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Bill Vanderburgh

I have chaired several searches (at my current R2) and have sat on several other search committees (mostly at this R2 and also at my previous R1, both of which are large state universities).

In my experience, most committee members do things a bit differently from each other. They have different personalities, specializations, priorities, willingnesses to commit time, etc. As a result, it is difficult to generalize about a typical practice. But here's what I did. (BTW, we usually tried to diminish the impact of idiosyncrasies by having each file independently read and rated by more than one person at the first stage. If one person rated the file highly, the whole committee had a look. At later stages, each file was read by the whole committee.)

I judge each application in light of the job ad. On the initial screening, I do a quick skim of the cv and cover letter to see that the candidate (a) makes the case for why they fit the job as advertised and (b) actually has the qualifications we require and prefer.

A. Do they have the PhD in hand or a defense date set? If not, how far along are they? (Of only minor interest: Where did they go to grad school?)

B. Do the AOS and AOC fit the job as advertised? Are there other interesting "bonus" AOCs that might be useful additions to courses we already offer? Are there any red flags like listing an implausible number of AOSs and AOCs? (For my money, more than three AOCs in a newly-minted PhD seems suspicious, unless they have a lot of teaching experience to back it up.) Potentially problematic though not necessarily disqualifying: Are there significant overlaps between the candidate's AOCs and the topics current faculty already cover>

C. Does the rest of the cv back up the claimed AOS and AOC? I.e., are there courses taught, publications, conference presentations, or anything else that would be evidence that they really do have the AOCs in question?

D. How many courses have they taught as instructor of record? (TAing is a good start, but having taught your own course is a much better indication of your readiness to teach your own courses, if you see what I mean.) How relevant are those courses to what we are looking for in the ad? Were the students taught similar to the ones at our institution? Any pedagogy training? Any teaching awards? In later rounds I'll look more deeply at the teaching dossier, including teaching evaluations.

E. Is there adequate evidence that the candidate's research trajectory would successfully earn them tenure with us? Published papers, works in progress, conference experience, and the research statement are the key pieces of evidence here. On first pass I don't go deep on these, I'm just looking for an arrow pointing in the right direction. On the second round, this is often the most or second-most important consideration so we do a very deep dive, including a close reading of the writing sample and research statement.

F. Is there evidence of the candidate being a good "departmental citizen"? How much "service" have they done, of what kinds? I don't expect a lot here, but candidates who have none make me wary.

On initial review, given that we have so many good candidates for every ad, a "no" can take as little as a minute looking at A-F above. A vote to "invite to Zoom interview" typically takes 10-15 minutes, or less for very strong files. We go back for a deeper read of files before the Zoom interviews and again before the campus interviews. One of us carefully reads the writing sample before Zoom interviews; all of us read it before campus visits.

I find that I usually give very little weight to letters of reference, and I don't look at them in the initial screening. Some of my colleagues do read them on initial screening, and give them weight. It seems to me, though, that all reference letters heap praise on the candidates, and therefore they aren't useful as a tool for distinguishing candidates. I tend to think that differences in letters are mostly explained by the skill and experience of the letter writers, rather than by the qualities of the candidates.

The biggest things that give me a negative impression are not having a cover letter paragraph that connects the candidate's record to the requirements in the ad, listing an implausible number of AOCs, and the appearance of trying to deceive by not properly classifying publications of different kinds. The sins here include not distinguishing invited from refereed, under review from published, scholarly from non-scholarly, etc. (Related: Don't give the title of a journal to which you have merely submitted or plan to submit--you don't have a publication with them, just a hope. The cv is a record of accomplishments, not a list of hopes.)

R1 faculty

I'm at an R1 with a PhD program.

