Weird, and unwise, things to include on your cv (UPDATEDx2)

So, what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen someone include on their cv?

Probably the weirdest I’ve heard of is someone who listed their IQ. Apparently IQ tests don’t measure “good judgement about what to put on your cv.”

I’ve also seen or heard of a couple of faculty who list their high school, or high school achievements. Which I wouldn’t say is weird, but does seem a bit odd to me. Not to the extent that it would ever affect, say, a hiring decision, I don’t think (it’s rare for any one little thing like that to derail anyone’s job application). But a bit odd.

I have a few things on my cv that might be considered slightly weird. Or maybe not? I’m not sure. You be the judge:

  • My cv notes that my undergraduate degree is magna cum laude, which I believe is Latin for “I went to a fancy liberal arts college or Ivy League university and did reasonably well, and I am still proud of it.”😉 Although then again, it’s pretty common to list Latin honors. So maybe I’m just overly self-conscious in worrying that listing Latin honors might look a little weird?
  • I list all the working groups, symposia, and editorial boards I was invited to join but declined. I list them because such invitations are one line of evidence of my standing in the field. But I’m probably at the point in my career where I should just drop them for the sake of brevity. And you don’t see many other people listing declined invitations, so it might look a little weird that I do. (UPDATE: I’ve dropped them now.)
  • I have a paragraph on my blogging right at the end, in its own section. I actually don’t think many people would consider that weird, at least not after they read it. But I suppose a few people might. I’m not worried about this possibility, but it is possible.

There are other things you sometimes see people include on their cv’s that aren’t weird, in that they don’t make the reader think “Why would you list that?”, but that nevertheless give a bad impression:

  • “In prep” papers, unless you are a grad student or postdoc. The only two reasons to list “in prep” papers are (i) to help convey what you work on, and (ii) to show that you are indeed actively working on something. But once you’re past the postdoc stage, you should have enough of a track record that you shouldn’t need in prep publications to convey (i) or (ii). Nobody reading your cv gives you even a smidgen of “partial credit” for “in prep” publications. No, not even if you say they’re to be submitted in the next three months and you specify the target journals, and not even if your target journal is Science or Nature. You can probably leave off submitted publications too unless you’re a grad student or postdoc, for the same reason. By the way, I learned this fairly late, and listed in prep and submitted publications on my cv until a couple of years ago. In retrospect, that was a (minor) mistake.*
  • Listing anything other than peer reviewed papers in the same section of your cv as peer reviewed papers. Papers in prep, online preprints (even those that have received “post-publication review” in some form), letters to the editor of Nature and Science, invited papers that weren’t peer reviewed, particularly witty tweets…If you list any of that in the same section of your cv as peer-reviewed papers, people will think you’re trying to pass that other stuff off as peer reviewed papers.**
  • Continuing to list retracted papers. I’ve heard of people doing this. You don’t want to be one of those people. No matter what the reason for the retraction.
  • UPDATE #2: Do not list press releases about your work on your cv. No, not even if the press release was picked up by an aggregator like Science Daily. That’s transparent cv padding, it will only make you look bad. By all means include mentions of your work in the media–but press releases are not the media. And aggregators like Science Daily,, and EurekAlert are basically just unselectively republishing a lot of press releases, sometimes after editing them a bit. So the fact that they’ve published about your work isn’t much of a reason for anyone else to be impressed. It’s nothing like a much more selective outlet choosing to write about your work instead of writing about all the other things they could’ve written about.

And of course, there are other things on which you’ll get conflicting advice as to whether to list them. So the floor is open. Got questions or advice on what not to include on your cv? Fire away!

*Until very recently I also listed papers on which a revision had been invited, but I’ve stopped now. Listing “in press” papers is fine, of course. If you do list submitted, in review, or in press publications, provide some sort of identifying information that could in principle be checked–the doi if there is one, or else the ms tracking number.

**And don’t put that other stuff in an earlier section of your cv, before your peer-reviewed papers. In general, you should first list your degrees and employment. The remaining sections should be in rough order of their importance to whatever position you’re applying for. You don’t want whoever’s evaluating your application to have to dig for the information they care most about.

UPDATE: This post describes some N. American norms of cv construction. Norms vary between countries. In general, I’m of the view that you should follow the local norms, so that those reading your cv can read it easily and don’t raise an eyebrow. See the comments for some discussion of norms in other countries.

