CVs for the academic job market

Over on Scatterplot, there is a discussion of how CVs should look when students (or recent graduates) are applying for academic jobs.

I wrote a long comment that I figured I would reproduce here (with some editing for context). My experience comes from having applied to numerous positions when I was on the job market in 2002 (with several on-campus visits and then job offers resulting) and from having sat on a couple of hiring committees in addition to seeing CVs of additional folks who’ve been interviewed in my department and some others on campus over the past few years.

One way to approach putting together one’s CVs for an academic job application is to look at the CVs of people who’ve gotten jobs recently, jobs of interest to the candidate. If someone’s been out for a few years, it’s fine to ask them for a copy of their CV from the time when they were on the market. (On that note, it’s also worth asking people for a copy of their application letters.)

Overall, it’s important to put the most important information on the first couple of pages. What’s most important? This partly depends on the type of job (top research department vs liberal arts college vs lots of other possibilities). My comments are mainly about applying to top research departments in sociology, communication and some related fields.

Order – For top research positions, I’d start with degrees (including school, field, year), then perhaps a line or two about interests followed by publications, grants and awards, invited presentations then conference presentations, followed by teaching and service. If it’s a type of department where teaching may be more important than research then I may put teaching above presentations to signal its importance. Another place to emphasize teaching is in the application letter as well as by including additional materials in the packet such as teaching philosophy or teaching evaluations.

Formatting – Please skip any fancy formatting, fancy paper or fancy binding. The latter, especially, can be very distracting. The last time I was on a hiring committee, there were a few files where the applicant put his/her material in an additional folder. (The staff putting together the materials tend to create folders for each applicant anyway.) Sometimes, these folders make the CVs and other materials harder to access. I realize it may sound ridiculous that it would be a notable nuisance to deal with this, but when you have just a few hours (yes, that’s the reality of the situation) to go through 100+ applications then any such distractions make a difference.

Papers that have been submitted to a journal for review and have been invited for resubmission – These should be listed, although I’d prefer to see them in a section separate from Publications. One possibility is to have a separate section called “Papers Under Review” where the first entries can be the ones with an R&R (“revise and resubmit) status. However, I would not list specific journal, if for no other reason, because it compromises the blind review process.

Papers under review – I hate seeing these on CVs, but I have experienced colleagues bringing them up in discussion at earlier stages in the process. While I don’t believe it does someone any good at the long-short list stage, it may help in retaining a name/file for that stage. (That is, when the committee is working its way from 100+ applications to, say, 20-30, these entries may help keep a file in the pile.) My preference – as a committee member on the other end – would be to see this under a separate section after publications as noted above.

Unpublished papers not under review – Some folks will list papers that are not under review (e.g., XYZ Title. ABC Department. Unpublished Manuscript). I would not include these. If anything, I’m left wondering why they haven’t been submitted for review if they are full papers.

Declined awards – If these are off-campus awards then I would mention them. These tend to be declined either because the recipient also received another award that created a conflict or for personal reasons, neither of which signal professional concerns (in fact, the former suggests that the recipient is very resourceful in successfully applying for several awards).

Dissertation abstract – While I’ve certainly seen people include this (and have seen such friends get good jobs) I personally hate to see CV space wasted on this. There are plenty of other places in the packet where one can include this information (most notably as a paragraph in the application letter). I turn to the CV for a quick glance at the main accomplishments such as publications, grants and awards. That said, most of our searches tend to be pretty broad so we’re not necessarily looking for very specific things. I guess if a department had a very specific need to fill then perhaps one could communicate a match in the abstract.

Tailoring to job specifics – If a deparment is looking for something specific (i.e., it’s not an open search) then it’s a good idea to tailor either the letter or the CV (or both) to the position.

All-in-all, I’d draft a CV and show it to faculty in one’s department for feedback (obvious person being one’s advisor, but getting feedback from additional faculty can also be helpful).

One Response to “CVs for the academic job market”

  1. Alex H. Says:

    Very nice set of advice. I agree completely, maybe with one caveat: avoid “fancy” formatting, but that doesn’t mean avoiding formatting all together.

    Especially if you are applying for a job that involves teaching design, organize your document well. Unlike the traditional resume, you aren’t penalized if it is on the long side, so make good use of white space. And this is really important: I have seen older faculty members abandon a vita during reviews because the type was too small. There’s really no good reason, for example, to use 10 or 11 point Times New Roman on a vita. Make it legible!