Like Bill, I think it's important to note that different faculty within a department will do things quite differently. But here's what I do:

I barely look at the CV on the first cut. I probably spend typically about 10 seconds on each, and I just look for: publications that aren't obvious from research statement; whether they have presented at conferences etc.; primary instructor teaching experience (though I sometimes won't look at that until later stages, since it typically only comes up when playing defense or offense for a candidate); what their listed AOS/AOCs are and if there's much coherence between that and their publications/teaching experience/presentations. But often this stuff is obvious from the other materials that I DO look at on the first cut more carefully, which are the research statement/dissertation abstract and the writing sample. (Yes, I typically skim writing samples in the first round, though I weed people out first if they truly obviously don't belong in the pile for area reasons, being out of grad school for years with no publications, etc.)

We also have two people read each application in the first round and follow a similar procedure to Bill--any interest in any candidate by even a single person on the committee gets that candidate looked at in the second round by the whole committee (though sometimes we each make something like a top ten or top fifteen list or something, so it has to be significant interest).

I agree with much of what Bill says about the negatives (I don't care about the cover letter, but the other things are annoying). Just to note an interesting procedural difference: in my department it would be considered to be not doing one's job to read at least enough of the writing sample at the second round--when we are deciding who to zoom interview--to be able to have something substantive to say about its content/merits/demerits in the discussion of who to interview. (That is, every member of the committee is supposed to read writing samples at that stage--and yes, it's often quite a lot of writing samples.)

Certainly once we are conducting zoom interviews, we all have read it (I mean, there are one or two outliers in the department who fail to do their job, but this is the strong norm) and ask questions in the interview based primarily on the writing sample. In my experience interviewing for other R1 jobs, this is relatively standard for those jobs.

So I guess: the cv doesn't matter much to me in the first round. That doesn't mean candidates shouldn't have well polished cvs! Like many other aspects of an application, once you get to the "debating who to interview" stage you are guaranteed that people will start to nitpick various issues with your cv. But for me specifically it doesn't interest me much in the first round--my primary concern is my assessment of the writing sample and research program as well as general fit of the candidate not just for the position, but for the intellectual vibe of my department.


Agree with virtually everything Bill said (and a good amount of what R1 faculty said). I'm at an R2 similar to Bill's, so some of this may be redundant, but I hope worth sharing nonetheless. It’s not everything, but it represents a decent amount of how the search unfolds for me when I’m on a search committee.

Background: My department looks for very strong teachers *and* very strong researchers. Teaching is the top priority, but we are mostly very research active and we want to hire an excellent teacher who will do good research.

Our search committee works through the files in stages. First, we do a rough pass to ensure that a candidate actually has the required AOS/AOC. Each member looks at every file to determine whether the candidate meets this minimal requirement. You may or may not be surprised that plenty of applicants can be cut at this stage. Some will list the proper AOS/AOC on their CV, but we look for evidence anywhere we can find it -- usually the CV -- to confirm/disconfirm this.

Two lessons here for candidates. First, really don't bother applying if you truly can't claim the required AOS/AOC. (*Preferred* AOS/AOC is different.) At our institution, it is against HR policy (if not the law) to hire you if you don't satisfy the requirements in the ad. Second, your file should tell a coherent story. If you claim an AOS, there should be evidence of it not just where you list your AOS on your CV but elsewhere and, ideally, throughout your materials. If you claim to care about diversifying your syllabi, you shouldn't submit syllabi that completely lack diversity. Whatever qualities you intend to claim for yourself, there should be evidence beyond that claim in your file.

Once candidates have been ruled out on this basis, then we go through one or two more stages to get a list of semi-finalists (the 12 or so people we'll zoom interview).

Here I look at what each candidate has to offer in terms of teaching experience, teaching ideas and commitments of various sorts, and research. I read the cover letter and teaching materials closely. I prefer more detail to less on the CV when it comes to teaching experience. Some people mix their TAing and instructor of record experience in ways that make it hard for the search committee to tell which is which; some people don't list the semester when they taught the class. These make me skeptical and can be red flags. Some very elite schools only give their grad students opportunities to teach 6 week classes during the summer. Teaching one of those is different from teaching an entire semester long course. Similarly, it's helpful to know how many students are in a class. Again, teaching a 10 student class is very different from teaching a 40 student class. Enrollment need not be listed on a CV -- though I don't see why it couldn't be -- but it's helpful if it's somewhere in the file. In general, I like to know how similar a candidate's teaching experience is to the teaching we'll ask them to do. The more similar the better.

