40 thoughts on “ask a scatterbrain (vita)”

  1. DISCLAIMER: I have very little experience on this front. However, I was on the job market last year and on a search committee this year. So with my disclaimer in mind let me make one observation: I think people over-estimate the importance of the CV and underestimate the importance of the dissertation. Now, these things are clearly inter-dependent. And this is not to say that the latter is more important than the former (just that often, the weights are off). But good departments* REALLY DO read your work if you meet a basic threshold**. And the dissertation in particular matters.

    * By “good departments” I don’t mean “top” departments. This is a tautologous normative claim: good departments are those that read the work. And you’re rather work at a good department: one that reads your work.

    ** The writer may be asking about this threshold. It’s not objective. I don’t know what it is. I’ll leave this for others to address.

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  2. I think, once again Shamus, you’ve brought in a second question (about what matters). I’m going to stick to the first.

    If the CV is just meant as a piece of paper, publications matter most. Certainly don’t put them on the last page. I also think that if one has both peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed pieces, it’s worth separating those categories even if it means highlighting that you’ve only written one peer-reviewed article and five that weren’t. It shows that you recognize the difference between the two and aren’t expecting to get tenure on the latter alone. I’m sure that others will chime in on how to list those publications (including authorship, etc.) as I’ve seen a lot of stylistic differences in this regard.

    Of course, you want to highlight your strengths, so if you really want people to know what a fabulous teacher you are, or your stats training puts you ahead, be sure to include sections that indicate the courses taught, your certification or training in pedagogy or stats, the teaching award you won, etc.

    As for what to include, I looked at a bunch of vitae to decide what categories to have or where to place them. I’ve got a place for almost everything now.

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  3. I think people over-estimate the importance of the CV and underestimate the importance of the dissertation

    Maybe. But without that threshold you mention, most are not going to care about details of the dissertation. Realistically speaking, a job ad attracts 100+ (in some cases 200-300) applications. The initial cut will have little to do with those details.

    Some students also massively underestimate the importance of recommendation letters.

    Regarding the CV, list peer-reviewed journal publications before conference presentations. Generally, it’s not good to have too many of the latter if that list is accompanied by only one or two publications since you don’t want to seem like someone who starts projects, but never finishes them.

    It’s helpful to check out the CVs of those who started jobs recently. That should give you an idea of what worked.

    Related, when applying, use the letterhead of the most prestigious institution you’re affiliated with. If you already have a PhD from Prestigious U., but are now visiting at Lesser Known U. Tiny Campus then write your letter on Prestigious U. stationary. (This doesn’t work if you already have a permanent position at LKUTC, but I think is fair to do if you are just in a temp position there and a recent grad of PU.)

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  4. My experience with having experienced both sides of personnel matters is that students underestimate the heterogeneity in how faculty read applicant files. CD’s bringing in recommendation letters is a good example: while no one ignores letters, some people weight them enormously, whereas other people think that beyond a certain point they say more about the recommender than a recommendee. This is another reason why, in my not-that-extensive experience, “no weaknesses” in a file seems often to triumph over “an element or two of especial strength.”

    I would actually myself be interested in the question of what personnel committees look for at schools that involve 3/3 teaching loads and lower research expectations, although I expect there is massive heterogeneity among faculty here as well. But faculty at Research I are often asked to opine about putting together applications for these institutions, when we typically know very little about how the personnel selection process works.

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  5. There was a discussion on another blog about letterhead earlier this year… not everyone thinks using it is a good idea, and at least one person suggested that using letterhead of an institution you are leaving hints at ethical questions.

    I think what you highlight varies with where you apply (though i never change my c.v. since a copy is on the web and people google it anyway).

    More or less what i’ve taken to doing is using the categories that are required by sshrc for grant applications and following their order, which is similar to the nsf format (though nsf is not as explicit). I started basically mimicing the form of my advisor’s c.v. then reformatted it to sshrc standard.

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  6. when applying, use the letterhead of the most prestigious institution you’re affiliated with

    Heh. When I was a grad student about to go on the market, we were forbidden from using official letterhead for our letters of application. I think the fear was that if you gave grad students some letterhead stationery they might start writing all kinds of random crank letters to people under the auspices of This Noble University. The policy changed shortly afterward when people started to complain.

