A snippet of my 37-page CV

Why I have a 37-page version of my CV (and why you should too)

Image: just the first six pages of the stultifying detail in my 37-page CV

A while back on Twitter, someone asked which details she should keep track of on her CV – in particular, I think, with respect to multi-authored conference presentations.  All the details, I replied, which answer was promptly and rounded derided.  Why, a bunch of people asked, should anyone care about the 13th of 17 authors, the month or date of the conference, or the city it was held in?  Why bother?  Why keep the 37-page version of one’s CV – the version that’s (metaphorically) clogging up my hard drive*?

I couldn’t convince those who were deriding me, and to be fair, they had a considerable advantage: common sense and logic were entirely on their side.  But here’s the thing: they were all early-career folks, who had perhaps less extensive experience than I do with paperwork and the administrative hunger for information.  My 37-page CV isn’t too detailed; in fact, it has proven time and again to be not detailed enough.  Take my advice: record all that detail, because if you stick around in academia long enough, somebody sometime will make you fill out a form that asks for details you could never have imagined could matter.  As an example: at my university, every two years we fill out a CV-like form for a “research ranking exercise”, and among other things it asks for the city of publication for each journal paper and the exact date of each conference presentation and invited seminar.  Yes, that’s silly; but its silliness doesn’t prevent it from being demanded**.

It’s all very well to decide which information could reasonably be asked for, and discard the rest – it sure makes keeping your CV easier.  But you’ll discover eventually that you don’t get to set the definition of “could reasonably be asked for”. Third parties do.  Their madness may have method in it, or it may just be madness, but it doesn’t make much difference.  So keep that 37-page CV.  It’s easier by far to delete the stuff you don’t need than it is to recover the stuff you didn’t record.  Take it from an old hand.

© Stephen Heard (sheard@unb.ca) September 15, 2016


*^Mine includes every course I’ve ever taught, every grad student supervisory committee I’ve ever sat on, every journal and granting agency I’ve ever reviewed for in every year of my career, every journal and granting agency I’ve ever declined to review for, and much, much, more.  Nobody except me would ever want to see all of this detail; but of course nobody except me ever has to.

**^Ah, you might say, just leave it blank, or enter N/A.  Sorry, they thought of that; it’s a fillable online form and it can’t be submitted unless the date boxes contain valid dates.  Ah, you might say, couldn’t you just make some dates up?  Um.  I would have no comment on that.

 

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18 thoughts on “Why I have a 37-page version of my CV (and why you should too)

  1. jeffollerton

    I think it’s good advice to keep records of everything, but not necessarily to have it on one’s CV. My CV lacks a lot of details (though still runs to 17 pages) but then maybe in the UK we have less bureaucracy about such things (I cant believe I just wrote that…)

    On the other hand one should never pad out a CV with what are clearly nonsensical claims:

    https://scholarlyoa.com/2016/09/01/usf-associate-dean-is-tied-to-dozens-of-predatory-journals/

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    1. ScientistSeesSquirrel Post author

      Jeff – yeah, agreed. I find it easy to keep all that detail on a “version” of my CV – it looks like a CV, but nobody ever sees it. I delete stuff as needed to make versions for various purposes. It’s of course equivalent to keep info organized some other way and cut-and-paste it in as required. And let’s hope perusers of my CV and yours won’t be seeing any nonsensical claims 🙂

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  2. sleather2012

    Mine is 26 pages long (as a result of working for Imperial College, who asked for quite a lot of detail if you wanted to be considered on their annual promotion round) but even so I don’t keep as detailed a record as you do:-)

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  3. Yolanda

    Yes, who knew the actual day of publication would ever be important? To keep my records straight I have an Excel file with 15 (!) different sheets of information plus a long form cv.

