Posted tagged ‘curriculum vitae’

The curriculum vitae – time to let it go?

October 23, 2017

Writing in the Times newspaper, columnist Clare Foges suggested this week that ‘ditching the CVs would level the playing field a bit’ when it comes to recruitment for employment. It would, she suggested, in particular reduce the unwarranted advantage that graduates of Oxford and Cambridge get when their applications are seen by senior managers who are also graduates of these august institutions.

Over my 30 or so years in leadership positions of one kind or another in universities I have read goodness knows how many CVs (or resum├ęs) when I have taken part in employment selection processes. Highlighted information about where the applicants got their degrees always tends to be the most immediately visible part of the personal sales pitch. In a recent case, one job applicant listed three degrees he had been awarded. The first – and this was awarded for his actual work as a student – was from a very well respected but fairly new university; it was not particularly highlighted. The other two were from one of the two aforementioned institutions and were recorded in bold print with a slightly larger typeface than the surrounding narrative. He knew I have a degree from Cambridge (OK OK, I shouldn’t mention that, but I’m not looking for a job) and maybe thought I should feel a strong affinity with him; or maybe he didn’t know and thought that, as head of a newish university, I should be most impressed by his pedigree and his willingness to condescend to apply to our modest institution.

Whatever. He didn’t get the job. But all over the academic world, and everywhere else, people use their CVs to make a sales pitch, and sometimes this can take on the form of some sort of masonic handshake between applicant and recruiter. So is it time to stop using CVs in recruitment processes? Is it time to test instead for specific skills, experiences and attributes that would qualify candidates, without allowing prejudices about various categories of institution to determine outcomes? Can it be done?

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The usefulness of the academic CV

September 19, 2011

Over the past decade I have seen and have had to consider hundreds of CVs submitted for one reason or another by academic faculty. The curriculum vitae is still the standard document in which an academic sets out her or his achievements, but over the years these documents have tended to grow longer and longer. As certain types of activity in teaching, research and administration have become more important in considering promotion, the typical CV has devoted more and more space to setting out the relevant details. This also includes as a matter of course a full list of the individual’s publications and conference presentations. It is not unusual nowadays for a CV to stretch over 30 or more pages.

The extent of this was made clear to me recently when I was assisting a voluntary organisation in making an appointment to a senior post. One of the five shortlisted candidates was a university lecturer. The four others presented applications with supporting documentation of between two and four pages; the lecturer’s application and CV covered 36 pages. My fellow interviewers, none of whom had an academic background, were completely baffled by his materials and concluded, before I intervened, that he was completely unable to marshall his thoughts and that he would be out of his depth outside the university. I explained to them that this kind of presentation was simply what was normally required of him and that this should not be held against him. They were very sceptical about the whole approach.

So I began to wonder whether academic CVs are still useful even in the university. A recent report from Canada disclosed that a senior researcher there was padding his CV with details of publications that simply did not exist, and I suspect that at least in certain contexts, if the list of publications was long enough or if those considering the CV were not from that particular academic area, this would not be uncovered. Of course only a tiny number of academics would deliberately do this, but it is worth asking whether the avalanche of details makes it easy to assess even an honest CV, or whether it tempts those making a judgement to assume that volume indicates excellence without attempting a really detailed analysis.

Perhaps we should ask academics to submit CVs of two pages only; and that might usefully concentrate the mind.