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  7. For research institutions, you definitely want publications on the first page. The first cull of applications from 300+ to 30 is going to be based primarily on the cv. For teaching institutions, I’m less sure how to highlight, in some cases I’ve advised people to put teaching experience on the first page. Also consider your areas. Especially at smaller schools departments, but even in some larger ones, the areas listed in the job description have been the subject of intense political negotiation, and anyone who does not “fit” the ad is going to be thrown out immediately. So you may rearrange the items on your cv to emphasize those that fit the job description. Many people should have multiple cvs, especially if you are applying for different “kinds” of jobs (i.e. area studies or women’s studies positions + political sociology or criminology) or are applying to both teaching and research institutions. Liberal arts colleges really want to see the concern about teaching and your understanding of what a liberal arts college is on your cv or in your letter. If you are not willing to go to the trouble to edit your cv and cover letter to fit a particular job, it is probably a waste of time to even apply for the job. Again, this last sentence is especially true once you are looking at non-PhD programs, but also some of the PhD programs.

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  8. Incidentally, the multiple CV advice–which I agree with–goes against the commonly espoused idea that candidates should put their CV on the web.

    I have yet to know of a recorded instance in which a sociology candidate received an interview as a result either of putting their CV on the web themselves or of their department having a “Sociology Students On The Market” page. I welcome correction on this if people know of instances. As far as I can tell, institutions looking to hire look at the applications they have received (although some individuals might do some Googling once the pool has been whittled down).

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  9. Some schools poke around for students during the summer to meet at ASA. It’s probably helpful to have something online that they can look at while perusing the pages (but that’s likely much earlier than most departments have their “grad students on the market” page updated).

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  10. @8 Having multiple cvs is not inconsistent with putting one on the web. You don’t change the facts, you rearrange their presentation. By the way, I should have made it clear that it is the combination of the cover letter and the cv (and the consistency between them) that matters when departments are culling for “fit.” I’m in favor of a web presence. People don’t find you surfing the web, but they may well go to your web page after reviewing your cv, to find out what else they can learn.

    @6 & others re letterhead, all this is a superstition anyway. 30 years ago letterhead was kept locked in an office and meant you had access to that office. Today it means you know how to use a letterhead set up on your word processor. It does not matter. Anybody who is evaluating a job candidate on the basis of their letterhead has a serious problem. I’d advise using no letterhead or making up your own personal letterhead.

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  11. About things under review: a pet peeve of mine is when people say that their paper is “under review” at AJS or ASR. That means nothing. It costs nothing to send out a paper. Now, if you have an R&R, that’s a very different story. But if it’s simply being reviewed, I’d say that and not where.

    Second: I think it’s a bad idea to list papers on your CV that you aren’t willing to share. You can, of course, make a distinction between works submitted and works in progress. But my feeling is that those papers should REALLY be in progress (some data collected, some writing done, etc.). I think that it’s a bad idea to pad your CV in hopes of making up for what’s not there. People see through this stuff. Be honest about what you do and don’t have done.

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  12. You should definitely put things in progress (but like Shakha says, only things that you’d have a paper to produce for someone who asked for it) and things under review.

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  13. I think it’s fine to have a “Manuscripts Under Review” section of the CV and list things and where they are under review there. It’s a strong irritant when people list things under review under “Publications.”

    If you’ve got access to prestigious letterhead, I would use it. I agree that no one would be consciously making distinctions from it, but several thousand studies in social psychology show that small things that wouldn’t be taken into conscious account in a decision can still influence a decision.

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  14. With “Works in Progress,” I would urge against listing 10-15 works in progress if you have 0-1 publications. I’ve seen people think that having lots of things in progress will make up for having no publications. Having *some* things in progress indeed might. *Lots* of things with a weak number of things published or under review makes one look like somebody who has problems getting anything done.

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  15. I used to put “under review at such-and-such journal” under the works in progress section of the CV, but lately I’ve dropped the name of the journal and just listed the papers, indicating that they are under review somewhere. What the applicant readers are looking for is that you have a pipeline of papers out there, assuring them that you’re not a one-hit wonder and are a safe hiring bet.

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  16. a pet peeve of mine is when people say that their paper is “under review” at AJS or ASR

    I so agree with this!! I hate it when people do that. That said, I wonder if what Jeremy said about small things making a difference would apply here. It certainly wouldn’t matter once it came down to looking at CVs carefully, but might it help someone with their CV staying in the pile from 300 to 30? I would never do this, but recently I’ve started wondering whether it’s been wrong to advise my graduate students to avoid doing this.

