Monday, September 14, 2015

Against standardised CV formats

Increasingly people are asked in specific contexts to provide their CV in a very specific format. Previously, I noted the bizarre recent requirements of the NSERC in Canada.

At UQ there is a standard form "Academic portfolio of Achievement" that has to be completed for annual appraisals, applications for promotion, tenure, and sabbatical.
This is particularly arduous for senior people who have to do it for the first time. One cannot simply "cut and paste" a list of 100 publications.

Arguably, the value of every applicant putting their CV in the same format is that it makes it much easier for a committee to find specific information they require and to compare candidates.

Nevertheless, I used to think this was a bad idea because it simply wastes a lot of time in people reformatting their CV for each new situation. However, I now think that there are other reasons why a standard format CV is a bad idea. Allowing applicants to write a CV in their chosen format may actually reveal something useful about the applicant, particularly their values and priorities.

To be specific. Consider the following pieces of information that an applicant may or may not include in a CV.

  1. A clear, coherent, brief, and accessible statement about their specific research accomplishments.
  2. Lists of journal impact factors to 3 decimal places.
  3. A very long and detailed analysis of how they perform with regard to certain citation metrics.
  4. A list of courses they have taught and novel approaches they may have taken.
  5. No citation information at all (for a senior scientist).
  6. Scores for student teaching evaluations to several "significant" figures.
  7. Current employment of former students and postdocs.
  8. Long lists of "research interests", "computer skills", hobbies, ...
  9. Information about their high school academic record.

Including some of these would impress me. Including others would create a negative impression.

Aside: For people starting out, John Wilkins has a nice model CV for the first job after Ph.D.

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