Post Academic

Real-life academic examples of CV fudging

Posted in Absurdities,The Education Industry by Arnold Pan on October 5, 2010
Tags: , ,

So writing that Christine O’Donnell post the other day made me think about some examples of CV fudging and credentials padding I’ve seen over the years.  We’ve actually written quite a lot about CVs and resumes, and we’d like to think it was practical, helpful, only semi-bitter advice we were giving here and here and here.

"Variety of fudge at a shop" by benjgibbs (Creative Commons license)

But today we’re going to totally snark out and focus on some of our pet peeves with what people try to do with their CVs.  Alright, I’m not above admitting that I’ve partaken in a little CV fact stretching myself, although it was done in all sincerity and with the best intentions that what I was embellishing was going to really, really come to fruition — like most everyone else!  Really, I’m not impugning anyone here, because the CV arms race, like everything pertaining to the academic job search, can really get out of hand, forcing first-few-time jobseekers to put undue pressure on themselves to come up with unreasonable expectations of what they need on a vita, especially when it comes to publications.

Here are a few cases of CV padding that walk a fine line, even though they can seem totally legit once you find a way to justify them.  And if you can get it past a search committee’s BS sensor, more power to you!

Ph.D. expected: There are probably degrees of fudging here, from absolute fantasy to fairly possible possibility, depending a lot on when you dip your toe in the shark-infested job market.  I should know, because this applied to me in the 2 years I applied for jobs before finishing my degree.  The first time was a just a shot in the dark, the idea being that I would actually complete my diss when I claimed I would if I got a job — hey, it worked for some of my friends, so why not give it a try?  No matter that the “finished” product would be crappy, and I had no idea how strongly my committee would vouch that I could do it in their recs.

Later, though, I really could’ve gotten everything done under the flexible degree expected deadline, which made me more antsy to land a t/t position, because I started worrying that a finished diss was diss whose expiration date was coming closer and closer.  Now with a 3+ year old Ph.D., I wish I could reverse date fudge and somehow make my degree look newer and fresher!

More fudging pet peeves below the fold…

Publication “under review”: OK, everyone, probably including junior faculty, has one of these on her/his CV, right?  Mostly, it’s a placeholder that’s supposed to show that you’re a working academic with an active research portfolio, or at least that was what I was told by my consoling advising types.  For those without an actual publication to their names, it’s a way of getting an extra section or line on the CV, kind of like showing you know what the price of admission to the profession is.  But when that same essay is still under review a few years later either because you never bothered to actually send it out again after it was rejected or because you’re waiting for yet another ever less prestigious journal to finally give a thumbs up or down, the writing might be on the wall — or you begin to think it is, which is an even worse feeling of uncertainty.  That’s when it starts to become CV fudge probably.

The one publication that becomes more than one publication: I’ve only seen this a few times and what it actually means is that someone has a real pub with a real byline.  But it becomes dicey when you have that one legit essay, then get greedy and take a second CV line because you’re a co-editor of a special issue that your contribution appeared in.  Then maybe a third publication is spawned when the original essay gets reprinted in a collection elsewhere.  The record I’ve seen is spinning six(!) publications out of one, which I guess you have to admire for being shamelessly resourceful.  Stretching one real publication into multiple credits might not be total fabrication, but it’s a little shady and a lot fudgy, at least to me.  My attitude on this is that you act like you’ve been there and that you’ll be there again.

The class lecture that becomes an “invited talk”: Not to be harsh, but it’s kinda lame to start stretching the “conference papers and invited talks” section of your humanities CV, because it also means you probably aren’t ready to be a really competitive candidate just yet.  Maybe a pub or a few can help you land a plum job — meaning, a job — but conferencing probably won’t; it’s really just the cost of doing business and being part of the conversation.  It seems totally minor-leagues to characterize lectures to large classes you did as either a TA or guesting for your advisor’s class as an “invited talk”.  What you want to cast as the equivalent of a conference paper I call part of, you know…your job!  That counts as “teaching experience”, not some kind of semi-distinguished lecture or something.

The Facebook “faculty”: I know, I know, this is not a CV item per se, but your Facebook info might just well become your public resume soon.  It’s totally curmudgeonly of me, but folks who aren’t tenure-track faculty really shouldn’t tag themselves as “So-and-so University Faculty” as one of the FB “networks” they belong to — though I’m not sure what other category they would put themselves in, to be fair.  I say this as a lecturer-type who knows that we adjuncts work just as hard and do just as much without the anxious security of being on the tenure-track.  I don’t know if it’s *technically* accurate that adjuncts are “faculty” or if it’s fudging, but I know what I think “faculty” really means and I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.  I ain’t on t/t faculty, and I don’t have any security of employment, and — you know what? — whatever that is is what I am!  Call it “almost faculty” and leave it at that.

One Response to 'Real-life academic examples of CV fudging'

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  1. Len said,

    Ha, glorified lectures being turned into “invited presentations”! I’ve seen that once or twice. If the lecture was really fantastic, then a letter of recommendation could discuss it, but it shouldn’t be listed under conferences. At a CV workshop a few years ago, William Germano also mentioned people who list a lot of fellowships as “declined” getting on his nerves (and who wouldn’t, in our age of scarcity! just list the one which you chose, presumably because it was the most prestigious). In European academia, the problem of too much information is especially notorious. Germano showed us an actual CV (with the name blanked out, of course) which began:

    Dr. Crossed Out
    Spouse: Crossed Out (date of birth, list of degrees)
    Health: Good

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