Patrick-Dunleavy-thumb1How can academics ensure their job application stands out from the rest? Patrick Dunleavy advocates going fully digital , where clearly clickable and open-access hyperlinks are provided for all your publications, writings and alternative outputs. Alongside the ease this provides the selection committee, adding digital links to all your recent top research articles will reassure UK selectors that your research falls under the HEFCE open access mandates for the next REF.

The rules governing academic CVs and résumés are complex. And they are generally different from those applying to all other spheres of the job market. In particular academic CVs often look as if they are lagging decades behind those in other sectors of life. Researchers still mostly operate with documents designed for paper printing only, set out in conservative ways and devoid of any digital content or functionality when looked at online. But are these features now overdue for change?

Going Digital

Once you’ve recognized the distinctiveness of academic CVs or résumés, a key decision you need to make is whether you should go digital — and if so, in what ways? Most current academic CVs are resolutely non-digital, and are designed solely to be printed out in a traditional fashion.

The problems with this conventional approach are twofold.

  • First, the traditional CV format is just dysfunctional — it actually almost completely masks what you’ve written. How on earth can they tell from your brief title details of papers what you are like as a researcher or a writer? Or how good you actually are at writing? Or how easily and creatively you tackle writing tasks?
  • Second, in large universities no one now, ever, prints out CVs until a very, very late stage of the appointment process. In the crucial early stages, where you have to survive ‘the cut’, all CVs and covering letters are now read digitally, and only onscreen.

It is now completely normal for selectors to only look at the two documents screen. Nobody can afford the time to print out 300 or 400 sets of papers to consider. Instead CVs and letters are often read very quickly in three main phases — individuals compiling their lists of possibles; the panel pooling their list; and discussion of the list and final shortlisting.

office-381228_640Image credit: Unsplash (Pixabay) Public Domain

The absolutely key thing for any applicant then is to make the initial long list of candidates noticed by one or more selectors, and then to survive through to the final shortlist. And here’s where including digital elements in your CV can make a lot of difference. What selectors find so difficult is to see past the obscuring element of the CV or résumé to the person behind. Often their problem is to see the good in a researcher who has done themselves few favors in terms of a poorly organized CV, obscurely titled papers, a solipsistic covering letter that ignores the department’s brief for the job, or stressing elements in their application that this department really does not care about.

Because the longlisting phase for all academic jobs is now so exclusively digital, I think it would now be best practice to start producing CVs in formats that are designed from the outset to be read onscreen. Including digital elements is obviously very straightforward in Word or equivalents. But if you are using PDFs (or if institutions ask for that, as some will) you need to check that your chosen PDF format will show live hyperlinks in a clearly visible way, and that URL addresses will click through to the relevant page.

There are three kinds of digital content to consider including in your résumé

  • hyperlinks to main or ‘classical’ research outputs, i.e. journal articles and perhaps also books or book extracts;
  • hyperlinks or URLs to selected short-form or non-traditional works that show your writing or research capabilities, including journalism, blogposts, book reviews, and links to your social media sites (especially Twitter or ‘curated’ sites)
  • Photographs, video and audio outputs.

In academia the balance of risks and advantages for each of these elements is rather different.

Linking to main research outputs

What digitally linking to all your main research publications does is to make it just a bit more possible that selectors will actually access (some of) your full work and look at it, and hence get interested in interviewing you. Instead of having to judge your work on a title or an abstract alone, they get to see what you’ve written in full, at a click of their mouse. (Count how many mouse clicks it would be for them instead to copy a paper’s journal and  title, paste it into their library system, have it call up the right journal and issue, and load up the full text – in LSE this is about 30 clicks, and a lot of waiting around). And instead of letting their ‘old-school’ prejudices about what counts as a ‘good’ journal lead them to ranking candidates just by the places they’ve published in, selectors can now quickly look at your work directly. So now they may be persuaded that your work is good or excellent stuff in its field, even if the journal it’s in isn’t so prestigious or familiar.