Then I look for signs that the candidate is a thoughtful teacher. It's hard to write a compelling teaching statement. The biggest trap is listing a technique that the candidate thinks is unique or interesting or... and it really isn't. E.g., "Once a student was struggling in my class, so I spent extra time with him outside of class to help him understand the material." That's a great thing to do, but it's also very minimal. And the fact that someone mentions it on a teaching statement in a way that is meant so signal distinction can come off as a lack of experience. If you can get experienced, thoughtful teachers to give you feedback on your teaching statement, you should—at least if you’re trying to get a job in a department that prioritizes teaching. (But again make sure what you end up is honest and coheres with the rest of your file.)

I also like to see signs that the candidate has some sense of what it might be like teaching at my institution. A paragraph in the cover letter describing their “fit” and knowledge of my school or my type of school (if they have any) can go a long way.

I personally don't care where the candidate got their PhD for *prestige* reasons. But I look at their educational background to see how much experience they might have at an institution like mine. There are distinctive pedagogical and bureaucratic challenges to teaching at a large public university. I like to have a sense of how much experience the candidate has dealing with these challenges. This isn't at all decisive, but it's something I keep in mind.

Once I have ruled out people on the basis of teaching considerations, I look to research. The research should appear fairly interesting to non-experts. Many departments hiring in AOS X don’t have an expert in X, so research needs to be comprehensible and somewhat interesting to non-experts, ideally including students. I tend to prefer candidates with at least 2 publications in good journals, though I am willing to interview candidates with no publications if the rest of the file is especially strong. Some candidates have a *lot* of publications in not terribly good journals. The difference between 0 journal articles and 1-2 is very significant. For me, the difference between, say, 5 and higher is negligible. When I look at your research, I’m wondering: will you publish enough to get tenure, is your work viewed as fairly high quality by your peers, and is it something our students or I would like to discuss with you. I often hear people express the thought that they if they just had more publications, that would make the difference to their prospects. At a certain point, it’s more important to start publishing for quality over quantity, and if you’ve already got decent quantity and quality, your publication record itself probably isn’t what is making the difference.

We rarely have a large number of candidates who appear to be both strong researchers and strong teachers. By the end, each search committee member chooses around 4 people to zoom interview. Each candidate needs at least two votes (or accepts) to be interviewed.


As previous posters have noted, each committee member values things differently, so I'm not sure that any information here will actually be helpful for guiding applicants.

I'm at an R1, and the CV really isn't central to my first pass. Rather, the cover letter and research and teaching statements play a central role. If the cover letter does not sufficiently explain how they fit the job ad, then I don't bother with the CV. If the research statement doesn't demonstrate that they fit well with our requested AOS, then I don't read further. If their teaching statement doesn't give me good reason to think that they will fit our advertised teaching needs, then they I stop reading.

Once I've winnowed down the files and begin a second pass, then the CV may play a role. I care about publication rate, but this needs to be contextualized by seeing what their current position is, how much they are teaching, etc. Someone who has been in a research postdoc for the past three years and has published one paper will be evaluated very differently from someone who has one paper in the same three year period but is teaching a 4-4 load.

I glance at presentations, but more to see whether they are active in the field rather than to see what particular conferences they attend. This can also give an idea of what they are currently working on - five presentations with very similar topics/titles will be different from clearly different presentations. And if they have been researching long enough, tracking the relationship between presentations and publications gives some information.

For PhD students, I glance at expected graduation date, but my assumption is that it is inaccurate. Unless I see strong evidence that they will complete their thesis before our job starts, I mostly pass them by. We have hiring restrictions around this, and given the number of stellar applications we have, it is not worth dealing with the problems arise if a PhD student doesn't have their degree in time.

As to negative impressions - not clearly distinguishing amongst publications is irritating. There are significant differences between peer reviewed journal articles, encyclopedia entries, and book reviews, and they should not be conflated. Sometimes, book reviews have titles that do not reflect that they are reviews. When I see such listed as publications with no disclaimers, my reaction is pretty negative. And, of course, if you falsify publications (yes, it does happen) you're immediately disqualified.