93 thoughts on “Weird, and unwise, things to include on your cv (UPDATEDx2)

  1. We had a big debate here recently during a workshop about whether your publications should go at the start (after degrees and employment) or end of your CV. I was arguing for the former, but the overwhelming majority of staff here (in the UK) suggested listing at end, as that’s where they all assume they’ll be and so turn there first. Is this a cultural difference or am I just weird?

    • Hmm, I wasn’t aware of a cultural difference in which the Brits list their publications at the end. Perhaps explains why I didn’t have much success back when I was applying for British jobs!🙂

      In general, I agree that you should follow the prevailing norms, because that’s what makes your cv easy for others to read and that’s what avoids making others raise an eyebrow unnecessarily. This post describes some of the prevailing norms in N. America.

    • That’s interesting to me, I had no idea. (In the US, I’ve heard from a variety of people in different contexts that not putting publications right up front constitutes an attempt to bury a substandard publication record. An exception, though, is that for teaching institutions that deprioritize research, listing teaching experiences first is a good signal for institutional fit.)

      • “for teaching institutions that deprioritize research, listing teaching experiences first is a good signal for institutional fit.)”

        Yep. This is what I had in mind with that passing remark in the post about ordering the sections of your cv according to how important they are to readers. Readers at different types of institutions care about different things.

      • Apropos what I’ve just said about listing publications at the end, I’ve never thought of the sections of a CV as having an order of priority, with the “important” stuff first. It’s all important/relevant and should be read as a whole, not as a set of ranked sections. But perhaps that’s a cultural difference too?

      • I wasn’t aware it was a cultural difference either, but have always listed my papers at the end. To me it makes logical sense: you set the scene with education and employment history, then talk about your research/teaching, then professional activities, then list your outputs. That makes a logical thread in my mind. but I guess it’s just what I’m used to seeing in the UK.

      • @Jeff:

        Oh, so *that’s* why British cv’s are ordered that way! Ever since your earlier comments I’ve been trying and failing to figure out why the heck the “culture” in the UK would be to put the publications at the end!

        I’m now embarrassed that I spent 4 years as a postdoc in the UK and never learned the British culture on this. I wasn’t even aware there was a different culture.

      • Yeah, that famous British logic….like having about 5 different names for more-or-less the same country🙂

        Don’t be too embarrassed, how often do we actually look and colleagues’ CVs, and unless you were part of an interview panel in the UK you’d not be likely to see many.

      • “Don’t be too embarrassed, how often do we actually look and colleagues’ CVs, and unless you were part of an interview panel in the UK you’d not be likely to see many.”

        It’s kind of you to say that. But I was well aware that there are various differences in academic “culture” among countries. I should’ve gone out of my way to ask a British colleague “Could you take a look at my cv and other application materials and let me know if you see any presentational problems?”

      • I would be really amazed if the order in which you presented your CV made a material difference to whether or not you got a job. So I’d not see it as a problem as such, just a style.

      • @Jeff:

        “I would be really amazed if the order in which you presented your CV made a material difference to whether or not you got a job.”

        I’m sure you’re right. As I said in the post, it’s rare for any one little thing to make the difference in someone’s job application. And “ordering of the sections of your cv” definitely is a little thing.

    • Here is my rationale for putting publications close to the front for my US CV (after education, grants, awards/honors). People will pay more attention near the beginning than by the time they get through all the pages of your CV. Thus you want the most important sections to be early on. My CV is aimed at research jobs, so I put publications before teaching.

      I read recently that British academic CVs are often only two pages. If this is correct, it could help explain why putting publications at the end does not bury them to the same degree it can on a longer CV.

      • Hi Elinor – I see your logic but it assumes that members of the interview panel will read a CV in the order in which it’s presented, which often isn’t the case: people will flip between the sections that they are interested in.

        As regards the average length of a British academic CV, I’ve never seen one that was only 2 pages. Mine is 15 pages and growing, for instance. If you’re curious, for the record the order in which I list things is:

        CONTACT DETAILS AND LINKS (including the blog, ResearchGate, Google Scholar, my group’s website, etc.)

        EMPLOYMENT AND EDUCATION (reverse chronological from my first degree)

        CURRENT TEACHING (short – I would talk about this more in a covering letter, if appropriate)


        RESEARCH FUNDING (sources and amounts – note that this is often of more interest to universities that outputs……..)

        POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHERS (current and past who have worked in my group, and their projects)

        RESEARCH STUDENTS (ditto)

        CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS (last 10 years)




        RESEARCH IMPACT (this is relatively new and is a consequence of the Research Excellence Framework)


        As I note above, though, my record of applying for new jobs with this CV in recent years is hardly exemplary🙂

      • I thought 2 pages seemed short! Thanks for sharing how long yours is. I tend to look through CVs in the order they are presented, but have also been moving towards reading (student CVs) digitally where flipping back and forth is a bit of a pain.

  2. A few comments on this:

    1. I think it’s weird to put one’s photograph on a CV, particularly as people often make judgements as to what individuals look like.

    2. Not at all convinced that in prep/ submitted. papers shouldn’t go onto a list, even for established researchers. What’s the argument against? That’s unclear to me.

    3. I’m as proud of my non peer-reviewed articles as I am of those that are peer reviewed so I produce a single list, but highlight those that are peer-reviewed with an asterisk. Separate lists seems to me to be subconsciously de-valuing certain types of publication.

    • Re: 1, I think a photo is expected/required in some countries, such as Germany. Perhaps German readers can comment? But if it’s not expected/required, I agree you shouldn’t include it.

      Re: 2, you don’t need an argument against, you need an argument for. A cv’s job is to summarize relevant information briefly. Anything that lengthens your cv without adding information, like in prep/submitted publications for an established researcher, shouldn’t be there.

      • “you don’t need an argument against, you need an argument for. A cv’s job is to summarize relevant information briefly. Anything that lengthens your cv without adding information, like in prep/submitted publications for an established researcher, shouldn’t be there.”

        I’d argue that it does provide relevant information: it tells a prospective employer something about your current activities as opposed to you past activities, given that anything published/in press is lieklyto be the result of work done done at least 12 months ago. It sends a message that you’ve not been sitting still for the last 12 months or so.

        This could be particularly important for applicants to countries with some sort of top-down assessment of recent research such as the UK’s REF where an interview panel needs to assess whether an applicant could potentially be entered by the department in the future.

      • @Jeff:

        We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. As I said in the post, I think once you’re an asst. prof (or a lecturer in the UK), you’ve got enough of a track record that your cv (sans in prep/submitted publications) and other accompanying information (typically including a statement of research interests/goals/plans) tells employers about your current and planned research.

      • OK, let’s agree to differ. Having said all of that, the last job I applied for I didn’t even get an interview, so I’m perfectly happy to believe that I’m wrong🙂

      • Re: 1, Yes, in general it is required/expected to have a photo on your CV in Germany. But I think in academics this rule is getting more and more relaxed, at least I got an job interview without including a photo😉.

      • I have been thinking about papers in prep. on CVs a lot lately because I’m planning to submit a grant application soon. It takes a long time from collecting data to having a paper published, especially in the case of field studies where the time between collecting samples and publishing a paper is often several years. So, my published papers don’t say anything about my current work. I plan to start posting preprints online, so that instead of just listing a paper in prep. I would link to a preprint (e.g. on bioRxiv). I would not list a paper in pres. unless I have a reasonable draft, so I might as well just share the manuscript as a preprint. This would provide evidence that I really have a manuscript almost ready for submission to a journal and the reviewers could read it (if they have time for that). Sounds like a good compromise to me.

    • Re: 1, To bring some light in this mystery, yes some German ecologist/biologist have used photoshop for their cv photos. Or paid a lot of money to get good professional pictures.

  3. I loath those little paragraphs of BS that lots of people put at the top of their CVs nowadays. “A passionate scientist, a great team worker also capable of independent work”. They always read as though they’re copied from some website and they’re always fundamentally meaningless.

    Bets thing I ever read on a CV? “I like walking in the rain and listening to David Bowie when I’m sad”.

    • I agree completely. That said, I think it can be useful to include a snappy summary of your core research questions and interests. That signals that the candidate knows what they’re doing and has a clear direction. It’s a dangerous line to tread though, and platitudinous comments or buzz-phrases (‘an interdisciplinary approach to sustainability and well-being’) say the exact opposite.

  4. Weirdest thing on my CV: a section right after my “real” pubs called “And with tongue in cheek”. Looks like this:

    –Scott, E.C., (more authors), Stephen. W. Hawking1, S. B. Heard, (more authors). 2004. The morphology of Steve. Annals of Improbable Research 10:24-29. (1Yes, that Stephen Hawking.)
    –Heard, S.B. 1991. The centrifugal theory of species diversity. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 72(1):13.