For anyone applying for academic or research jobs in the UK, adding digital links to all your recent top research articles is now a must-do step, however senior you are. A recent decision by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) now requires that anyone whose work is to be considered in the REF in 2020 must deposit at least a ‘green’ Open Access version of their journal paper with their university electronic repository. You have to get this done within three months of your article having been accepted — which for many disciplines and journals means that it has to be done months or even years ahead of the finished article actually showing up in print.

This requirement creates a potentially onerous new task for heads of department and research directors, chasing up those lazy or recalcitrant academics who don’t do this chore in time and under their own steam. To reassure selectors that you are NOT one of these people, someone who will generate lots of extra grief for them, you really must now adapt your CV to include hyperlinks and URLs for all your journal publications in the REF 2020 period (i.e from January 2014 onwards, or perhaps 2013 if not previously submitted).

The links need to lead to either

  • ‘gold’ open access (OA) version of your article, i.e. one that is included in the printed journal but open to anyone to read in full, whether or not they are subscribers. (Using a full digital object identifier (DOI)reference number is the best way of doing this link. So put followed immediately by the long, complex DOI number — for example, Gold OA can be an expensive option and it will generally only be available to senior folk with grant budgets able to cover the scandalously high OA fees charged by Elsevier and Wiley — still around $2,700. Publishing in journals that are wholly OA by design is another alternative route to gold open access, with lower fees, but often still less prestige or visibility for the journal.
  • ‘Green’ open access is the cheaper, do-it-yourself OA alternative. Here you lodge a (good quality) final manuscript version of your article with your university’s e-repository, and they make it freely available on the Web as soon as the publisher’s embargo period has expired. This now has to be done officially and formally and you need to keep records that say you’ve done it. (I’d advise also keeping an eye on your repository to ensure they complete their end of the deal too). Bear in mind also that your green OA version should not just be what you last sent the journal (e.g. with all the diagrams and tables at the end). So far as possible you should configure your green OA version to be really close to the experience of reading your published paper — e.g. putting all charts and tables next to to the text referring to them, and designing these ‘attention points’ to be as readable and high quality as possible.

For any UK jobs, ensuring that all your published CV components meet the HEFCE open access requirement right now tells your prospective new colleagues and head of department that you are fully up-to-date on your obligations and are strongly REF-orientated — in addition to all the positive reasons above.

Linking to short-form or non-traditional outputs

This is especially (but not exclusively) an issue if you are applying for PhDs, post docs, adjunct professor posts or other ECR (early career researcher) roles. At this stage you may well not have any, or not have many, formal publications. You’ll have stuff out there as conference or working papers, hopefully some published blogs, perhaps book reviews, maybe comments or shorter papers. But perhaps your key publications are still in preparation, or are under review, or are having to be reworked to resubmit to another journal after rejection, or are even ‘revise and resubmit’ but not yet finished. Including links to these interim outputs is even more key than with published outputs, for without other professional indicators of quality reading some full text is going to be crucial.

But what else should you have in your CV? I’d urge early career folk to consider including links to selected other, shorter pieces — like journalism, blogposts, online notes, comments or short advance findings on newsfeeds, book reviews, and comments on other work. Looking at all of these examples of your writing can enable selectors to get a far better and more rounded sense of you as a writer and a person than may be gleaned from traditional professional outputs alone. Blogs and other social media can especially help to show you as a congenial and very active person, someone to whom writing comes easily and fluently, and thus someone who’s likely to carry on producing and getting stuff out there in the future.

The whole, fast-growing agenda around research impacts and knowledge exchange between higher education and other sectors of society and the economy also adds strong incentives for including some links to non-traditional outputs. In the UK the REF research assessment process now allocates 20% of higher education funding support for ‘research impact’ activities, and so this powerfully affects department rankings and finances. In Australasia, the USA and Europe also there is an increasing emphasis among policy makers and university hierarchs on maximizing the external recognition and use of higher education work. These changes underlie the massive growth of science communications as a field, some of the impetus behind digital humanities, and (of course) the tremendous, central significance of impact across the social sciences.

