Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Today: A CV question

On CVs, it is common to include a list of invited talks given at other universities, research labs, professional organizations, or companies. Ideally the list will also include the date of each talk. I don't find the talk title to be particularly useful, but some people include these.

It has come to my attention that there is a divergence of opinion on the following issue related to the Listing of the Talks:

Should you include interview talks? You don't have to indicate them as such of course, but should you even list them with other invited talks?

Some of my colleagues think this is unethical, but I don't see a problem. An invited talk is an indication that a place is interested in your research, whether it be just for a visit or for consideration for hiring. Why not list the places that invited you to give talks, for whatever reason? Am I missing something re. the ethics of this?


Alex said...

Every talk is a potential job interview talk.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

I don't think it's unethical. But it does strike me as tacky.

Anonymous said...

Why would that be considered unethical?

If anything, it's much easier to land an invited talk at some university than an actual interview.

I've never heard of colleagues complaining.


Schlupp said...

To make it more interesting, what about the following:

A professor is on sabbatical on different continent from the one of his home institution and wants to interview a postdoc candidate who happens to be on the same continent. It is obviously easiest to do the interview on the continent both are currently on and to get the candidate to Sabbatical University.

Now, the candidate gave a job talk FOR Overseas University AT Sabbatical University.

HSP said...

Padded CVs are my pet peeve. I would NEVER include an interview talk. To qualify as a REAL "talk", the intention of the people who invited you must be to LEARN SOMETHING from you, rather than to EXAMINE you.

All through my career, I have had a policy of sanitizing my CV that I really enjoyed doing.

What does sanitizing mean? Every few years, when I was "growing up", I would pick up my CV, put in the new things I had achieved AND... to my great delight, threw out what I felt was no longer important to define me.

For instance, when I was applying for grad sch, I happily threw out mention of honours I had won in the High School level science olympiad in my field.

When I was applying for postdoc positions, I was glad to throw out the mention of my REUS and remove the mention of my Senior Theses (which had been on my grad sch application of course) At that time, I remember creating 3 new headings in my CV called "Preprints", "Publications" and "Talks"

And when applying for Tenure Track positions, the heading "Talks" was changed to "Selected Talks". Only talks given outside the country, or at the truly top institutions, made the "cut". The heading "Preprints" was deleted and only accepted/published papers were mentioned in the CV.

And now, "Selected Talks" has turned into "Recent Talks" with capacity limited to 5.

Anonymous said...

Well, you only write CVs if you are looking for a change of job so if you get invited for talks then surely that makes you more desirable right?

Anonymous said...

I also include interview talks on my CV and think there is no problem with this.

But then I'm interviewing for tenure-track jobs at the moment so anything that pimps up my CV is a good thing :)

Matt said...

I do not understand your colleagues' objections at all. Interview talks should be listed. Not only were you invited because they wanted to hear about your interesting research, but they were even considering offering you a position based on that research. That's worth at least 5 normal talks IMHO -- 10 in this era of hiring freezes. Maybe explicitly listing them as job talks is gauche, but they should at least count as any other invited talk. Does the divide in opinion correlate with number of years since last job search?

a physicist said...

I was once given the advice that "every invited talk is potentially an interview talk". I definitely list my interview talks.

Anonymous said...

There is a debate about this in my field - it's not a question of ethics though. Rather, many people think it's inappropriate to list job talks as "invited talks" (you did, after all, apply for the chance to give a talk there in the first place). There is a vague sense that it's tacky, as well.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is unethical, but unnecessary padding.

Anonymous said...

Good point. I don't see why not. Does it work for postdoc interview too though?

Small college science prof said...

I think listing job talks is fine for someone early in his or her career. If you've been out of grad school for more than a couple of years, however, listing job talks looks like you're trying to puff up your c.v.

A related question: what exactly constitutes an "invited" talk? There are some situations that I don't know how to handle. Consider the following:

1) A colleague runs the department colloquium and asks if you'd like to give a talk for a particular week that he or she is having trouble filling.

2) You tell a colleague in a different city that you will be visiting the area, and he or she says, "Great, why don't you swing by and give a talk while you're here."

3) You're a new postdoc, and the PI in your lab asks you to give a presentation on your research for the rest of the lab.

In each of these case, you were literally "invited" to give a talk. However, in (1) probably everyone in the department may have been similarly invited. In (2), you were only invited because you happened to be in the area anyway. In (3), the PI probably asks every new postdoc to do this.