    These are both joke papers. Some people will think less of me for listing them, but at this point in my career, I don’t care!

    • I have a friend with a couple of papers in AIR on his cv; he’s rightly proud of it. Some people might indeed find this weird. But personally, I’m ok with listing them as long as it’s in a separate section. I might put that section at the end rather than after your “real” pubs, though, to avoid annoying people who are scanning for useful information by “interrupting” them visually.

  5. Others:

    I think listing your hobbies is kind of weird. The possible exception might be if you’ve achieved at a very high level at your hobby. See our old post on ecologists who are awesome at things besides ecology for examples:

    Once you’ve given more than a handful of invited talks, you can stop listing their titles. And once you’ve presented at conferences like the ESA more than a few times, I think you can stop listing the titles of your talks and posters. This is for the sake of brevity.

    Don’t clutter up your cv with a bunch of altmetrics for your papers, or with the impact factors of the journals that published your papers. And people vary on this, but personally I wouldn’t list how many times each paper has been cited or downloaded, unless it was exceptionally high.

    • How about F1000 recommendations? This post and some recent twitter discussions made me realize I have one of those listed on my CV, but it’s probably not really worth including.

      • I include them. It probably doesn’t make much difference, because all it says is that there’s one individual who happened to like your paper. But it’s a bit of independent evidence about the high quality of your work (since only a small fraction of papers get highlighted by F1000), so it’s at least a candidate for inclusion.

      • A lot of people (including me) have a “News coverage” section. Then you can throw in F1000, newspaper or radio stories, etc. Personally I think F1000 recommendations are noteworthy.

    • The interesting thing is that hobbies can make you be remembered. If a committee has to go through a bazillion resumes/CVs, they may simply remember you as “the hot-air balloon champion”. Agreed that you should have some sort of accomplishment in that hobby to be worth listing it, though, “oh, that’s the wanna-be hot-air balloon champion” is not quite so flattering. I know that an intriguing part of my resume got me a job once. Just saying.

      • The memorability thing gets back to my comment above about how people are sometimes advised to dress memorably for job interviews in economics.

        In the context of ecology jobs, though, I’m surprised to hear that memorability worked in your favor once. My admittedly-anecdotal experience is that faculty search committees are good at identifying the best candidates from among a large number of applicants, and that the task does not ordinarily require them to fall back on which of many equally-well-qualified candidates was memorable. (the contrast with econ seems to be that in econ there often are many similarly-qualified candidates; many candidates are straight out of grad school and have one published paper, their “job market” paper) And if the number of applicants for the job (whether a faculty position or some other job) is small, again memorability of cv, independent of other factors, shouldn’t really matter, because it’s not hard to remember a small number of candidates.

        Having said that, yeah, if there was something intriguingly unusual on someone’s cv, that might cause me to view their application a bit more positively or consider a bit more seriously than I otherwise would. I doubt it would make much/any difference in the end, but it might matter a bit.

    • Re invited talks (and even more so uninvited talks – i.e. ESA etc), at some point I got the same point that you did. Then in my current job I had a dean who really scrutinized this particular section and asked me why I hadn’t been to a conference in 3 years! I hastily sent an updated CV with every student poster (and my own talks of course).

      My take away from this is you never really know what somebody is going to home in on. I think it is better to be comprehensive on a CV.

      • @Brian:
        “Re invited talks (and even more so uninvited talks – i.e. ESA etc), at some point I got the same point that you did. ”

        To be clear, I do list all my invited talks and conference talks. But not in much detail–I don’t give the titles or co-authors for instance. And I just give the total number of talks and posters on which I was merely a co-author but not the lead author.

        But yes, people do vary in how comprehensively they list their invited talks and conference talks.

  6. In a lab meeting recently, it was suggested that when listing multi-author papers on your cv it would be useful to include a brief summary of your contribution to the work. This seems like a good idea, and I have seen others with this idea (I think something went around about badges?).

    I would be interested to hear what others think about including something along those lines on a CV.

    • I’ve seen some people do this, I think it’s a reasonable idea. I think the key things would be to make the statements brief and honest. Readers will see through it, and won’t appreciate it, if you try to use such a statement to make your contribution to a many-authored paper sound bigger and more irreplaceable than it was.

      Another, briefer option is to lead off the publications section of your cv with a 1-2 sentence statement of your authorship policies.