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    1. ScientistSeesSquirrel Post author

      Interesting – looks quite a lot like our Canadian “CCV” system. I understand the idea of standardizing, but the CCV has been very poorly received by folks here – because it’s “rather ugly”, just as you say, detailed, and not terribly easy to enter data into. Perhaps it will make Canadians feel better to realize our Brazilian friends are dealing with the same thing!

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      1. pdodonov

        My PhD co-supervisor is from Canadia, and we had to make a Lattes CV for her to include her officially in the collaborations. It took some time, but wasn’t a terribly hard thing to do.
        It’s interesting to know there’s a standardized CV in Canada as well! Is it new? The Lattes CV in Brazil came into being in 1999, according to Wikipedia.

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  4. Brian McGill

    I completely agree with the part about you, the applicant, don’t get to decide what is important.

    Quick anecdote about when I applied for my current job at UMaine. At some point I had decided I was getting invited to speak enough, so I would only listed invited speaking events and not just everytime I went to a conference and gave a talk. I was one of the final two candidates and ended up doing a followup phone call with the dean. He started in very gently with me about I know how we get busy and don’t have time but could you explain why you haven’t gone to a conference in 3 or 4 years? To which I responded that I average about two conferences a year. To which he said but you don’t have any presentations at conferences listed on your CV. For various reasons I could only speculate about, this section of my CV that I had decided I had “moved beyond” was one of his most important sections. I think on some level it showed active engagement in the field. Even if I would have thought publishing lots of papers and being invited to speak during that interval showed that, he perceived it differently. And he was the dean making the hiring decision.

    I immediately fired off an updated version of my CV, got the job, and have never left any activity that anybody could possibly be interested in off my CV ever since. And even if I’m listed on six talks and posters at ESA through students and collaborators. And I feel like these are not huge contributions on my part, I list every single one of them.

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    1. jeffollerton

      Hmmm, that’s interesting. I do the opposite: the statement on my CV before I list presentations states: “Only those from the last ten years that I personally presented are listed.” If I’ve not attended a conference and someone else has presented, with me as a collaborator, it doesn’t feel right to list it. My active engagement (to use Brian’s phrase) was from a distance, and so doesnt feel very active at all. Am I unusual in that sense?

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      1. ScientistSeesSquirrel Post author

        It would be interesting to take a poll. What I really should do (but haven’t) is mark down on my CV who actually presented, and whether or not I was at the conference. I still feel OK listing even those, though. If I contributed enough to merit coauthorship on the talk, that seems like a (small but legit) piece of my productivity.

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  5. jpschimel

    I agree with Stephen in concept 100% and in specifics about 75%. I no longer track all the submitted talks my lab group gives at national meetings that I am a co-author on. I also don’t track every manuscript I review (but as a Chief Editor for Soil Biology & Biochemistry I handle 180 manuscripts a year, so missing the occasional ad hoc is lost in the error term). It is way better to keep track of too much than to have to try to remember all the stuff you did a year ago when the time comes to deal with merit review paperwork. That means it is key to record the information on what you do WHEN YOU DO IT. Otherwise it will be lost. But that 37 page document is a template to pull what you need when you need it. And I do have the following entry listed as a technical report:
    “Wagener, M.W. and J.P. Schimel. 1995. The production of greenhouse gases in academic seminars. Published on the Web as part of the First International Virtual Conference on Mad Science. (IVCMS ‘96). Note: the paper’s a spoof but the data are real.” I’ve since re-published the piece on my blog.

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  6. Jeremy Fox

    “you, the applicant, don’t get to decide what is important.”

    THIS. It’s not just about you deciding to leave off something that seems unimportant to you but that (to your surprise) turns out to be important to whoever’s reading your cv. I’m thinking more of those misguided souls who think they can use their cv to advance some cause. Like the (rare) people who think they’re somehow helping to bring about A Better World by leaving journal titles off their cv’s, as if that will somehow hasten the End of Journals. When in fact all it accomplishes is to annoy the search committee (who are forced to look up the journal titles). Who will understandably infer that you’d be annoying to have as a colleague.

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