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Daniel Brunson

Again, to speak for the olds, how many AOSs/AOCs do you think are appropriate for three years out, or 5? Relative to publishing and teaching experience, of course, but when, roughly, is one justified in moving beyond a couple of each?


Just a data point because I think it's important for everyone to keep in mind how much variance there is about this stuff: I had 3 AOSs and 5 AOCs, no publications, and offers from both a research school and a teaching school. I do think it's true that most people shouldn't list too many AOSs. On the other hand, sometimes people like me have to: my dissertation didn't fit comfortably in any area of philosophy, and no one could even say whether it was x, y, or z. So it felt like I had to claim all of x, y, and z. Also, from the hiring perspective, it's not obvious to me that it's not a good strategy for candidates to list as many AOS and AOCs as possible. I think it can help if there's someone at a school that is advertising in a given area or areas, and you are sort of on the edge, but the person really wants to push for you. In cases like that (suppose it's a phil mind job and you do phil science but there's some connection to mind), it will be easier for the person to push for you if you actually have listed what the job ad asks for as an AOS.

My experience was that I did get asked a lot about my three AOSs during actual interviews. So, you need to be able to talk and show that you know a lot about each and have actual research projects that fit in with each. But I don't think it's obvious that people shouldn't stretch as much as possible on CVs/cover letters/etc., because it seems like if one does that and applies for a job where one of one's stretch AOSs matches the job, one probably has a very marginally better chance of getting interviewed at that place than if one simply applies without claiming any of the advertised areas as AOSs.

Marcus Arvan

anonymous: good point, and thanks for sharing your example. Given how your work spans several areas, your number of AOS/AOC sound clearly legit. The thing to avoid (which I’ve seen) is listing like 5 AOS and 8 AOC. That just looks absurd. For most people, I think, 2 or maybe 3 AOS is about right, and 2-4 AOC tops. The important thing, as you note, is really having the stuff in your C.V. to back it up (beyond just a grad class or TA post). Anything much beyond this - 5+ AOS and 7-8 AOC - just comes across wrong (at least in my experience). But anyway, thanks for pushing back a bit - I agree there is some room for candidates to “bend” things. The problem I think is that far too many try to bend them way beyond plausibility.


I had 4 AOS's, and 4 AOC's, and it seemed to work okay. I think they were all legitimate too. My dissertation was a cross between 3 areas, and I had published in the fourth. If you claim something as an AOS/AOC, just have other evidence on your CV that supports it.

Also, I know more than a few institutions where presentations count toward research, and toward tenure. I was told this by the dean in an interview last year, and have heard this same things from friends.

Marcus Arvan

Hey Amanda: presentations definitely count toward tenure (though I would be very surprised if they ever actually tipped the scales one way or the other for an actual tenure decisions). Regardless, my sense is that even though they strictly count for tenure, they just don’t count for much at the job-application stage (where, research-wise, the focus is primarily publications and quality of research).


On the value of presentations ...
the principal value of presentations is that they provide opportunities to get feedback on your work. You present a paper, and people raise objections or make suggestions for further development. Then you revise the paper and get it published in a good journal. They also serve the function of keeping you connected with others in your sub-field. You can keep up with developments in your area. But if you cannot convert those presentations into publications then the presentations were not worth much.


You might be right about hiring - it is true I think, at least at most places. But presentations do tip the scale for tenure - insofar as someone who has 5 presentations and one publication would get tenure at some places, where as having maybe one publication and one presentation would mean they did not. At least, this is what I have been told by people I trust who are in a position to know.

I want to be fresh

I think I agree with Marcus that presentations carry little, if any, weight. Also, when it comes to hiring, presentations may just track the financial well-being and geographic location of the PhD-granting institution. Many candidates aren't on the East coast and so can't so easily present at events. Someone doing their PhD at UW Seattle, for instance, will have to almost certainly fly, meaning that if their institution doesn't provide much support for such things grad students won't be able to attend many conferences.

This was essentially my situation as a graduate student. It was hard for me to secure funding, and I definitely self-funded a few trips.

Also, as a panel member it is pretty tricky to determine the value of a presentation. Most conferences accept almost anything written in English. Others are surprisingly competitive (perhaps even more competitive than some good journals). My sense is that it is very difficult to determine which is which unless one's an insider. In my field, the philosophy of science, I know that ISH accepts everything while Philosophy of Science Association and Formal Epistemology Workshop is much, much more competitive. I'm not sure someone in history or ethics would realize this (and I certainly don't claim to know what the good/competitive conferences in history or ethics are!).


Do presentations at really selective conferences (e.g., MadMeta, SLACRR) count? And what about decently selective conferences like APAs or the Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress?

Anonymous TT prof

I've been on a search committee and will be again for the next two years at a research/teaching oriented school with more emphasis on research than teaching in tenure decisions.

