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I've heard from multiple sources now that one's CV should include grants you've applied for, even if you didn't receive them or won't find out if you've received them until after your CV goes out. I haven't had much luck finding this in other people's CVs, though. I'd like to have confirmation of this from someone who's been on a hiring committee before. If this is the case, any advice on how to present this information? (example appreciated as always).

General advice about CVs is appreciated too ...

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

You have a certain amount of leeway as to what kind of material you wish to include in your CV. I have seen things on CVs that were of little or no interest [edit: here I actually meant "of interest to me as a potential hirer", not personal interest]: high school honors, nonmathematical awards, etc. It doesn't make me think less of the person.

I would say that it's within reason to include a grant that you have applied for but not yet heard back from. You are inviting the reader to compute an expected value, which will presumably turn out to be positive. This cannot be said for grants that you have definitely not received, and I wouldn't normally recommend that someone put that on their CV. Still, I could imagine cases where that might be appropriate: for instance, at many research universities, given that you don't have a grant, the information that you have at least applied for one every time you had the opportunity might be looked upon favorably: ask a trusted mentor about this.

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I think some non-mathematical achievements are of interest even to the mathematicians. Of course I wouldnt put high school honors and other noninteresting things. However I have never included a grant in my CV, I find it a bit unusual. I wouldn't evaluate anyone from the grant he/she received. – Jose Capco Nov 5 '09 at 23:35
@Jose: I beg to differ. "Of interest" is not the same as "relevant to the hiring decision". I recommend omitting any information that is not useful to judging whether you are the best candidate for the position. I have seen non-mathematical information actually harm an otherwise strong candidate's chances. – Deane Yang Jan 14 '10 at 0:56
@Deane: could you be more specific about this (I understand if discretion prevents you from being entirely specific)? For me, a piece of information which is irrelevant to the hiring decision simply gets ignored: e.g., if someone lists athletic achievements, then absolutely nothing is gained or lost. I have heard tell of candidates who have gotten themselves in trouble by including negative or unprofessional sentiments on their applications or webpages (e.g. "math education is for losers"), but that seems like a distinct phenomenon. – Pete L. Clark Jan 14 '10 at 1:35
@Pete: My answer below indicates the reason. I was on a committee that viewed the activity listed as a serious distraction from the candidate's professional activities (research and teaching). My feeling is that if it is not relevant, just omit it. There is only downside risk, so why take the chance? – Deane Yang Jan 15 '10 at 2:26

I've served on tenure-track hiring committees. Notification that you've applied for a grant wouldn't work for or against you at our place, as far as I can tell.

I wouldn't in general include where you've submitted your papers. Maybe there's an exception if the paper is joint with senior person X -- in that case there's an implicit guarantee that Prof. X thinks it's a JAMS-level paper.

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Well, if CV says "paper is submitted for publication", I do not see why it hurts to say where exactly. By the way, once we are at it, I would recommend putting all such submitted but not yet accepted/published papers in public domain (arXiv is the best place) so that anybody really interested in hiring you would be able to take a close look and make a convincing case. – fedja Nov 6 '09 at 3:03
I strongly agree with fedja about making your papers public. – JSE Nov 6 '09 at 3:25

You shouldn't do this. It's transparent padding.

A little more:

I don't see the difference between "a grant that you have applied for but not yet heard back from" and "grants that you have definitely not received." If you haven't heard back yet, you haven't received it. It is not yet one of your accomplishments.

Though there may be situations where it could be appropriate, I would advise against listing it if you're going to send the CV out to a bunch of places. The department might be interested to know that you've applied later on (like once you've got the job), but the CV isn't the place to tell them.

My main concern is that people on search committees aren't going to be as understanding as Pete is. It seems much more likely that someone on the committee is going to see it and think, "Who the hell puts 'applied for grant' on their CV? Anyone can apply for a grant." It might not really hurt you, but then, I just imagine someone on a committee thinking, "this person must be padding their CV to hide weakness." You don't want that.

I would also advise against listing "sandwich artist" and "juggling" and "excellent kisser" and such until you have tenure. Nobody cares about that stuff.

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Since your opinion differs from Pete's, I'd be interested to hear about your experience with this. Can you say more? – Andrew Critch Nov 5 '09 at 18:00
I disagree. Every university department in the UK, at least, wants people who are active and energetic in applying for grants. Evidence that you're such a person could therefore make a (small, yes) difference. – Tom Leinster Nov 6 '09 at 5:16
Every University in the US wants people like that, too. That doesn't mean it's appropriate or wise to put it on your CV. – Richard Kent Nov 6 '09 at 23:38

I've never (through hundreds of applications on several hiring committees in math and one in statistics) noticed "grants applied for", although I wouldn't put any weight behind it if I did see. Perhaps I have seen it, and forgotten it just as quickly.

"Papers submitted" carry some weight, but only if you've made it to the short list and we are going through your app with a fine tooth comb. In that case, having the article available on a website is good (we can take a look ourselves), but having it on the arXiv is best. It signifies to us that you are modern, self-promoting, and that you are proud enough of the work to make it available to your peers.

We sometimes see "junk info" on CVs: things like "avid frisbee player", "concert pianist", and such. It doesn't influence our thinking, but it does give us a way (within the committee) to refer to the person. "Well, unpronounceable name does have 6 good publications, and the dog person only three, but Dog's letters read much more strongly."

