "I'm letting you know that my hobbies are particularly important to me and I intend to spend more time on them than you would like." If your CV is great otherwise you might be able to get away with this, but it will work against you. (I've seen this happen with graduate admissions, where someone devoted part of their personal statement to a favorite hobby and the committee worried that this hobby could be a distraction from research.)

Hiring committees do care about hiring reasonable colleagues who aren't going to be jerks, so human qualities are relevant (and not just academic accomplishments). Interviews shed light on this issue, as do letters of recommendation, and the CV is not so relevant.

Note that academic evaluation criteria are entirely different from undergraduate admissions in the United States. In that case, colleges are trying to assemble a self-contained community, and they really care about breadth, well-roundedness, leadership, personality, etc. Showing something about yourself as a human being is absolutely crucial. However, this is an anomaly of U.S. undergraduate admissions, and graduate admissions, faculty hiring, etc. are done completely differently. [I know your question never mentioned this comparison, but I decided to mention it for completeness since it's a common cause of confusion.]

  • 2
    Do you have an idea of approximately how common it is for people to list language skills? For me it would seem weird to list for example that I am fluent in English, simply because I would expect practically all other applicants to also be fluent (or at least close enough that it does not really matter). Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 9:22
  • 1
    Listing language skills is certainly not universal, so you should feel free to omit it (especially if you have a track record of papers and talks that would make it clear that you have adequate language skills). I think it's most common for junior people (who may not have a clear track record in this respect), those who have unusual skills, or others for whom it's not obvious. Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 14:28
  • It would be strange for a native English speaker to list English as a language. But, for an example from mathematics, if a number theorist or algebraic geometer indicated French, it would not be so odd - there are important works in that language that are not available in translation. At the same time, I don't think it would make more than a tiny change in the strength of the CV. Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 14:17
  • If a person gets to an interview with me personally, I will always ask about their hobbies and interests! Whether they've mentioned them or not in their CV. But for some positions, in misguided attempts at equity, the committee determines a common set of questions for all short-listed candidates and if it is not in the CV, the opportunity to see these other aspects to their fit for the position may be lost. The point is not whether they have hobbies or interests, but which they are and what that tells us about the person. Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 14:23
  • @TobiasKildetoft My (basic) knowledge of Swedish would help me learning German, which would be useful if I was hired in a German-speaking university. Also, showing that I speak three languages, I could more easily pick up a fourth one than someone that only speaks English.
    – Davidmh
    Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 16:48

It probably varies with countries and institutions, but according to the standard CV recommended/requested by the Harvard Medical School:

  • Reviews: Yes. Reviewing grants, list of journals for which you are ad hoc reviewer, editorial board memberships, etc.
  • Non-academic service: Yes (to some extent). List services that have a tie to your area of expertise (if your field is medicine, list pro bono work for a medical NGO, etc.)
  • Hobbies: No.
  • Languages: No (with some exceptions). However, if your mother language is neither English nor the local language, indicate your proficiency in both, possibly with standard test scores. Excellent written English proficiency is obviously a major asset in academia, and a good knowledge of the local language can make you stand out.
  • 2
    In a world of internationalization where all universities are keen to have foreign students and international ties, foreign languages are useful and a positive, and might make a difference where the university has MOUs with foreign universities (I've certainly used several of my foreign languages in this context, and wished some were in better shape). Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 14:28
  • 2
    Information about hobbies and interests is important to form a picture of the full person. The number of papers they've written or grants they've won is only part of the story, so all these other things are important as they reflect on other aspects of an academic's duties and responsibilities. Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 14:30

I'm adding here an answer for the "languages" part of the question.

  • Languages: Mandatory in some fields

First, you have fields where knowing some languages is mandatory per se, this is mostly the case for ancient languages (akkadian, egyptian, ancient greek, etc.) and for history (you have to be able to read at least English, German and French if you want to do a great job at studying WW2 history).

Second, in some fields, such as Egyptology for instance (I know that first hand, my wife being one them ;)), research papers can be written indifferently in English, French, German or Italian. If you know all four languages you can read the complete bibliography, otherwise you cannot, and not all scholars in the field can read or speak all four languages so this can be a huge advantage to have that in your CV if this is the case.


Yes, I want to see more than your publications and academic record. In particular hobbies, languages, clubs, sports and community involvement are important to mention. Were you on the chess team, the debating team, the school paper? Have you worked commercially, managed people, run a business?

These days everything is interconnected - technology has applications, sport and art make use of technology, science studies both the inner world of mind/brain and society (social/life sciences) as well as the external world of physical entities and devices (physical/biological sciences) and the way everything relates to everything else (information/cognitive sciences).

From your community/commercial involvement I might get insight into your aims in life, you leadership ability, your willingness to work alongside other people and health. Applications of mathematics, the sciences and the arts are now strongly driven to be commercially viable. World-wide universities are driven to non-traditional research and non-traditional funding, and to hire people with appropriate experience.

I'm not interested in a statement of purpose or some other hype that sounds more like something out of a fortune cookie than the kind of evidential data that belongs in formal curriculum vitae.

From your interest in languages or writing, your experience in debating or the school paper, I will gain ideas about how you'll go writing/reviewing/marking/examining a thesis or a paper or a grant, how you will approach/understand the literature, whether you can work on particular interdisciplinary or application-oriented parts of the research.

From your interest in music or dance, sports or photography, I might find connections that relate to (say) projects in computer science or engineering, in signal processing, image processing, speech processing - or extend them in new directions to song recognition or music transcription.

When people are indistinguishable on paper in terms of formal criteria, it is often these extras that will tip the balance and tell me who is best for the job.

The people who say to remove these things are the kind of people who want to fit other people neatly into boxes. I wouldn't employ any of them!

I'm not exactly sure what OP means by "review conferences/journals", but published reviews and indeed all papers you have written should be included, and reviewing for conferences, journals and funding bodies is something that is worth mentioning for someone who is applying for a job early in their academic career. Later in your career, I'd be looking for membership of program committees and editorial boards, and there should be so many venues you've reviewed for it wouldn't be worth the dozen extra pages to list them all. I review dozens of papers a year for countless conferences and journals...

  • 2
    I think this answer is talking about CVs for non-academic positions, rather than academic CVs as the question asks. Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 14:15
  • 1
    I'm an academic (Full Prof.) and am talking from the perspective of someone that reviews applications and interviews and supervised people in relation to academic positions and has never interviewed anyone for a non-academic position. For a non-academic position I may well not be interested in these other things - who knows? It's a rather academic question:-) Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 14:17
  • 3
    I believe you, but I have to say your approach to CVs is significantly at odds with my experience (my field is mathematics). Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 14:20
  • 5
    Your approach to CVs is also completely inconsistent with my experience (in computer science). If someone has done research into the algorithmics of music or dance (for example: crcpress.com/product/isbn/9781466512023) then of course they should list that research in their CV. But if it's just a hobby, then it's out of place.
    – JeffE
    Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 14:57
  • 4
    @DavidMWPowers I don't want to see passion. I want to see results.
    – JeffE
    Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 9:14

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