To respond to Kate, I'd be impressed by selective conferences, but far more impressed by publications and the "oh nice, they presented at X" thought would not last long. When I evaluate files, it's really about how everything fits together. If you have one impressive conference presentation but no publications, that's not good. My sense is that, even at teaching schools, search committees have to think 5-6 years down the road about a candidate: will they make tenure? The more evidence in your file that you will make tenure, the better your chances are. This means that you need publications.

Also a few things about the CV:
1. It needs to look CLEAN. My advice is to follow the Professor Is In guide for style.
2. I caution against listening presentations at graduate conferences; it makes you look like a grad student.
3. If you have had job talks, DON'T list them on your CV. It's off-putting.
4. If you have taught courses that are not in your AOS or AOC, I like the "Areas of Teaching Competence" heading as a separate section to list those courses. This heading acknowledges that the course is not your thing, but that you have taught it - and, hopefully, your teaching evaluations back up that you did so competently.

Marcus Arvan

“I'd be impressed by selective conferences, but far more impressed by publications and the "oh nice, they presented at X" thought would not last long...My sense is that, even at teaching schools, search committees have to think 5-6 years down the road about a candidate: will they make tenure?...This means that you need publications.”

Exactly. I’ll notice a very selective conference on a CV, but for all that it won’t make much of a difference: when it comes to research, it’s all about publications and writing sample.

“Also a few things about the CV:
1. It needs to look CLEAN. My advice is to follow the Professor Is In guide for style.”

Yes! Don't use a fancy/strange CV format or clutter up your CV with unnecessary stuff. Format and organize your CV like everyone else does, and let your accomplishments do the talking.


I put 4 AOSs on my CV (one of which was a specific sub-field of the first AOS) because my dissertation generally crossed sub-fields. I did fairly well on the job market, but as a sidenote, I would say I definitely heard from some faculty at R1-type schools that they felt I wasn't committed enough to a particular AOS, so while this may have expanded my options at more teaching-focused schools, this probably limited my options at (some) research-heavy schools.


If someone is ABD, or their first year or two out, I think it is odd to hold grad student conferences against them. I mean it should be neutral. At the least it meant they were open to being engaged with the profession. And while many people might not know this (so it won't help you, I bet) some grad conferences are the most competitive conferences around. The Princeton/NYU and Harvard/MIT conferences get around 200-300 applications for only four spots.

Anyway I think we've settled it: conferences don't help a CV, at least it is pretty rare they help more than the smallest of ways. But they might be a good idea for networking. I think we've also settled that search committee members are idiosyncratic about a range of things, and you can't please everyone.

Recent grad

I think conference presentations help in a vague way. That is, the difference between advancing to the next stage will never lie in one presentation (just as nobody is made bald by losing n rather than n-1 hairs). But having ten presentations rather than zero could be the difference in some cases.

Marcus Arvan

"But having ten presentations rather than zero could be the difference in some cases."

It may be logically, metaphysically, nomologically, and epistemically possible. But I've been on three search committees now and have never once seen presentations make any appreciable difference at any point in the hiring process. I suppose my experience could be idiosyncratic, but for reasons expressed above, I'm doubtful.


Recent grad: "But having ten presentations rather than zero could be the difference in some cases."

Marcus Arvan: "It may be logically, metaphysically, nomologically, and epistemically possible. But I've been on three search committees now and have never once seen presentations make any appreciable difference at any point in the hiring process. I suppose my experience could be idiosyncratic, but for reasons expressed above, I'm doubtful."

This is surprising to hear, Marcus. You mean for all candidates at any career stage, it didn't matter? There have been occasions when my department has liked two candidates that have had nearly identical research outputs, with the exception that one candidate has been invited to present their work at a dozen or so more conferences in the past year alone, all over the world. This was some defeasible evidence that _people cared a lot more about the one candidate's work_, which suggested to us that it might go on to have a bigger impact.

It made a difference.

recent grad

Our experiences are probably just different. We gave a person an on-campus for a VAP that we wouldn't have given had s/he not had a few APA presentations. S/he had no publications, so APA presentations were the best evidence of research competence.

Marcus Arvan

Hi E: thanks for weighing in. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like you’re talking about “invited presentations” / “invited talks.” If so, then yes of course that would matter a great deal - it shows that someone’s work is so influential that people are going out of their way to invite the person to speak! But this is mainly (though not always) something that occurs at an advanced career stage, after the person has already made a substantial mark in the discipline. It’s worth recognizing that this can of course make a difference - but it is usually the case only for senior hires. What I think people were primarily asking about in this thread were ordinary (submitted rather than invited) conference presentations.


