ask a scatterbrain: vitae* (2)

We have covered some vitae issues before. However, in response to our last questions about ASA and the market, more have emerged. Now, questions of style. From a reader:

I’ve noticed there is quite a bit of variation in the style and ordering of CV items among sociologists. As a person about to go on the market, I can do only so much about changing the publications/presentations at the moment, but in terms of style, what makes a good CV? Do people care about the design and layout of the CV? I’ve seen some CV’s where an abstract of the dissertation is included, others where that is no where to be seen. Which is better when you’re on the market? Are there any style or ordering mistakes that make you wary of a candidate?

* Why “vita” in the first post and “vitae” now? I’m correcting my Latin grammar. Father Cannon would be disappointed, but relieved that I discovered my own mistake.

25 thoughts on “ask a scatterbrain: vitae* (2)”

  1. My two cents: people often create different vitae for different types of schools. For R1s they put grants and publications first, for teaching positions they highlight their teaching capacities earlier on in the CV. I think this is a good idea. In general I think folks should tailor their CV to the jobs they’re applying for. This goes both for the type of school and the particular call. If you do work in culture, theory, and education and the job is a theory one, I would place theory first in the list and highlight the “theory” parts of your work by listing them first (more prominently).


  2. You know, I really appreciate this thread and can’t wait to see what others have to give for advice, but shakha’s comment (and I’m not attacking him at all and tailoring a CV is great advice) seems to assume there are ONLY 2 kinds of jobs to apply for – R1s and “teaching schools” (and he probably didn’t mean to do that but I’ve seen it done here before). This leaves out a huge number of schools that aren’t R1s but where faculty do actively research and publish, and don’t have 4/4 teaching loads. And some people really would LOVE to end up at a school like that (me, for instance).

    So I’m just saying, it would be great to keep in mind the wide variety of options out there for people. :-)


  3. Having been on junior search several times, I would say that I don’t think the order of things matters all that much. However, and consistent with Shamus’ point about tailoring, I would put what you think the school to which you are applying is most interested in on the first page. Don’t make them hunt for it. Most new PhDs put an abstract of their dissertation the first page since, in the absence of several publications, the dissertation is the best indication of the quality of the applicants’ research. But, getting the most important stuff –whatever that might be– in plain sight gives you the best shot of being noticed. I look forward to others thoughts on this.


  4. Good responses. More CV’s do’s and don’ts:

    – saying “paper X” under review at fancy journal Y impresses no one, just write “under review” or “in progress” if you want to show what you are working on. R&R? Yes. Published? Definitely. Otherwise, a little humility is good.

    – the 2 page rule – people rarely get past page 2, so put it up front if it’s important

    – book contract is to be listed if it’s a “real contract,” and not an advance non-binding contract

    – early career people should *always* put abstract on page 1, unless they have a nice string of articles that speak for themselves

    – My pet peeve: Award (Declined) looks cheesy. If you didn’t take the award, just don’t list it.


  5. Wise as Fabio is, I disagree nonetheless with two of his points. First, I would definitely list declined awards if they have any prestige. Some people might think they are cheesy, but they might impress other people and I think with CVs it’s always better to risk the cheese side. Second, I agree fully with Fabio that having an article under review at Fancy Journal Y ought to impress no one, and yet, I have in fact heard discussions of candidates in which having something under review at Fancy Journal Y helped their case.

    My more general stance is probably that CVs are read so differently by different people that, for the most part, one should put whatever one can out there and see what sticks. (But put the most objectively impressive stuff up front.)


  6. watershed @2 re school types, for sure. Let’s typologize this way. (1) One extreme, Depts with PhD programs. Big or small, regardless of rank, research is probably the thing to emphasize on your cv. (2) The other extreme, small private liberal arts colleges that make it clear that undergraduate teaching is what matters to them and are offering a “liberal arts education.” Here you have to make it clear that you understand what they think their mission is and what a liberal arts education is or you won’t make the first cut. However, this does NOT mean that research is unimportant. Getting experience with research is really important to undergraduates these days, so professors need to be able to set up research programs that can involve undergraduates. (3) The huge middle of non-PhD departments, some of which have master’s programs, including departments in state schools, especially the branch campuses and the less-prestigious private schools that have “university” in their names. Research matters for all of these types. But you need to play up your teaching much more for schools that really emphasize this. It is less a matter of the cv than of the cover letter, although courses you have taught I think matter more for a teaching-emphasis school.

    About declined awards, I vote yes if they are clear honors, no if they are travel grants from your department or other small change stuff. Definitely do NOT list the fellowships offered by the schools you did not go to, but saying you declined an NSF fellowship is OK.

    About under review, listing “under review at AJS” in your publications section looks weird and dumb to me. But if the section is titled “unpublished manuscripts available for review” or even “papers” and there is a parenthetical remark like (Status: under review at AJS), this seems to me less like you are trying to claim prestige for mailing a paper and more like an honest report from someone who has things in the pipeline, especially if the status for another one is “(revising, intending to submit in January)”.

    Overall, what matters is to look like you fit the ad, so you need to include on the first page the information that would make it clear that you do have the specified qualifications. You may not realize that the smaller schools get more applications than the top 20 departments, and are trying to screen out people who do not seem to be seriously interested in them.


  7. To flip the declined awards bit – what do you folks think about putting not-quite-awards on your CV? For example, I made it through the first round of the Fulbright but was ultimately chosen as an alternate.

    The general consensus from people I’ve asked is that it’s worth putting on there, but it feels a bit like name-dropping to me (as does this post, now that I think about it… ). Any thoughts?


