Imagine this general scenario:
You are at (or about to go to) a conference or workshop or similar, and one of the organizers tells you that a slot has unexpectedly opened up for someone to give a talk. S/he invites you to give this talk, and you do.
The question (from a reader):
Can you list this as an invited talk on your CV?
I have given a couple of these impromptu invited talks, and I have not listed them on my CV. But then, I am old and don't need to document everything like early-career faculty need to do.
So I asked myself: If it mattered more to me, would I include such a talk on my CV, and if so, how would I indicate it? Would I flag it as an invited talk? Would I specify somehow that it was an informal invited talk?
And I had no obvious answer for myself, hence this post to ask readers what they have done, if anything, about such situations.
When I was talking to myself about this (silently, in this particular case), I considered the pros and cons of listing informal invited talks on a CV, and came up with this:
Even if the invitation was of the last-minute sort, it means that someone thought you had something interesting to say, and therefore listing the talk on your CV recognizes this fact.
You gave the talk. You should get some kind of documented credit for it.
For an early-career academic, invited talks are important for showing that you are respected and visible in your field. Of course, you may become even more visible and respected by giving such a talk, and perhaps that is 'credit' enough, but it can also be important to have such talks listed on a CV (because most people who review your CV will not have been at your talk).
It's a bit misleading to list an informal invite as if it were a formal invitation. A cynical person might interpret an impromptu invite as "They couldn't get the person they really wanted, so, out of desperation, they got someone else to fill the time."
If you simply list an informal invited talk on your CV with no further explanation and if someone took the time to search the relevant conference program and saw that you were not listed as giving an official invited talk, that could look bad. But I can't think of a good way to designate informal invites on a CV.
If you forced me to choose, I am leaning towards leaving informal invited talks off the CV and being content with the cosmic credit related to having been invited (even at the last minute) and having the opportunity to speak about your work.
If you think that the person who invited you is a fan of your work, that might be a good person to keep in mind for future external letter-writing (e.g., at tenure evaluation time). Then that person might describe what happened and mention the incident as an example of the esteem in which you are held. That's all quite hypothetical and less concrete than listing something on a CV, but it's nevertheless potentially more important (and accurate).
This all might seem like a detail, and some might say: If you have to worry about this level of trivia on your CV, you're probably in trouble.. but I disagree. CVs are scrutinized at various important stages of a faculty member's career. Many times, I have been one of the scrutinizers, and I know how important it is that CVs are complete, accurate, and unambiguous in their presentation of the essential elements of a professor's work.
5 days ago