      I include author contribution statements in all my papers, even if the journal doesn’t require them. You can just put them in the Acknowledgements.

      • I do your 2nd paragraph – describe my author policies (e.g. that 2nd author after a student is my convention for “senior author”). Unlike say medicine where the conventions are fairly rigid, ecology has so many conventions it is helpful to signal what you’re doing.

  7. I’ve seen marital status (always “married”) and kids on CVs of older (male) folks.

    And birthplace. (see, e.g., )

    But considering that “curriculum vitae” literally means “the course of life”, I think it’s understandable. I think that CVs have been getting shorter over the decades, though if you’re well established and have hundreds of publications, I don’t see how it could be actually short. Why we don’t just use resumes (literally “summary”) instead of CVs in academia beats me. (Perhaps it would have to be a resume with an accompanying list of publications, presentations, and grants, though.)

  8. The number of times I’ve seen “In prep, intended for Nature/Science” papers actually show up in those journals is exactly zero. I think that even among grad students, to list a pub prior to acceptance means that you are willing to provide a near-complete draft.

    • Agreed – to me in prep for Nature/Science sounds worse than just in prep. I could of course be wrong and the paper will get into Nature or Science but mostly it implies to me naivete or delusion (or puffery).

      • I wasn’t going to come out and say this, but since others have said it, I’ll note my agreement: claiming that your paper is in prep for Science or Nature (or PNAS or Ecology Letters) is worse than not specifying the target journal at all. As Brian says, it looks naive at best and like puffery at worst. Even though there’s a small chance I could be wrong and your in prep paper really will get into Science or Nature (or PNAS or EcoLetts).

        It’s not a big deal, in that it’s not going to cause me to think badly of an otherwise-strong cv. But it’s not a good look.

  9. I’ve seen some people list their age or birthdate on CVs which I think is pretty weird. In the case of some hobbies, it’s best to list them as a skill set or certification if they are relevant to the position. (For example, a marine biologist who has SCUBA certification).

    • Huh, I list my birthdate and it never occurred to me that it might be seen as weird! Interesting.

      Re: hobbies and skills, I’d say that professionally-relevant skills like SCUBA certification certainly are appropriate to list, to the point where I wouldn’t think of them as “hobbies” for cv purposes.

      Re: listing other hobbies, I suggested above that you might list a hobby in which you’re exceptionally accomplished. Not because people reading an ecologist’s cv care if you’re a professional-level musician or whatever. But because they might care if you’re a generally very accomplished person.

      • I was always told not to put things like birth-date because they can’t legally ask you for that information (in the US). Plus I’ve always been young for whatever I am doing, and I don’t want to draw more attention to it then I have to.

      • Georgia Tech’s official College of Science CV format included DOB and birthplace, which I thought was weird.

  10. An applicant for a field technician position listed, “Survived a mountain lion attack” with a link to a news article. It certainly made him memorable!

  11. I’ve seen a couple CVs listing “Eagle Scout” as an honor, award or achievement.

    I’ve thought this is weird for a few reasons. First, it’s something that happens while in high school (or at least, before the age of 18). Second, it’s a sort of leadership credential but not that relevant to the science, though I guess in scouting you do learn some skills that are handy for field- and lab-based sciences. Third, in the United States, the organization is a faith-based group that excludes people on the basis of orientation and religion (and it’s a gendered opportunity), and in most academic institutions, that’s more like a liability than an asset.

    • Yes, once you’re in or after grad school, it’s weird to list anything from high school or earlier. Even if it was some really rare honor like National Merit Scholar. It’s just not relevant any more.

      • Agreed. One of the weirdest things I’ve seen was something along the lines of “Captain, Track Team, X High School”.

    • I grew up in a scouting family (did venturing myself, the co-ed part of BSA) and I was amazed when I went to college how much people in academia do not like the boy scouts. I’ve heard it from both the ‘this tells us a lot about their values of diversity and religion’ and also ‘if you put this on your CV you obviously think too much of yourself’. I know several professors who refuse to hire boy scouts, even as technicians.

      As someone who knows many fine eagle scouts, the negative light makes me sad. As someone who knows many awful eagle scouts, I get it. Either way, it’s high school, and beyond your college application for undergrad it’s really not important.

      • I agree. I am an Eagle Scout. I don’t list it on my CV because I don’t list anything from high school.