Should you list any of these as an "invited" talk on your c.v.?

Anonymous said...

if there ever is an invitation that reflects your scientific achievements most purely, it is an invitation for a job interview. Of course these should be included.

Mark P

Anonymous said...

Hmm. it depends.
I list some, but not others, and it depends on what the CV is for.
For example, at the beginning of my current ast prof position I did not want my dept to know where I had interviewed (and not gotten an offer, sigh!).
If I were a bit more senior, or after my next round of searches I think I won't have a problem with listing. Probably there won't be as many places, it will be less obvious over my normal background activity (3-4 talks/yr), and once one does have a tenured job, any decision to move is more mutual than at the beginning....

Anonymous said...

I asked my adviser his opinion on this, and he said the following. "If the interview talk is a public talk, YES. If it's a private talk, NO."

By private he meant a talk just to a single lab group. By public he meant to the entire department or departments concerned in the hiring decision. In our department, postdoc interviewees often give private talks, but faculty interviewees always give public ones.

John Vidale said...

For the specific question - to me, any talk at another school, or for a dept seminar series that one is not running oneself, is an invited talk.

For the general question - one should list enough stuff like talks and committee work to define oneself, and no more. If there are sufficient other things to say in the CV, such as papers, committee chairmanships, and research projects, there is no need to even mention talks or minor chores.

Listing talks is mostly redundant next to the list of papers and research goals. If there are talks on subjects that were never published, it leads to more problems than credit.

I interpret a long list of talks to indicate the compiler has a flawed sense of how to spend his or her time, and a flawed sense of how to present him or herself. I'd similarly view a department that values archiving such lists.

Anonymous said...

CV have multiple purposes. I provide what I feel is an over bloated cv during my yearly performance review at my institution; I have no issue putting down interview talks on it. My unit uses a point system to actually quantify all aspects of our performance, if it will get me a point (invited talks and presentations), or ten (peer-reviewed publication) it makes my over bloated cv. However, I post a 'lean' cv on my website and circulate that if a cv is requested for things other then a performance analysis.

Kevin said...

I don't list "Invited Talks" but "Talks Given". Of course, I haven't been on the job market for over 20 years, and so my practices may be irrelevant (except for promotions).

I would recommend to students not to include job interview talks given in the current job search, but talks from previous searches should be ok. Letting people know where else you are interviewing can be a bad thing---they may decide not to make an offer because they know they can't match rich institution X, which also decides not to make you an offer for similar reasons.

Anonymous said...

A related question: is it acceptable to list talks which you've been invited to give, but had to decline (clearly marked "(declined)" of course)?

My daughter was born at the beginning of a summer full of major international conferences in my field, at several of which I was invited to give plenary talks but there was no way I'd be able to attend. But I felt it was important, for example for my annual department review, to indicate that nevertheless I had received the honor of being invited to speak at those conferences.

Is this unethical or tacky?

Drugmonkey said...

I recently gave someone the advice to list 'em so I guess I think it is ok.

I will note that compared to getting your best science buddy to invite you, being on an interview is a more impressive reflection of your quality.

Douglas Natelson said...

Why would it be unethical or tacky? These folks asked you to come and speak, right? Presumably they actually cared about what you had to say. Indeed, except for the search committee members in the audience, as far as everyone else there is concerned (grad students, postdocs, faculty from other departments) it's just a seminar/colloquium. [Note: I assume you're discussing real talks here, not sit-downs with just the search committee to discuss proposed research plans....]

There's nothing wrong with having two versions of the CV, one with "selected talks" and one with everything.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I am so surprised at how different everyone's views are on this. I learned that one should, within reason, list everything on their CV. An invited talk is an invited talk, no matter why. Besides, most talks are people basically inviting their friends or, at the very least, people they know from the conference circuit. This isn't such a big deal - eventually you get to know and be friends with a lot of people. Oh, and sometimes if you invite someone to give a talk, they will invite you back. Or you call a friend up to say you're giving a talk at X university and will be in the area of Y university. It doesn't seem to me that very many people get invited to give talks because their research is so intrinsically interesting that everyone wants to hear about it, though I guess this must happen sometimes too - maybe in some stage of career that I haven't yet achieved.

That said, I do separate invited conference talks from invited seminars (the first being more important). Invited job talks fall into the "invited seminars" category.