If your CV lacks at least some evidence of knowledge exchange and impact competencies then you are clearly at a disadvantage compared to other candidates with the same classical publications but who do have these things. So you should now have a clearly separate section, distinct from ‘classical’ publications and work in progress, that showcases a selection of your impact short-form publications and other outputs.

Photographs, videos and audio

The final area for possible digital content may well generate a lot of controversy, similar to that surrounding restrictive résumé or CV strategies like excluding a date of birth (lest it trigger an ageist response by selectors); or women choosing to use an author publishing name that uses only initials and no first names (so as to try and avoid the manifold gender biases still so evident in many fields of academia). In the 2000s many universities that previously required applicants to include photographs with applications removed this stipulation in the 1990s, for fear that it might be alleged to facilitate selectors acting on racial or ethnic prejudices. I greatly sympathize with and share all the anxieties that drive these kinds of restrictive practices. But I’m afraid that I feel that all these responses are completely ineffective or diversionary ‘answers’ to the underlying problems.

Including photographs in CVs or résumés could be controversial because it is clearly true that western societies show many signs of ‘body’ or ‘beauty’ biases, where judgments are made about people on the basis of their physical appearance. Our collective biases here often end up by systematically assigning more life chances, social status or even ‘ascribed intelligence’ to good-looking people compared with those less favored. Academics and researchers as a profession group have long been critical ofany basis for evaluating people’s work that departs from its scientific, research or scholarly value and potential. The example of Stephen Hawking shows how important maintaining this core stance is. And so for the last one or two decades universities have been rigorous in not requiring any images (whether still or moving) in résumés and CVs — a stance that a traditional, print-only format obviously helps to sustain.

But is this an effective defense still against ‘beauty’ biases, ethnic group biases or other unacceptable elements at the shortlisting stage? We already live now in a society where digital photographs are omnipresent on our Twitter or Facebook sites, or Google Scholar Citations and ResearchGate pages, or on personal websites, university biography pages or blogsites. In addition, pictures of anyone active in academic life, or in disseminating research results to the media and external audiences, are routinely collected and archived in Google Images. Only the youngest researchers now, plus older people who are extreme academic hermits, can realistically apply incognito. Any selector who wants to know what a given candidate looks like, can normally surface that information in a few mouse clicks.

Including photographs in résumés and CVs is now common in many countries (e.g. in Germany) and in many sectors of the economy (e.g. in media and journalism). It seems artificial and ineffective now to exclude them from academic applications. But any moves away from current restrictive conventions will need to be done cautiously and in line with the traditional virtues that make academic CVs distinctive.

Should you make this step? In the current climate of HR rules, I would always advise checking with the university you are applying to, whether it would breach their rules or practices to include photos or video. Similarly you might seek to ask them whether it would be unusual for the kind of post you are applying for?

Taking the plunge

No advice about applying for academic jobs comes without risks and the need for some qualifying comments — because different types of universities and different types of academics have different reactions. So here is something of a quandary for early career people. Do you keep your CV old-school, so as not to frighten off the ‘old buffer’ group of selectors? Or do you want to be positively noticed by the with-it open-access/digital scholarship crowd and so include lots of URLs – and also show evidence of activism not just in ‘classic’ research publications but also in blogging, social media and ‘impacts’ activity? Or do you tread a middle path, clearly assigning prominence to traditional outputs, but showing in a restrained way that you can also do more. To some extent, only you can decide, given what you know of your field, the particular departments that you are applying to, and the key criteria they will apply.

Speaking personally, I’d advocate going fully digital — so that you include unobtrusive but clearly clickable and open access hyperlinks behind all your publications, papers in development and a selection of your best short-form writings, like blogposts. On the whole, I think your key task at the first, long-listing stage is to get people to notice you and to include you in their personal set of ‘possibles’.

This piece is adapted from a post that originally appeared on the Writing for Research blog and is reposted with permission.

Note: This article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the Impact of Social Science blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please review our Comments Policy if you have any concerns on posting a comment below.

About the Author

Patrick Dunleavy is Professor of Political Science at the LSE and is Chair of the LSE Public Policy Group. He is well known for his book Authoring a PhD: How to plan, draft, write and finish a doctoral dissertation or thesis (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).

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