Daniel Weltman

I'm limiting my answer just to CVs, rather than (as some above have done) including other application materials:

I look at publications and courses taught. I am looking to see if they have any publications in decent venues, and how many they have vs. how long they've been in the profession (to get a sense if they can get tenure here), and at what sort of teaching experience they have (more is better). For a hire in a specific area I also check AoS and AoC to see if they fit what we need.

I ignore pretty much everything else. Almost everything CV-centric that people mention above I do not care about. E.g. I don't look for evidence of AoCs because I personally have plenty of AoCs for which I have no evidence. I don't look for evidence of service work because some people are more modest about listing their service accomplishments, or they do a lot of service in ways that are hard to list on a CV. I don't look at whether they've gone to conferences because some people with kids to look after or not a lot of money might not have had the resources to attend conferences, especially during grad school or adjuncting with a 4/4 load. Etc. Really I'm just looking at publications, teaching experience, and AoS/AoC.

With respect to what I weight for interviews, my own view is that we should just make a longlist and then choose randomly from it to pick who to interview. So I don't sweat it very much. I just make my longlist and let other people on the search committee agonize about the shortlist if they want to.

Things that produce a negative impression on a CV: most (or all) publications in edited volumes or journal special issues that are edited by people who seem like they might be friends with the candidate. Most (or all) publications in obscure (often interdisciplinary) journals that seem like they aren't super selective, if the publication could in principle have been published in a more selective venue. Trying to pass off courses for which one was not the instructor of record as courses for which one was the instructor of record.

I work at a pretty selective SLAC.


I have barely served on a search committee, so I don't have a methodology. But here's how I screen candidates which may be quite different from above.

First of all, I look at publications and check out whether their research is interesting and fit our need. Can take 30 minutes or more. (In cases with little to no publication or too obscure, that is a direct no.)

Secondly, I look at the rest of the CV, especially solo teaching, and decide how experienced they are and whether they fit into our need.

Other materials play a role if they stand out. Mostly they are rather average.

three time sc member

A few thoughts as a TT prof at an R1 institution:

1)How do you read a CV?
At first, quickly--then slowly. With 100+ qualified applicants per TT position, winnowing is key.

2) Which things do you look for first? Why?
I am looking for a clear match with the particularities of the job ad: AOS/AOC fit with evidence to back it up (pubs, presentations, courses taught or at least TA'ed), pub rate and placement, and elements I'd categorize vaguely as "bonuses" (grant-work, fellowships, genuine interdisciplinary skills). After we winnow, I'll review the research, teaching statements and writing sample in more depth. Cover letters get little weight except to help make sense of exceptional cases (e.g., gap in cv, non-standard cvs etc.).

3) Which things do you lend the most weight in deciding who to interview?
Match with the job ad, strengths that complement and extend our present faculty, proven ability to successfully carry out long-term research projects, compelling research project evidenced by writing sample, clear publication trajectory, evidence that they'll be an easier case for T&P, absence of red-flags (especially those that come without detailed explanation from letter writers etc.).

4) Which sorts of things do you mostly pass over?
Letters, except when they can help explain a "red-flag" (e.g., poor transcript or gap in cv), cover letters, extracurriculars.

5) Which sorts of things have you encountered in CVs that produce a negative impression?

As with others, mislabeled publications are #1, followed by extreme AOS/AOC pivots (e.g., when the website CV doesn't match the one sent to us). In general, CV-bloat and opaque-CVs are also detrimental (I warn my european friends to draft a separate cv for north american jobs and to have a north american academic friend proof it for them).

I think it's worth mentioning the importance of * consensus * in the searches in which I've participated. Applicants should bear in mind that search duties are often a 'volunteer' effort added on top of the mix of other responsibilities. There is a strong incentive to get things done efficiently and with minimal acrimony. Given the number of qualified applicants, this often means that many otherwise competitive applications that have one or two idiosyncrasies won't make it through the winnowing process.

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