By the way, every talk *is* a job talk. My career is based on an invited talk that turned into a job, so I can attest to the truthfulness of this statement.

Comrade Physioprof said...

Padded CVs are my pet peeve. I would NEVER include an interview talk. To qualify as a REAL "talk", the intention of the people who invited you must be to LEARN SOMETHING from you, rather than to EXAMINE you.

This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Why in god's fucking name would a department invite a candidate for a faculty position to come give a talk if they didn't expect to fucking learn something from the fucking talk!?

Dr. Smeghead At Search Cmte Mtg: "Yeah! Let's invite Dr. Jane Janerson to interview! She'd make a great addition to our faculty!"

Dr. Fuckface One Month Later: "You going to Janerson's job talk today, Smeggie?"

Dr. Smeghead: "Fuck no, Fuckie! Her shit is totally boring same-old same-old."

All kidding aside, when I look at CVs of younger faculty, I actually specifically look for the job talks to see where they were invited. The job talks are easy to identify, because they are the cluster of talks given in the year before taking a faculty position, and before the lull in giving talks that occurs after taking the faculty position.

zoelouise said...

No way! I think it is tacky. If you apllied for it, you weren't just invited to speak.

I have a feeling that folks who list interviews as invited talks are the kind of people who use the title "Dr." when making dinner reservations because they have a PhD.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. Furthermore, I recently gave an interview talk and have no desire to let my current department know that I'm interviewing elsewhere. The talk was advertised online (I asked the organizers to omit anything that suggested it was part of an interview), so it is only logical that I include it together with my other talks.
I am surprised that HSP says "the intention of the people who invited you must be to LEARN SOMETHING from you, rather than to EXAMINE you", as no department would interview you for a faculty position if you are not an expert in something the department has no expertise in. I sat in several search committees, and I would never vote to hire somebody that didn't teach me something during his/her talk.

Candid Engineer said...

I don't think it's unethical. How many newly tenured or to-be-promoted profs go on the interview circuit and secretly acquire (solicited or unsolicited) job offers? Should they be forbidden from listing those talks are their CVs (even though they were really interview talks)???

Padded CVs are my pet peeve. I would NEVER include an interview talk. To qualify as a REAL "talk", the intention of the people who invited you must be to LEARN SOMETHING from you, rather than to EXAMINE you.

This comment irritates me. Why the hell would you invite someone for a job interview if you didn't expect to LEARN SOMETHING from them? Honestly, that's retarded.

Anonymous said...

It has never ever occurred to me to list interview talks on my CV , whether as "invited" talks or anything else. And I have given a LOT of interview talks - for various postdoc positions since I did more than one postdoc stint, then for various positions in industry R&D, as well as for TT positions.

If I listed all my interview talks, my CV would be an extra page long.

Now that I think about it, I don't think it's outright unethical, just misleading.

Interview talks serve a different purpose from 'real' invited talks at conferences. The latter are an indicator that some academic/professional community is interested to hear the Very Important Information that you have to give because you are a Recognized Expert in the field.

Interview talks, however, are talks where you you essentially asked them to invite you and they said well OK...

Anonymous said...

would you list your interview talks on your CV if, after the interview, they turned you down for the job after all??

Hope said...

I sat in several search committees, and I would never vote to hire somebody that didn't teach me something during his/her talk.

Funny, because I’ve attended a number of job talks in my dept., and I rarely walk out feeling like I’ve learned something. Job candidates usually get up there and rattle off all of the research that they’ve ever been a part of, trying to impress the committee with all that they’ve done, I suppose. Such talks never impress me – they lack depth. But I’ve always excused it, thinking that that’s what’s expected of someone when they’re interviewing, and that perhaps giving a more focused talk where they actually teach someone something would somehow put them at a disadvantage. OTOH, people that are not interviewing, that were truly invited to speak for one reason or another, seldom give talks like these – and thank goodness for that!

New Kid on the Hallway said...

I'm not in science (I'm in history), and I don't think one should list job talks, nor do I know of anyone who does. But this is partly because the job talk (in history at least, or at the schools where I've interviewed, at least) is a completely weird genre. It's not at all what I'd present in a scholarly setting (mostly because I'm usually presenting to people who know nothing about the field, students and non-field faculty. But then I've never interviewed at a big research place). So I just don't think my job talks are comparable to real scholarly presentations.