    I also agree with Jeremy that having tons of papers in progress, but little published is not going to look good, in fact, may look rather bad. It’s related to CD’s point about too many conference presentations without enough publications to go along with them.

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  17. I’m pretty sure that when I sent my CV out with applications, I put where things were under review, just to give people a sense of the variety or what I was shooting for. I still do that with the vita for my annual performance report. However, I don’t think that I ever put it on my “public” vita.

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  18. Oops, I had also meant to address the different CVs/letters question.

    Regarding different CVs, I think the only thing I changed on mine were the areas of interest. Otherwise it was all the same and I had interviews and offers from very different places.

    That said, I couldn’t agree more about tweaking the letters, in some cases considerably! I am in a Communication Studies Dept and we get applications from people with all sorts of backgrounds including sociology PhDs. Some of these applicants say nothing about how they would fit in a comm department and their CVs don’t show any engagement with the discipline (conference attendances, journal publications). That is not okay. It’s another version of fit. I’ve been on search committees and we’ve had explicit discussions about this: “This person looks like a smart sociologist, but why a comm department, where’s the fit?”. Don’t put the burden on the committee to have to figure that out.

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  19. Here’s a tip: don’t put your CV, cover letter, and writing samples on a CD-Rom (and only on a CD-Rom). Well, assuming your primary goal is for the search committee to *read* your application. If your primary goal is to save paper, you might as well not send in an application at all.

    On listing where a paper is in the pipeline: The more papers I review for AJS/ASR, the more skeptical I’ve become that “under review at AJS [ASR]” offers any useful information whatsoever about the paper’s quality or the author’s likelihood of future success.

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  20. It seems to me misguided to put, on a publicly-viewable CV, “under review at AJS” alongside a paper in submission. Do you want people knowing about your failed submission to AJS when they see the paper in ASQ (or another subfield destination)? Seems more prudent to just indicate journal names when it comes to R&Rs.

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  21. I have been see people already disposed toward a candidate try to use the fact that they’ve submitted a paper to ASR as an argument for a candidate, so I would say include the name of the journal if you’ve submitted it.

    As ever with job market advice, it’s important to distinguish what oneself might recognize as rational decision-making from what other people might take into irrational consideration.

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  22. There is mention of articles submitted to journals, but what about working papers that you have put on a website like SSRN for example?

    Should you (avoid to) mention those on your CV?

    Sure, it says nothing about the quality of said paper ofcourse, but it is free to download and if someone takes the effort to look at it, it might say more than just the titles of some papers under review (which the one looking at the CV cannot see)?

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  23. I have to chime in on the “under review at” question and agree with many of you that this is a bad idea. I’ve seen this elicit very strong irritation from search committee members, along the lines of, “Anyone can submit something to ASR.” Listing an R&R at ASR, now that is very different. And, it’s good to see an “under review” by your working papers. We also didn’t mind if people put where they were planning to submit things in their cover letter. Just not on the CV, especially, as Jeremy says, under “Publications.”

    I’m in agreement with Jessica as well–do not bury your publications. We want to see those on page 1. And, I like to see peer-reviewed things separated from other publications.

    Of course, I’m only in my first year on the TT so take all this with a grain of salt.

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  24. personally, if a paper isn’t submitted and at least r&r, it shouldn’t be on the vita. this is basically the ‘under contract’ rule, if it is not under contract in some relation to acceptance then… it does not go on the vita, because it could as well not even exist next year. ‘in progress’ to me always seems a fiction, submitted to x journal is ‘so, what?’ a vitae… is what you have accomplished, your life so far, so things that are yet to be, go into the letter.

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  25. I disagree with buridan, #27. If you’re mostly written the paper (done the work) and would be willing to circulate it upon request (within a few weeks) list it. Most folks don’t have anything published or as an R&R when they hit the market. And “in progress” gives a sense of what you’ve done.

