Should I Include a Photo on my Academic CV?

Photo on CV

The question of whether or not to include a photo on your academic CV comes up a lot, so I thought it was worth dealing with it in a separate post.

In a nutshell – no. Do not include a photo on your academic CV.

Let me tell you why – based both on my own experience and the published evidence.

I have looked at several hundreds of CVs through my roles as an academic recruiter, and before that when I sat on academic recruitment and promotions panels as a university employee. I know that when I open a CV that has an image on it, I have an instant and involuntary emotional response to that image. I cannot control that response (and nor can anyone else).

If you think you’re immune to this, just take a look at the pictures below and gauge your own emotional responses to and judgements about them (there are no right or wrong answers).

Be aware of your emotional responses to various images

While the research quality is variable, based on your picture alone, people can and will make unconscious (or conscious) judgements about your age, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, weight, social class or status, your personality and your tastes – all based on a single image. Most of those judgements will not be rational, nor are they likely to be accurate in many cases. They may not all negatively effect your employment prospects, particularly if your photo is perceived to be attractive by the recruiter.

Obviously, your photo is not the only cue that identifies diversity issues. The issue with a photo is that you have no control over the way it is interpreted by the recipient. You don’t want to be inadvertently disadvantaged due to a misinterpretation based on your image alone.

Perhaps to disprove an insult against the British started by the Simpsons, a UK based study found that, fortunately, the quality of people’s teeth does not influence shortlisting practices.

The Simpsons - Book of British Smiles
Book of British Smiles Source The Times

So – leave it out. If someone wants to find out what you look like, they will search for you anyway.

For more details on how to optimise your CV, take a look at our blog post on preparing your academic CV.

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