        And the discrimination against gays is deeply troubling and I have given money and signed a lot of petitions to organizations within scouting fighting to change that. And it is changing albeit too slowly (no longer allowed to discriminate against scouts but still allowed to discriminate against adult leaders)

        But the bottom line is that like a lot of other national “franchise” institutions, scouting has a great deal of variety ranging from part of the church hierarchy in the Mormon Church to non-religious sponsored troops that happily ignore discriminatory national policies. My troop had a gay kid and that was in the 1970s. And it was one of the 2 or 3 most formative parts of my childhood. It created my love of nature and significantly improved my leadership skills, both of which are relevant to my job today.

        So not hiring somebody because they are a scout is just narrow minded and misinformed.

      • +1 to everything here, particularly the insanity of assuming it tells you anything about values regarding diversity and religion. None of that was a part of my experience and we had kids that fit into all the discriminated categories. It is sad that perception of it has been so damaged because of poor leadership at the national level (which does matter).

        FWIW, I spent most of the interview for a research assistantship (M.S.) discussing competitive running and my Eagle award (both were on my CV) and I’m convinced it got me the position, or at least sealed the decision. Granted, I was as an undergraduate with less to report at the time and my advisor just happened to really appreciate both aspects.

  12. Back to the original question of unwise things to include in a CV, I’d add typographical errors and a list of papers that are not presented in a consistent format. I’ve seen both of those in CVs sent by job applicants and it does not look good; in fact it says something about how careful and meticulous an applicant is in the way they present their work.

  13. I am several years into a faculty position and I put submitted papers on my CV – in a separate section after published and in press papers. Never occurred to me that this would be perceived as weird, as it indicates the most current work that I’m doing. I also just took a look at my CV and see that I still have national merit and some undergrad awards on there…but, I’m proud of those, so I think they will stay🙂

    • I do wonder how many things are on there simply because people don’t go back through to remove them. When Jeremy mentioned Latin honors, I had to go look at mine to see if mine are on there. They are, but I had no idea before looking.

      • “I do wonder how many things are on there simply because people don’t go back through to remove them. ”

        I’m sure that’s what’s going on in many cases. So one take-home message from this post is “periodically check your cv for weird ‘leftovers'”!🙂

    • @pyrope:

      “but, I’m proud of those, so I think they will stay”🙂

      At one level that’s totally fine–it’s your cv, you can put whatever you want on it. And in practice including an old high school award isn’t likely to affect your chances of getting hired. But on the other hand, your cv isn’t supposed to be a list of all the stuff you are proud of. So you have to be prepared to live with other people understandably finding it weird that you still list a high school achievement. One of my proudest achievements is an art project I did as an undergrad–but I would never include a picture of it and a blurb about it on my cv and if I did people would rightly think it a bit weird.

  14. I have two versions of my CV: a short one page summary (i.e resume) and the full blown version which are used depending on the situation (for chair/panel/membership positions you can often get asked for a one page summary). So, obviously the level of detail for each varies. A short summary of what you do is ideal for the one pager but I wouldn’t expect it on a full CV because your employment history and pubs should tell me those things. I would not expect submitted/in prep pubs to be listed under a publications section, but if someone chose to include them on their CV I’d expect them in a separate section (I have two sections for pubs in mine – a peer-review section and non peer review for things like invited submissions, white papers or papers presented to RFMOs). I also have a science citizenship section where I list the panels/workshops I’ve chaired, journals I’ve provided reviews for/edited, etc so that readers can see that my contributions to science extend beyond my publication record. I’d expect things like SCUBA/first aid certificates be listed under an ‘other qualifications’ section but would consider listing that you like long walks along the beach as irrelevant and weird.

  15. I just finished my fifth job search in may department in the last 4 semesters. I have now seen more CVs than I care to. I approach the CV differently than my peers in my department. I am looking to it to decide if the rest of the application packet is worth slogging through. I am at a teaching institution so how many and where your publications are is less important, but, after the education section (that answers the question, “Do you have a Ph.D. and some postdoc experience?”), I flip to the publications section because that tells me if you are a microbiologist or not. And I am looking for a microbiologist. Not a cellular biologist who does neural regeneration work and “can teach” microbiology. I am looking for a biologist whose primary knowledge base is in the field for which we are hiring. No amount of great teaching experience is important if you are not the right type of biologist.

