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Monday, September 26, 2016

What’s Happened With Academic Job Market Vitas?

            What is up with the CVs that academic job market candidates are circulating this year?  Something seems seriously off the rails, and I hope folks will take note and consider fixing it for the future.

            This year’s job market CVs are a weird mash-up in which job market candidates are shoving to the front anything that seems to them relevant to an academic job, and then pushing down below a variety of other information including most of a person’s professional career.  Work experience, publications, presentations, all are broken into strange, small, and often unfathomable categories.

            Although the intention seems to be to put one’s qualifications for an academic job up top, the real effect is to make it extremely difficult (and in some cases impossible) to piece together the candidate’s professional career.

            Take note:  I’m not the only person thinking this is bizarre.  Our entire hiring committee is scratching its head, and I’ve yet to talk with any hiring committee member who believes it makes any sense.  (I’m confident a contrarian will surface here in the comments, blogging being what it is, but still, market candidates, take note.)

            I’m not sure who started this trend, or who is promoting it as the right thing to do.  But here’s a pro tip:  it is not helping you, and folks should stop it.  Indeed, my free legal advice is to think about getting to schools that are seeing you an old-fashioned vita, the kind that actually tells people how your career has proceeded.

            That’s what a CV is.  A summary of your professional life.  It’s designed to let readers know what you have done. It is fine to rework the CV to emphasize aspects of your career that favor the particular job for which you are applying.  But it is quite another thing to design it in a way that hides essential information.

            Schools want to know what you have done professionally.  They want to be able to make logical sense of your career and education to date.  They very much want to know if you have professional experience, including practicing law.  Indeed, I do not know one school where having actually worked in some practice setting is a negative.  It is almost always a positive.  It is true that we are hiring PhDs without this experience.  (And we are even hiring non-PhDs without this experience, though I for one am dubious of candidates who neither have PhDs nor some serious practice experience, even if only for a couple of years.)

            When I look at a CV I want to know about someone’s education, about their professional positions, and about their publications.  Divided into those three categories and those three alone, not subdivided into tiny pieces, so that I can make sense of it.  I don’t want clerkhips in one place, practice in another, and random teaching gigs yet somewhere else.  I want publications to all fall in one place on the CV.   And sure, I’m happy to learn about presentations – though I don’t care that much – or about other things that may be worthy of mention.  But if I can’t get the basics, I’m frustrated and not likely to be impressed.

            And, again, I don’t think I’m alone in this.

            So I’d suggest we let go of the latest trend, and go back to the old-fashioned way with CVs.  I’m all for innovation, but not when it is a step backward.

Posted by Barry Friedman on September 26, 2016 at 07:14 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, Life of Law Schools | Permalink


candidates like me do not like such posts. Most of us break down our CV as follows, with order varying slightly

1. Education
2. Teaching Interests
3. Publications/Presentations
4. Experience
5. References.

One could quibble with the ordering but what other categories should there be?

Posted by: anon | Apr 3, 2019 4:50:04 PM

Substance should trump form in this area.

Posted by: Tim Edwards | Apr 3, 2019 2:59:00 PM

Maybe this is why the FAR resume exists the flawed way, but consistently so, that it does .. to provide a first glimpse of a similarly arranged mini-CV.

Posted by: Anon | Sep 30, 2016 4:44:29 PM

I found these comments, and Barry's thoughtful follow up post, helpful. Candidates should try and tell a coherent story, sure, but opinions and suggestions from mentors differ somewhat about how to do so.

The idea that breaking out practice publications from academic publications, or clerkships from practice experience, constitutes an effort to hide the ball is silly. I particularly object to the notion that it "looks like" an effort to hide the ball. It only looks that way if you come to the CV with rigid conceptions of how to format it. Of course formatting can be manipulated, but in my experience that is a rarity and should never be the first thought that comes to mind.

These exchanges illustrate that CV craftsmanship is an art, not a science. I hope committees will approach candidate CVs with enthusiasm and openness and not hide behind preferences about formatting. At a minimum, they should presume that the person writing the CV is trying to tell his or her professional story in good faith.

Posted by: Fellow | Sep 27, 2016 2:22:35 PM

I generally agree with Orin. But what should be higher for an entry-level: Education or an entry-level teaching job (VAP, Bigelow, Climenko, etc.). It seems to me that should be above education, because it helps to separate the candidate as one with academic experience from those coming from school/practice/clerkship.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Sep 27, 2016 1:27:51 PM

Prof Friedman, please do touch base with the NYU Academic Career Program staff if this is how you and other hiring committees feel! My CV was formatted exactly how you say you prefer before I sent it to NYU ACP for review/comments. They cut it up into tiny pieces and now it is formatted in the way you do not prefer--not sure why they are giving out that advice if it is contrary to the preferences of hiring committees.