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  26. IMO new PhDs ought to put working papers & unpublished MSS on the cv if they exist in the sense that they can be sent to a search committee, but they ought not to be labeled publications. I don’t mind “under review” but I do mind “submitted to ASR.” And even for tenured people, we often want to see what the person has in the pipeline, what are they doing now. Vaporpapers that cannot be produced on demand should not be listed — you don’t get points for lines on a cv, nor do you get points for listing the same thing several times in different guises. (We call it “smoke and mirrors”.) But there could be a section on research in progress sketching what is under way. Unpublished papers that exist but that you do not want to give a search committee ought not to be on the cv. Published articles and books that you are ashamed of are, however, part of your record and have to be on the cv if they are relevant to your field. You can leave your fiction off your sociology cv if you want to, and also your letters to the editor of newspapers and magazines, but not a publication in a sociology journal. You may, however, relegate it to a section called “minor publications” or “other publications” to indicate your own lesser evaluation of it.

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  27. You can leave your fiction off your sociology cv if you want to, and also your letters to the editor of newspapers and magazines, but not a publication in a sociology journal

    Galbraith left his first book off his vita because he came to believe it was a pretty bad book. I once had a conversation with a distinguished economist who told me he had gotten (what he saw as pretty good) advice, while applying for some major fellowship, to leave most of his minor publications off of his vita and just keep the big hits on there. The reasoning was that a string of 10 straight home runs looks much more impressive than the same 10 interspersed with a bunch of minor stuff.

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  28. Kieran: I know people who would consider that fraud. Like pruning your employment history on a resume so it does not look like you job hopped as much as you did or went through a period of low status jobs. My spouse did that, BTW, at one point, but he said a resume is different from an employment history, that if asked for an employment history, he’d list it all. It’s an interesting issue for its own debate. Is a cv like an employment history or like a resume?

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  29. I know people who would consider that fraud.

    That seems like an overreaction to me. Of course, you could construct cases where I would agree that fraud would probably be the right term. (“Oh you mean those 25 articles on the racial inferiority of Asians.”) But there seem to be harmless cases, too — for someone’s juvenilia, say. The case I described in 30 is somewhere in the middle. Even in that case, a heading of “Selected Publications” would probably cover it. I think, like your spouse, that there’s a material distinction between a resume and an employment or work history. I don’t list my high school on my CV, but I listed it when asked explicitly for my educational history by the USCIS when applying for my green card.

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  30. While I do list all my publications on my CV–none of which incidentally are, to my knowledge, fiction–it’s never even occurred to me that omitting some lame publication would be fraud. My initial reaction is that even if some people consider it fraud, it’s not fraud. I don’t even think leaving jobs off your resume/employment history is fraud, as long as you don’t say you were working somewhere when you weren’t. Maybe I’ve a mixed-up moral compass here.

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  31. Actually, I don’t think it is “fraud” either. But I do know people who insist that you are not allowed to purge publications from your record, and I believe our divisional committee requires all of them.

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  32. Our tenure committee required a publication of mine from 14 years ago written in my second year of law school, in my subject area but as an essay in a book i do not own. I list it under “other publications’ because it is not a real academic publication.

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  33. people who insist that you are not allowed to purge publications from your record, and I believe our divisional committee requires all of them.

    Hmm. If I leave some of the crappy stuff from my resume, I’m not sure this all that different from some of the advice given above, such as not to list things that haven’t appeared, not to list every entry in every working paper series, etc. Done in good fiath, it exercises the same faculty of judgment that the committee reading the vita would exercise if confronted with the full list, viz, identifying the really good stuff amongst all this material.

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  34. What do you put under your “teaching” section besides classes taught or TA’d at the university level? Anything? If I taught elementary school for a few years, should I put that as teaching experience, or does that look like padding because it’s so different?

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  35. @37 I’d put it on, it accounts for your earlier life. If you have taught at the college level, that’s good. If not, then you might stick in special lectures or classes on how to teach or anything that looks teaching relevant — but these extremes are useful only for “teaching” jobs, not for top research jobs.

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  36. I wouldn’t put having taught elementary school under “Teaching” on a CV. I’m not sure I would put it on the CV at all (if I did, under “Employment), but maybe put it in the cover letter. My worry, especially with it under “Teaching,” is that it can be read as you trying to draw too close an analogy to that experience and the experience of teaching college students. (Not that I would think this or am claiming you think this, but the whole thing with CV advice is trying to anticipate how it might be read by others.)

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  37. There are cases where you might list elementary school teaching on your c.v., but it has to make sense to your C.V. and the job. For instance, you taught, you have a publication related to elementary school sociology and the job includes substantive publication in sociology of education. But unless it makes sense in the rest of your c.v. and letter, I wouldn’t include it.

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