    While not in my CV, I mention my primary two hobbies somewhere in my packet. They are photography (which I use often in my work and have received awards for and have had published in various outlets) and bicycling (which I generally do a lot of, 3000+ miles per year). I include those things because it speaks to the importance of work-life balance to me and I actually designed a course while on a cross-country bicycle ride. And it was the landscape I was biking through that inspired the content of the course. But I would not put them in a CV.

  16. I once sat on a hiring committee where a candidate for a tenure-track position listed Letters to the Editor (of local newspapers) as publications. Ouch- that went to the circular file with little fanfare.

    My other advice is never, ever, submit the same CV for ANY position. Search & hire committees are not only looking at your credentials… but the credentials of hundreds of other applicants. Ho hum… not much diversity among the pack these days, you know?

    However, what really comes through to these committees are those CVs where it is painfully obvious the candidate spent days, perhaps even weeks, restructuring a CV just for this one position. When I started doing this, I never had to apply for more than 3 positions between gigs before I got an offer.

    While this is somewhat off the point: Here is another tip once you get to that interview stage. At some point, you will inevitably get the query, “Do you have any questions for us?” I used to blow this part of every interview for years. I mean, what are you supposed to say after 10 hour days of grueling inquisition? Things like “Any good golf courses nearby?” “Have you visited the new Brew Pub down the way?” or “When do I get to go on sabbatical” are real deal-breakers. It is a very awkward part of the interview for anyone.

    So here is what I have done since about 1995: “Well, yes, in fact I do have a question. I read your (any of the folks in the room with you- & preferably the committee chair) 2003 publication on microtubule motor proteins and was fascinated by your thoughts on the role of the XYZ subunit. It seems somewhat counter-intuitive to me. Could you explain your rationale?”

    Home run baby!

    • Interview prep is a whole ‘nother, and very large, topic.

      I confess I’m surprised that questions about the scientific details of the work of the search committee members would go over well. That’s not the sort of question most search committees expect to get when they ask if the candidate has any questions for them. Speaking as someone who’s sat on a couple of search committees myself, I’d find it very odd for a candidate to ask any question so unrelated to the job. Something like that might come up in informal one-on-one chats with the candidate. But not in the formal meeting with the search committee as a group.

      • Interesting take on it- I had not considered that. Usually I direct a question of this sort to someone doing work very similar to my own. Usually you will a few folks very close to your program on the committee. I have always found it leads to a great discussion with good outcomes.

      • had a job candidate once who, every time I wanted to talk about his science, he would turn the conversation toward teaching. We are a PUI but have to mentor research and I found his insistence on only talking about teaching worrisome. I think there is a balance to be struck on this front and misreading where the fulcrum is can cost you the job ( this was not the only thing but did contribute).

      • @Paul:

        Yeah, if you’re a job candidate and someone asks you about X, you need to talk about X rather than talking about Y instead. Even if you’d rather talk about Y, or were expecting that you’d be asked about Y, or etc. And yeah, this is a mistake that can cost you a job, and rightly so. Nobody wants to hire somebody who either doesn’t understand the job they’d be expected to do, or would prefer to be doing a different job instead.

      • I agree- never steer away from any question, and always be direct & concise. But I do believe if it is an open-ended question, such as “Do you have any questions for us,” then you should try and steer that in the direction of your strengths.

      • “But I do believe if it is an open-ended question, such as “Do you have any questions for us,” then you should try and steer that in the direction of your strengths.”

        That’s the wrong way to think about it, in my experience–thinking about how to respond to “Do you have any questions for us?” in terms of your own strengths and weaknesses. The search committee ordinarily expects that you will have *certain sorts* of questions, to do with the job for which you’ve applied. Not asking questions about the broad job-related topics that candidates usually ask about can be a red flag that you haven’t done your homework, are too inexperienced to be good at the job, or don’t really want the job.

        So while I’m glad that your approach has worked for you, it’s very unconventional and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. When an academic search committee asks “Do you have any questions for us?”, I wouldn’t advise anyone to respond by asking a technical scientific question to one of the committee members, or to otherwise try to “show your strengths”. Rather, take the opportunity to show that you’ve done your homework, and ask the sort of questions to which you need to know the answer in order to know what’s involved in the job and whether you’d take it if offered.

    • Well, perhaps you are right. Hard to say I guess. It may be I have not communicated effectively about the issue either. But suffice it to say, for a very long time, I have used the opportunity to “steer” the conversation toward a research-related topic, and a topic that is of common interest. I suppose it is very context specific. I developed my own set of interview skills over 35 years and running. Perhaps the best take on this is to refine things for yourself to a degree that you have a successful formula.

