There's a thread over on Brian Leiter's page with quite an animated discussion over which sorts of publications do and do not look good to hiring committees. Setting aside the usual squabbling over which journals are "good" and which are "crap" (not my words) -- by the way, this is an issue that I will discuss at length soon in a post -- most of the discussion consists in different people sharing their (incredibly disparate) opinions about what does and does not look good.
I figured I would try to bring some empirical facts to bear on the discussion. Because I finished two papers yesterday, the computer that I do research on is broken (no data lost, thank goodness), and my wife is out at work, I've had so much time on my hands that I decided to go through the entire first page of hires on BL's tenure-track hiring thread for this year, and put together a database of everyone's publications (using BL's surveys on journal rankings).
The data I collected are interesting, to be sure. I'll begin with the data and then give some take-home messages. Here's the data:
Total # of Research-1 Jobs: 94
Hires with at least one top 20 publication: 30
Hires with more than one top 20 publication: 15
Hires with no top-20 publications:52
Hires with at least one non-top-20 publication: 47
Hires with more than one non-top-20 publication: 27
Hires with no publications (from Leiter top-25 department): 31
Hires with no publications (Leiter non-top-25-department):3
Hires with at least one publication in a top-5 specialty journal: 24
Hires with more than one publication in a top-5 specialty journal: 16
Total # of Teaching jobs: 31
Hires with at least one top 20 publication:6
Hires with more than one top 20 publication:1
Hires with no top-20 publications:19
Hires with at least one non-top-20 publication:11
Hires with more than one non-top-20 publication:8
Hires with no publications (from Leiter top-25 department):12
Hires with no publications (Leiter non-top-25-department):6
Hires with at least one publication in a top-5 specialty journal: 6
Hires with more than one publication in a top-5 specialty journal: 4
Lesson#1: If you want an R1 job, you must either have at least one top-20 journal publication or have no publications at all but come from a Leiter-awesome department.
Lesson#2: Non-top-20 journal publications DO NOT harm you, either in the case of R1 jobs or teaching jobs.
Lesson#3: If you want a job at a teaching university, you do not need any top-20 journal publications.
Lesson#4: If you want a job at a teaching university, non-top-20 journal publications appear to help you.
Lesson#5: If you come from a Leiter-ific department but have no publications, you are a very strong candidate both types of job (research and teaching).
Fwiw, all of these lessons cohere more or less with my own personal experience on the market, and with things I've heard second-hand. Sooo...who out there is surprised by the data? Reactions?