Posted by: Anon NYU alum | Sep 27, 2016 1:02:11 PM

Pedigree can help but it can also hurt -- I can see why some put it lower on their CV. We're so ridiculous about that. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2007934

Posted by: Anon | Sep 27, 2016 11:47:59 AM

"Education is a proxy for your potential so once you have proved yourself you need not list it first or second."

If only that were true. We are in the snobbiest part of the snobbiest profession. It is always and forever going to matter if you didn't go to Yale or have at least a CoA clerkship. All the Phds are shaking that up a tiny bit, but I don't expect to go away entirely in any of our lifetimes. And heck it is even impacting the Phds with some hiring committee members not understanding that Phd programs in each subject have a separate prestige ladder from the law school associated with that university.

Posted by: Anonymous | Sep 27, 2016 11:35:53 AM

I am sorry for all the anxiety this is causing applicants. Just to confirm, AnonHiringChair is right in my experience - the organization of the vita does not affect our decision in hiring. So if you are in the FAR, don't worry about this issue, its really marginal. If someone is reading this for next year, I think its a bit easier on the hiring committees if the cv is organized by topics and if all the items in one topic are grouped together.

Posted by: Hiring Committee Member | Sep 27, 2016 9:22:42 AM

In case it helps, I went through every CV in the FAR, and yes, I noticed when the order of things seemed odd, but I didn't care. I can't imagine deciding "yes" or "no" on that basis. Even among my own faculty, the order varies quite a bit.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Sep 27, 2016 8:25:17 AM


I think that's right. Expanding on what you say, I think a CV should be structured based on what the intended audience for the CV wants to know. And that changes over time, as how you might assess a junior prof is different from how you would assess a senior prof. In light of that, education should be first for entry-level candidates and junior profs, but it should move to the back after a while for more experienced professors. I tend to think the same is true for clerkships, which are sometimes identified at the outset at first but eventually get folded into the general experience category. So for experienced profs, it makes sense that it's academic jobs first (what is this person's professorial path?), ten publications (what have they written?) and then non-academic jobs and other stuff after that. But for entry levels, it makes sense that it starts with education (what is this person's student path), and then publications and then other jobs. What juniors should do with clerkships is a little tricky because they're a bit of a hybrid: They're part academic credential (largely won by grades) and part experience.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Sep 27, 2016 12:23:44 AM

When you are first starting out education is top priority but with experience and a track record of publication, IMO, the cv should change. For me, I have my teaching first, then a clerkship, then my publications and other academic related info, then finally education followed by bar admissions (remember how important that was). The first 10 years education remains important but afterwards? If you have been able to garner a scholarly following ie being known, invited, and cited to, why emphasize school? Education is a proxy for your potential so once you have proved yourself you need not list it first or second.

Posted by: 25yrsplus | Sep 27, 2016 12:08:35 AM

As a candidate on the market this year, I find posts like this to be disheartening. No one is trying to hide the ball. Most of us are assiduously trying to figure out how to put our best foot forward. I suspect my CV falls into Barry's camp - but I studied many CVs of current professors, as well as models provided by my school and by recently hired peers. It was vetted by multiple mentors, themselves professors at a top school.

Maybe Barry's post will help reset the trend for future years. But even if a consensus emerges on this issue, I hope current hiring committees will give current candidates the benefit of the doubt, or at least not punish current candidates for what has become standard practice.

Posted by: anoncandidate | Sep 27, 2016 12:07:40 AM

Interesting thread. I've also wondered about what the best order and approach is for law profs (and candidates), and I've gone through several different versions over the years without a particular sense of which is best.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Sep 26, 2016 11:05:49 PM

Funny. My cv has always followed this format, too. Over the years, it's probably become worse. I've published more, and those professional experiences, which I still regard as formative, seem more distant as I look in the rear view mirror. I think my cv is also a product of the way I have approached submissions, which has been to emphasize publications over professional experience. Perhaps this is a reason not to look at the cvs of law professors.

I agree with Matt and Brian, however, that if there is widespread concern about resumes, the place to start may be in the resume booklets and academic camps used at some schools. I modeled my cv after those circulated for candidates coming out of programs at NYU, Yale and Harvard.

Posted by: Adam Zimmerman | Sep 26, 2016 5:06:50 PM

I am not from the law schools named in this thread, and I too was advised to put publications behind education.

Going through this hiring process is like playing a sports game where "fouls" can be called and where there are many ways to commit a "foul." But what constitutes a "foul" is concealed from the players, and the people who run the game may not even have an agreed definition of a "foul."

Posted by: anonanon | Sep 26, 2016 2:12:56 PM

Barry, have you checked with NYU's academic careers program staff? My CV is formatted the way you suggest you dislike, but it's based on the advice I received while a candidate from NYU...