  8. One way to approach this question 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.)

    papers under review – I hate seeing these on CVs, but like Jeremy, I have also 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.

    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 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). I’m not sure what to say about the Fulbright alternate issue, perhaps it depends on how much more you have to showcase on your CV.

    unpublished papers not under review – Some folks will list papers that are not under review. I would not include these. If anything, I’m left wondering why they haven’t been submitted for review if they are full papers.

    papers that have been invited for resubmission – These should be listed, although I’d prefer to see them in a separate section like the ones under review. As I noted above, I prefer to see a section after Publications called “Papers Under Review” where the first entries can be the ones with an R&R status. However, I would not list specific journal, if for no other reason, because it compromises the blind review process.

    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.

    order – For top research positions, I’d start with degrees (including school, field, year), then perhaps a line or two on interests followed by publications, grants and awards, invited presentations then conference presentations, followed by teaching and service. If it’s a different type of department 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. (Committees 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.

    And I agree that it’s important to put the most important information on the first couple of pages (which also speaks against inclusion of an abstract as it takes up considerable space). I will certainly look past p.2. if it looks like there is something there, but if the first two pages have nothing, but “fillers” (“papers that might one day perhaps make it under review”) then I’m less inclined to do so.


  9. At my master’s level institution, the grad students were included in the hiring process, and we got to hear some of the things that swayed the faculty’s vote. I remember that applicants having a submission at a prestigious journal was a good thing, and as far as I know, nobody thought listing it looked silly or presumptuously boastful. It showed the person was willing to aim high. But, yeah- it does seem silly to put anything that hasn’t been accepted for publication in a publications list. That seems like it would go under a separate heading.


  10. I like to have links to published papers in the CV, or at least a link to the person’s webpage where the papers can easily be found. It’s not like this is a requirement, of course. Though it does still surprise me how many people don’t bother to have a useful webpage, or any webpage at all.


  11. K and E: One thing that I worry about with a web page for folks on the market is that a webpage, while not static, only offers one presentation of self (at a time). This seems potentially tricky for folks who may be trying to market themselves in more than one way (tailoring as per the thread here), which is so common in this tight market.

    Clearly, you recommend that students do create pages; do you offer any guidance on the issue of tailoring?

    One strategy, of course, is “just the facts” — pubs, teaching experience, grants…but then how useful is the page if it amounts to a virtual CV?


  12. @11.Kieran: Okay, so I just updated my web page for the first time in 3 years, but I did it last night, before this scold was issued!


  13. Kieran and Eszter: Some of us less technologically-inclined folks could write an entirely new manuscript for a line on that “real” CV in the time it would take us to make our webpage more useful or our CV more interactive. That said, I’ll add trying to figure out such things to my list to do (and I did restructure my CV to move up publications and get rid of working papers).


  14. Here’s my post on the importance of a Web site for academics.

    In that post, I address the questions raised by M@13.

    First, how is this useful? It’s useful, because people may look at your Web site before you ever even think about submitting a CV for a position. I don’t have the CVs of every student out there, why would I? But if I see an interesting and well done presentation at a conference by someone who I think may be a fit for my program then I’m going to want to learn more about this person. (We are constantly hiring and so I’m constantly on the lookout for folks who may be potential candidates.) If there is no Web presence then I have nothing to go on.

    The second point is the one Kieran made: a Web site can include abstracts or full papers, which can be very helpful.


  15. While I agree with most of Eszter’s points, I think one should DEFINITELY list the journal where one has an R&R. If it wasn’t there, my operating assumption would be candidate is hiding something — that is, that the the R&R is somewhere that’s not especially credible. Also, I’ve certainly heard R&Rs raised in candidate deliberations as if their acceptance was a foregone conclusion.

    Indeed, I think it’s an issue whether, if an R&R looks very iffy, one wants to rush to have it resolved. There was a widely-interviewed junior candidate awhile back that had an R&R from a prestigious journal on her/his CV that was (over?) two years old and I don’t know what ever became of it.


  16. Well, I wouldn’t list it on my homepage, I really do think that one compromises the blind-review process.

    I would *definitely* list it on materials submitted for promotion and tenure purposes. (I think our merit review forms are explicit about only listing published material or presentations, but not work-in-progress. Plus we’re only supposed to list anything once so you would want to wait until it’s published.)


  17. I don’t think tenured people should ever list R&Rs on their cvs, and in general I don’t think the cv you post on your web site should have R&Rs on it. Unpublished manuscripts can optionally be included on a public cv if you want to convey information about the character of work in progress, but not all the info about where it is in the pipeline. Information about manuscript submission and R&Rs goes on the cvs of junior people who are trying to get jobs or be evaluated for progress toward tenure, and for people who are in the process of establishing themselves, where what’s in the pipeline is relevant to evaluation. But that’s different from our general-purpose cv. I’ve always distinguished between my internal evaluation-purposes cv and my external public-presentation cv.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. To Jeremy @ 18 and olderwoman @ 23 (and anyone else):

    Good points about R&R’s. FYI, I’ve worked to for two major journals and the R&R to accept rate is only about 50%.* I agree that listing it is good for the untenured, but there are limits. So when reading CV’s, the R&R is definitely progress, but it’s only half way there. As olderwoman might say, you just have to read the material and judge for yourself. The horror!!

    * This is only sociology – other disciplines reserve R&R for manuscripts we might label as conditional accept. In those cases, R&R is usually a “done deal.”


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