I remember attending conferences thinking they would help with the CV. The only real value of them seems to be networking if you’re good at that sort of thing. Otherwise I’d use the time and money to work on more important parts of the CV. I’m not sure about invited talks. I was always told they mattered even less. So although I had some invited talks, I didn’t put them on the CV. Maybe this was bad advice. I don’t know. Lots of conflicting advice to be found! Maybe for more senior people invited talks imply impact or popularity but for junior people it’s mainly about connections. Honestly I personally discount anything invited heavily.


That's right, Marcus. I had in mind invited talks, which in my experience, are often found on the CVs of some of the most competitive early career (1-3 year out) job candidates.

Unrelated question, Marcus (or anyone else): What is the norm for omitting TA experience on a CV? 1 year out? 3 years? n number of courses having been taught as primary instructor?

Pendarian: You received bad advice. The fact that a talk is invited is evidence that people care about a researcher, _regardless of the reasons (e.g. popularity, quality of work, whatever - it's all relevant) for which the department did the inviting_.

Marcus Arvan

E: Interesting - that is certainly something well worth knowing!


Some quick thoughts:

1) I might omit things from a CV that scream "graduate student," like lists of courses taken, TAing, and (maybe) graduate conferences, unless they serve some particular role (like signaling competence to teach some course that is not otherwise supported). That is, I would include those "graduate student" things only if you don't have non-graduate student correlates. Marcus elsewhere has suggested you want to present yourself as a peer, and part of that is occluding what everyone knows, that you are (or were recently) a graduate student.

2) Otherwise, I would include every talk. Why not? It's true that the talks might not matter in terms of convincing someone you are great at your field, getting you tenure, etc., but you never know when someone knows someone. The conference talk might not help you get the Skype. But the conference talk might be grist for someone on a later flyout to say, "Oh, hey, I went to X, and it was great! Did you like it?" That is, the more breadth you've got, without seeming to be faking it, the more likely you're going to strike on a connection. I had exactly this experience about a minor conference paper, and it led to a conversation during a flyout, and then that fact was remembered later.

Short version: The CV serves multiple roles. One is to convince people to give you an interview. Another is to give people hooks for conversations in that and later interviews. I wouldn't overlook either role.


My first year I didn't include grad classes. My second year I did because I believe Marcus recommended it? (I think as a means to show teaching competence). If you are only a few years out, again it seems odd to hold this against a candidate, even if it doesn't help. It did not appear to be held against me, in my case.

So from what I've heard about invited talks, some faculty members take them very seriously (as evidence that you are a player in the field) and others think they are garbage. I guess I would err on the side of including them, since even those who don't like them probably wouldn't hold them against you...I think. They might matter more for research schools, I think...

Marcus Arvan

Hi Amanda: I agree, I think it is odd to hold grad classes against someone their first few years out.

Although I agree it is very important for one's CV to present one as a professional (rather than as a grad student), my experience is that a list of grad courses can very much *help* recent PhDs - in terms of giving people on the hiring side some evidence of potential teaching competence.

Insofar as recent PhDs tend to have comparatively little teaching experience, a list of grad classes can reassure the reader that the candidate could teach particular courses the department is looking to have taught by the new hire.


(1) A list of courses taken as a graduate student can help provide evidence for an AOC, just as having TA'd a relevant course can. (Ah! I see you took ancient Greek and ancient philosophy as a grad student; now I see why you were justified in putting "Ancient" as an AOC).

(2) I'd disagree with Anonymous TT's advice about not including job talks on the c.v. You shouldn't call them "job talks" but they should just be in your list of invited talks, as you would list any talk to which you gave a colloquium to a department.

(3) Mentioning your conferencing can also help people get to know you better. This is especially true if you presented a paper on a topic that you haven't published on yet. Once you're on campus (or at the interview stage, occasionally) someone might ask: Ah, I see you presented a paper on "Ever finer distinctions in Philosophy" - that's right up my alley! What was your paper about?" (so be prepared to talk about anything you list as a conference paper or work in progress, for that matter).
(4) After a few years out, you probably shouldn't bother to list graduate classes, though you might still want to reference back something (like that ancient Greek you took) if you haven't had the opportunity to teach Ancient in the mean time, and want to justify it as an AOC.
(5) Also: maybe its just me, and I've been lucky to go to the right conferences, but conferences actually help me with my research! People ask good questions and bring up good points that I hadn't considered - they often point me to things I didn't know about. Sometimes this happens over lunch or coffee, rather than at the formal presentation. But still, it's an important feature of conferencing. This is "networking", I suppose, but not in the sense that it matters who you meet, just that those you meet can often help you with your research.

Recent grad

Just to be clear to those who don't know: I take "invited" talk not simply to be a talk that wasn't peer-reviewed, but a talk that was given on the basis of a department literally inviting you to speak.

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