Posted by: Matthew Bruckner | Sep 26, 2016 1:52:25 PM

Instead of looking at other candidates CVs, I would suggest you look at the CVs of professors. I just looked up two at random at a top school. Both were highly readable with the sections all combining the relevant information rather than separating it out into smaller categories. Two resumes, two orders:

Experience (in chronological order)


Teaching Interests

Posted by: Anonhiringcommitteemember | Sep 26, 2016 1:00:55 PM

I'm a current candidate who has committed several of these sins (putting publications right after education and above work experience, breaking out clerkships into their own category). I will echo what BDG said and what anon@11:22 said by implication when he or she posted that link: I did this not because I independently concluded that it was the best way to present myself, but because I understood from the powers that be that this is the way it's done and has been done for some time. Yale explicitly tells people to do this. The examples Columbia posts on its site (all dated 2011) do this. My recommenders signed off on it. Etc.

Posted by: Anonymous | Sep 26, 2016 12:58:07 PM

I've noticed similar trends in law professor CVs more generally. Often, the listing (roughly): (1) academic appointments; (2) publications; (3) professional experience; (4) education; (5) presentations; (6) bar memberships/professional activities. Sometimes, professional experience and education are put even further down.

Maybe candidates are looking at law professor CVs to get a sense of the norms as a guide to their own CVs? This is natural, but also might neglect consideration of the different purposes of candidate CVs versus hired professor CVs. Or do your objections extend also to the CVs of hired professors?

Posted by: anonjuniorprof | Sep 26, 2016 12:56:46 PM

i'm sure other people dislike this cv format for the same reasons you articulate. however, it seems to be the format that the market is rewarding. when i reviewed the cv's of successful candidates from the past couple of years, most of them followed the format that you are suggesting is problematic. and, it's not a trend from this year. if you look at the cv's of junior faculty over the past 5-10 years, many of them use this format.

Posted by: candidateperspective | Sep 26, 2016 12:45:37 PM

The thing that struck me this year is the large number of candidates who used the "Comments" section to write long paragraphs telling us why they are, in essence, so awesome. If it weren't so gross, it'd be laughable. Those sections should only be used to tell us useful, specific information that we wouldn't otherwise get from the form/resume. I eliminated quite a few just on that basis as clearly they wouldn't be a fit at my institution if they are that prone to crow about their achievements.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Sep 26, 2016 12:02:34 PM

I'm with Friedman on this one - both the observation and the recommendation. Scrolling all over a multi-page cv to get the three items: education, professional experience and publications makes it harder to keep straight important information about the candidate and to me it gives the impression the person is hiding something.

This is not a get off my lawn issue but one of strategy - the point of a cv is to give the reader easy access in short form to your background. You want to be an academic and you have publications, so there isn't any need to jigger categories around to make the point that you really are interested in scholarship.

Re: Fellow 10:49:08, what you describe is very strange to me. I wonder if it has to do with font or if you have a large number of professional experiences listed or just "looking" but not reading the cv.

Posted by: Anonhiringcommitteemember | Sep 26, 2016 11:24:02 AM


Posted by: anon | Sep 26, 2016 11:22:33 AM

Barry, no doubt you have been reading cv's a long time, and I haven't looked at entry-level cv's this year. But the pattern you describe--that is, of including separate categories for clerkships, teaching experience, other legal experience, and other experience--is not in any way new. For example, that was the format Columbia recommended for me when I was on the market in 2006...and indeed, is still largely the format of my c.v.

I will, however, get off your lawn if this really bothers you.

Posted by: BDG | Sep 26, 2016 10:54:13 AM

Another thing to consider is the way these CV's are reviewed.

When doing an initial review of my CV, several people remarked that the first thing they noticed was that I hadn't clerked, or that they were surprised I hadn't clerked. Yet my circuit clerkship was right there, depicted under "experience" no differently from my other jobs. They evidently had scanned it quickly looking for a "clerkship" section. I still have chosen not to add one, for the reason you mention—better to leave it in and allow the CV to read chronologically—but I think the trend you criticize can be partly explained as a response to the reality or perception that CVs are reviewed in bulk and without a lot of detail or attention.

Posted by: Fellow | Sep 26, 2016 10:49:08 AM

Interesting. I started reading this disagreeing with it, but by the end you mostly persuaded me, at least in principle. I'm not quite clear what you would actually like to see though.

I've been advised by several mentors (tenured faculty, mainly) to put publications near the top, below education but ahead of experience. Are you saying that, absent special circumstances, you believe experience should come first, or perhaps second behind education?

I understand the complaint about, for example, breaking out "clerkships" from "experience." Similarly, it seems you would favor putting your law school note under publications (with all the others) instead of under your law school. But beyond that I'm a little confused about what you would like to see differently, if it's not the order (maybe it's just the order?).

Posted by: Fellow | Sep 26, 2016 10:42:49 AM

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