    • I think you can go either way on this As I mentioned above in a comment, I had started leaving these out and then I interviewed for a job where this was the Dean’s favorite section.

      You can turn it to advantage by using an asterisk or something to denote the students or trainees and use it as a way to show your mentorship successes.

  17. This is a really interesting post – thanks. I was only dimly aware that there are different CV conventions in the US compared to the UK, so I will be aware of that in future.

    One thing that I have done in my CV is to deliberately strip out any personal information at all. I’m very surprised, for example, that photos are expected anywhere, given the mounting evidence for unconscious bias in selection and interviewing. So gender, birthdate, marital status… all of that is off my CV now, and being on search committees, I am not alone, at least for UK applicants. There’s no non-work info on my CV at all, except perhaps my home address. I’d be really interested to hear views on this.

    • Do you still have citizenship/permanent resident/etc. status on there? That’s personal information that’s legally relevant in most jurisdictions.

      Re: stripping out gender information, it’s hard-to-impossible in many cases. Many names are given mostly or only to either men, or else mostly/only to women. And it’s hard and awkward for your letter writers to write gender-blind reference letters. And if you get an interview (even just a phone interview), your gender is almost certainly going to be obvious. So I think it’s fine to leave off irrelevant personal information like marital status. But I don’t know that I’d go to the trouble of trying to hide your gender.

      • A very good point – no I don’t put citizenship etc on, but that’s (in the UK anyway) usually information sought as part of an application form/questionnaire. The institution will seek that information out for Visa purposes.
        I don’t think I am trying to be gender blind, just to give as few “flags” as possible. My name’s not particularly obvious either. Having said that, I do put “maternity breaks” in – perhaps I should change that to “parental leave”…?

      • But I agree with T.h. I always, always, always gender-tone-down anything I submit for review by anyone. Implicit bias exists, and there’s no sense in shouting that you’re female when it’s more likely a liability than an asset. But as you suggest, it might actually draw attention to your gender if try to *hide* it. Instead, I use my last name wherever possible, without a first name — for example when naming the CV file itself.

  18. I think it’s good to get in the habit of recording *everything* you have going on somewhere – now that I’m in a TT position my institution wants to know every grant I’ve applied for, even if unsuccessful (which I’ve never seen anyone list on a public CV, except shadow CVs, which are great!) and I try to keep track of pubs “in prep” or submitted especially if I’m like the 8th author, as otherwise I might forget it’s even out there. But this document is not what goes on my website – there it’s pared down to published papers, successful funding attempts, etc. But if I were applying for another job I’d probably include “in prep” stuff, but my policy is always that it needs to be “in prep” enough that you could send a near complete draft ms to someone if they asked for it. For a while I thought of “in prep” as just meaning submitted, rejected, and not yet submitted elsewhere.
    The one thing I thought a lot about was whether to include job talks as ‘invited talks’ (not identified as such, obviously, just invited talk at Univ. X) – I decided to do it after seeing that someone I really respect seems to have done the same, but if my job search had been unsuccessful I might not have. I’d love to know if folks have opinions on that.

    • I agree most people do this. Indeed, you can get a pretty good idea of where and how many times somebody interviewed before landing their current job just by looking at their invited talks the year before they started their job (it helps if you remember which schools had job openings, but if not you can probably assume 2/3 of those talks were interviews, probably even more if they were a postdoc at the time)

      • “you can probably assume 2/3 of those talks were interviews, probably even more if they were a postdoc at the time)”

        Yup. The vast majority of my invited seminars as a postdoc were job interviews.

      • But on the other side, if you’re on a search committee and you see a postdoc’s CV with lots of talks given at universities the year before (implying that they had a lot of interviews but didn’t get a job, though maybe they’re just super awesome) do you notice? Should postdocs worry about being prejudged?

      • @Kyla:

        Good question, to which the answer is no. People don’t get jobs for all sorts of reasons, nobody reads anything into that. If anything, having lots of talks on your cv (suggesting that you’ve been giving lots of job talks) will be taken as a good sign. It’s evidence that other people in your field think you’re so good that they want to pay money to fly you in and hear you talk about science.

  19. Pingback: Formatting a CV for a faculty job application | Dynamic Ecology

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