This is the first substantive post of the Cocoon's Job-Market Boot Camp. As I mentioned in my introduction, the series will discuss all things job-market related, with the aim of helping candidates to better prepare for the academic market. As I also explained, I would like for the series--both my posts and comments--to be as evidence-based as possible. Although, again, sound evidence for how to succeed on the market is hard to come by, my hope that is by tying information and advice to evidence, rather than pure speculation, the series will actually provide readers with good information and advice to go on. So, let's try to hold each other to that. When giving information and advice, don't just give your "impressions." Try to give tangible evidence!
The topic of today's post is simple: how to build a strong CV that will be competitive on the market. My personal experience strongly suggests that when it comes to being competitive, publications--publications in general, not just top-ranked publications--matter more than just about anything else.
When I was in grad school, many people cautioned me (and others I knew) against publishing articles in low-ranked journals. I was told that this might lead search committees to judge you negatively, and thus, that one should only shoot for publications in top-ranked journals. My personal experience strongly suggests that this advice was mistaken.
Although I've never published in a top-20 journal, and so have no experience with whether they might "help" my candidacy, I have a lot of experience publishing in lower-ranked journals--and here my experience was unequivocal: the more I published (even in low-ranked journals), the more interviews I received. Indeed, the relationship was very striking. When I had few publications, I got few interviews. When I had more publications, I got more interviews. When I had a lot of publications, I got a lot of interviews. Publishing a lot, even if it's only in lower-ranked journals, appeared to help a lot. No, I did not receive R1 interviews. Most of my interviews were at SLACs, and a substantial minority were at R2's (which I define roughly as research universities without philosophy PhD programs). But still, when it came to SLACs and R2's, my experience was that top-ranked publications were not necessary to be competitive, and lower-ranked publications helped considerably.
CV-Building Advice #1: All types of publications appear to help. Publish, and publish...everywhere--in top-ranked journals if you can, but also in lower-ranked journals.
So much for publications. What about the rest of the CV? The sad fact is, I think it's very hard to say. Given how important teaching is at many SLACs, I think good teaching evals and a broad teaching resume--with experience teaching a lot of different classes--are both probably helpful. Further, during my interviews at SLACs, search committees and deans seemed to like student-involvement stuff quite a lot. That being said, I had a lot of teaching experience and student involvement for years, and it didn't seem to lead to interviews. What did? Publications. So, I would say:
CV-Building Advice #2: Try to expand your teaching resume and student involvement, and improve your student reviews--but do not sacrifice publishing. Find a way to improve the teaching and student-engagement parts of your portfolio while continuing to publish.
Finally, my experience has been that it is important to secure recommendation letters from respected people outside of your graduate department--particularly the longer you're out on the market. I was not only given this advice by many different people, but also experienced positive results. Every time I got more recommendation letters from respected figures in the discipline, my interview numbers improved. So, I would say:
CV-building Advice #3: It is a good idea to obtain new recommendation letters from respected members of the discipline not from your graduate program.
I will devote a future post to how to go about following this advice. But these, I guess, are my three biggest pieces of CV-building advice. Am I wrong? Have I missed anything important? Fire (and discuss) away!