When I was first applying, I had been attending (and sometimes speaking at) conferences as a grad student for many years. I figured that there were people who knew me, but wouldn't know me by name, so I put a picture of myself on my CV. I'm still getting teased about that, so I don't recommend following my lead. Then again, I did get offers...

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What kind of offers? (Joke.) – Hugh Thomas Dec 6 '09 at 3:53

First, let's assume that you're applying for a position, where your research matters. If so, then the hiring committee wants to judge as best as it can whether you will do good research after you're hired. Also, let's assume that the hiring committee is not familiar with your specific area of research, so it is not able to judge directly the quality of your work by reading it.

Published and accepted papers, as well as grants awarded, are very useful for establishing the strength of your research ability. Other measures such as quality of journals and citation numbers can strengthen your case even further and are in fact quite important if you are applying to a strong department.

Submitted papers, preprints, and grant applications do not help in judging your research ability. But they do matter. In particular, they, along with the items above, show that you are committed not only to continuing your research but also documenting it in a way that your department, your university, and your peers can judge it properly. In short, it provides evidence that you're willing to and are continuing to "play the game". This stuff won't help you beat out someone who is viewed as a stronger mathematician than you, but it might help you beat out someone viewed as on the same level but does not demonstrate the same level of explicit effort.

You should provide all evidence of research activity, whether it represents something you've already accomplished or something you are still striving for.

And you should omit anything that a hiring committee might choose to interpret as a serious distraction to your research efforts.

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I completely agree with what Richard said.

Since you asked for "general cv advice", I thought I'd list some things that people often put on CV's that I think shouldn't go there. Some people might disagree with things here, but what's the internet for if not making controversial statements?

1) The places where your papers are submitted.

2) Undergraduate honors other than various flavors of "cum laude" (ie membership in Phi Beta Kappa). The only exceptions I would make here are Putnam fellows or the Morgan prize for undergraduate research.

3) Membership in professional societies like AMS/MAA/AWM unless you have some kind of official role in them. For instance, it would be appropriate to list it if you were president of your local chapter of the AWM or if you served on a committee for the AMS (I know of at least one postdoc who has done so).

4) Too many papers "in preparation". It's ok to have a couple of papers listed as "in preparation" if you actually have some kind of draft written. However, I have seen cv's in which the author has more papers in preparation than written/accepted. This definitely looks like padding.

5) For a graduate student, it's probably ok to list talks in the graduate student seminar or your thesis defense. However, once you have left graduate school these should probably disappear.

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While I agree with you and Richard, I think Ilya's right to want the opinion of someone who's actually sat on a hiring committee. (Which I presume no postdoc has done.) – HJRW Nov 5 '09 at 19:15
I have, in fact, been on hiring committees at both the postdoc and the tenure track level. To be clear about my response above, I'm not specifically recommending that anyone put this stuff on their CV. I'm just saying it probably wouldn't do much harm. – Pete L. Clark Nov 5 '09 at 20:14
Right! I felt this was an important part of the original question, and deserved a little emphasis. – HJRW Nov 5 '09 at 20:34
Listing places where papers are submitted is a tricky business. I don't do this on my own CV, though at some point I decided that it was OK for the bio-sketch on my NSF grant applications (partly because it doesn't seem like you're broadcasting the information in quite the same way, and partly because action on the paper could easily have occurred by the time anyone reads your application but you don't get a chance to update it). On the other hand I have been in hiring situations where I would have liked to have this information regarding an applicant! (cont'd) – D. Savitt Nov 5 '09 at 20:43
What would make me happiest is if people listed where and when their paper was submitted. If your CV says you submitted a paper to JAMS a year ago and are still waiting, that should carry a lot more weight than if you submitted your latest paper to JAMS last week, because in the first scenario they'll have had plenty of chance to reject the paper by now. (And frankly it'd be reasonable for you to get some credit, since it's probably not your fault you're still waiting after a year.) But I don't think I've ever seen anyone do this. – D. Savitt Nov 5 '09 at 20:48

I am in exactly this situation right now: on the job market, with a paper submitted to JAMS a year ago and not yet accepted or rejected. So I am listing it as "submitted to JAMS, 2008" on my CV, partly just to indicate to whoever is reading my cv that I think that this is one of my strongest results.

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I usually put my publication in a different file than my CV.. I just add "See list of publications" in my CV if that would interest anyone, and I would then send a pdf with my list of publications (even if its 80-90% to be published works) – Jose Capco Nov 5 '09 at 23:29
That seems very reasonable to me especially because a year means that it's a paper that's at not an obvious reject from JAMS, which already says something quite good. – Noah Snyder Nov 6 '09 at 0:55
But then there's the possibility that it's rejected before the interview, which could make for an awkward moment. – Richard Kent Nov 6 '09 at 2:35
In all likelihood I'd think it wouldn't lead to anything too awkward, as given that it wasn't an immediate reject you're likely to have one positive report or a report saying "well it's not JAMS quality but I've had recommended acceptance at certain slightly less awesome journals" either of which is going to give you an easy explanation at the interview which still reflects well on your paper. – Noah Snyder Jan 14 '10 at 0:41

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