Tuesday, November 21, 2017

CVs and padding

Your CV is a crucial document in your professional career. You will use it to apply for fellowships, jobs, awards, and funding. Your department may use it for merit/bonus determination. They certainly will for promotion/retention purposes. Especially when starting out, when your CV is short, the temptation to pad it is very strong. Today I am telling you to avoid the temptation and just don't do it!

1. Standing out for the wrong reasons
It is often obvious when someone is trying to pad their CV. People reading your CV don't use the "stair method" to find the longest CV--for whatever evaluation purpose, the point is to look for quality, not quantity. When on a committee where people are evaluating dossiers together, you don't want to the one people read out loud for a laugh because your padding attempt is so obvious (and, unfortunately, this does happen).

2. What is "obvious padding"?
Please DON'T list more than one or maybe two manuscripts in preparation. Anything can be in preparation, and it looks like padding. If you do list anything in preparation, don't bother putting a journal name. It is meaningless until submission. Only list submitted manuscripts that are actually submitted (including a  manuscript number is helpful). True story: when I had a phone interview for an industrial position, my interviewer was using the CV I had originally submitted 3-4 months before the interview. I was asked for updates on everything not listed as published, including manuscripts listed as in prep, submitted, and in press. Since I had only listed things that were actually in the state I listed them, I was able to tell my interviewer that my "in preps" were submitted and update on the status of my submitted and in press manuscripts.
Please DON'T list random local talks (group meetings, practice talks, talks required for your program, etc) as presentations. This does not make you look in demand, it makes you look like you think your CV is not impressive enough. Talks will come as you get more experience. DO list poster presentations at conferences--these count. Subbing for a lecture in class belongs in teaching, not presentations. Some people list interview talks. I didn't, but I can see the argument either way.

Too much random stuff obscures the real meat. One CV I saw recently had a peer reviewed publication in a fairly well-known journal buried under a whole bunch of things written for things like the local school paper and random newsletters. Also, time marches on. In my opinion, as you age, you need to remove things from previous stages. If you have a Bachelor's degree, remove everything pre-high school. If you have a PhD, remove everything pre-University. For academics, everything from University on usually stays. For non-academic positions, space is at a premium, since page limits are a thing. Keep details on the most recent, then just list previous experiences with place and date to save space.

3. Keep fluff to a minimum
In the American context, people don't usually put hobbies and family status on CVs. If you do list hobbies, don't lie about them to sound cool (yes, this happens--you don't want to go into an interview listing martial arts as a hobby and then be unable to name one). You do need to be prepared to discuss anything you put on your CV, since interviewers will often pick something that sounds interesting as a conversation starter.


Uncle Bruno said...

Another problem with padded CVs is that they work. At my selective master's comprehensive U., two of the four finalists for our provost search had significant "irregularities" on their CVs, which passed the attention of the search company and all of the members of the search committee. Quite shocking, but the candidates were already in high level positions, so apparently not unusual.

prodigal academic said...

Wow-that is really unfortunate. There have been a number of scandals for "fake" CV items, and even degrees for upper management types. I think that once people fake their way into management, they can keep going, since search companies (and search committees, apparently) use the fact of their previous position as their vetting process instead of going through the file themselves.

I've definitely served on search committees where some members place great weight on either pedigree or the most immediate previous position, rather than viewing the files as a whole, and I find that very frustrating in working with them. I'd say either padding works, or it gets you tossed right away. It must work enough, or people would stop (kind of like SPAM or those Nigerian scams).

Anonymous said...

I've seen two examples now of people listing publications in the journal "Nature Scientific Reports." There is no such journal. There is "Scientific Reports," which is owned by the Nature Publishing Group, but adding the word Nature to the journal name is fraudulent.

pyrope said...

We do a CV/resume exchange once a year with my lab group for professional development. The grad students who have been through it a couple of times have pretty tight CVs at this point, and the undergrads always seem to benefit. Anyway, I'd recommend that as a professional development activity because most students haven't seen many other CVs to get a sense for the disciplinary norms.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this - this remains a problem particularly in the Assistant Dean space wherein there are increasing numbers of non-PhD (or Masters) people assuming positions previously held by those with advanced academic degrees. We have an Assistant Dean with a Bachelor's degree in English who claimed to have been a "Professor" since he taught a light weight class as an adjunct. On the insititution's web pages he used the word "instructor" but on his Linkedin page (which was not public) he mentioned "Professor" knowing full well what that meant. He later took that reference down though has exaggerated his experience in other ways.

prodigal academic said...

Wow--that's a great idea, pyrope. I am going to start doing that!

I am surprised more search committees don't catch this stuff. When I am reviewing applicants (for grad admission or for hiring), I get so annoyed when I see something obviously false. It automatically gets put in the no pile for me--seems like borrowing trouble to bring in someone you know has honesty issues. This is the danger for applicants--the first cut in a TT search is pretty quick, so making the CV look like mostly padding is counterproductive. At least half of the applications we get are not qualified, so the first screen is CV only.

Things that just don't look right, I give a longer look at. How hard is it to do due diligence, especially for a high level hire?