I don't think it's unethical per se, but I agree with tacky and padding.

(For the record I'm a youngish-to-middle aged white woman who last gave job talks in 2000 and 2004, though arguably washed up and/or blithering. I don't think it's a generational thing, I think it's a discipline/academic culture thing.)

Pamiam said...

I have served on search committees in the past and don't even read this section. Why? Because I figure mostly it's your friends inviting you to come talk, and it doesn't mean anything to me except how many friends you have. But, if you're going to have this section, put all the talks including the job talks. Those people actually want to hear what you have to say!

Anonymous said...

Job talks don't count. Its not unethical, just.... pathetic.

I was debating cutting off the titles, but my tenure mentor thinks they are very important.

Tenure mentor also thinks all local talks (other departments, etc) are important and I would not have put those on either. That seems like unnecessary fluffing too, but hey, I am untenured and do what I am told.

Dan said...

I wonder if many of us are talking past each other because job talks differ so much in different fields and different places.

In my graduate department (a Department of Ecology and Evolution in the US), faculty candidates would give a talk during the regular weekly colloquium, and we might have four candidates on four successive weeks. Other than a bit at the end of the talk outlining what the candidate intended to do as faculty, it was more or less indistinguishable from any other colloquium talk. On the other hand, in my post-doc department (a Department of Microbiology in Europe), all job candidates come on the same day, each gives a 20 minute talk back-to-back, and the whole thing is nothing like our regular seminar series.

In my own case, I include interview talks if it was a 45 minute talk to which the whole department was invited, because I give basically the same talk in these cases as I do if someone invites me.

Anonymous said...

Loved it. The first time I laughed today.

As an untenured FSP, I have to add:

Talks where the U is too poor/cheap/etc to offer an honorarium so they only invite untenured profs who need to pad their CV

I did once hear that you should only list invited talks where an honorarium is received.

Ms.PhD said...

oh thank god, that last comment saved me. I was wondering if people would think I was unethical or tacky or both.

But, um, I have to say, some of you people make wayyy too many assumptions about the significance of invited talks and whether they are actually interviews or not.

I was talking to a friend who is a native of another country, and someone from there approached her at a meeting and invited her for a "pre-screening" talk. Apparently this is quite common there. If she does a good job, yes it could turn into a job offer. But that's not the only purpose, and in our field a seminar and job talk are the same format, same content (unless you're really inexperienced at public speaking).

Anonymous said...

I have given two talks at international symposia where all the speakers were invited experts. In both cases, one of my senior collaborators was first invited but declined with the suggestion that I should go in their place. (In both cases the talk was my own, I was not just delivering their talk for them).

Are these talks invited? or not so much?

another physicist said...

FSP, when I saw the title of this post, I thought you were saying "CV = Q" as in the equation for relating the charge on a capacitor.

was that an subconscious physics-professor thing?

Anonymous said...

This is fascinating. In my field (economics), the only differences between job talks and other invited seminars are (1) if it's a job talk, one of the people you meet during the day will be the dean; and (2) if it's a job talk, sometime after your talk the department will have a meeting to decide whether to make you an offer. That's it. The format and length of the talk are the same. The expectations from a job talk are usually higher, because (as several people have said) it's not just someone's buddy. The job market is extremely competitive, so being invited to give a job talk means your CV was culled from probably several hundred(!!!) other CVs (if a junior position) or at least dozens of CVs (if a semi-senior position). In my department, we always look forwad to the job talks most of all: these are the most polished and interesting talks of the year. I don't know any economist who makes a distinction between job talks and other invited talks. And as Alex (first commenter) said, and several others have reiterated, every talk can turn into a job talk if it's really good.

Ace said...

Thanks for bringing this up. I heard this "oh it's so tacky" comments so much but I never understood. Yeah I may have applied for the job, but I was still invited to give that talk and spend 2 days meeting people. Considering 3-4 people usually make a short list from among over 150 or so applications, I think getting the chance to give a job talk does mean people are interested in your work and they have invited you. In my experience at least, the job talks were much more selective than my invited talks, who were mostly my friends who got recent faculty positions inviting me to their institutions... I have enjoyed and made good use of all opportunities I had to visit and present my work, whether or not it was in the context of a job talk. I think I agree with the comment that you may want to not include them when you're in the middle of the same job search. But now that these talks are in the past, I'll be adding my previous job talks to my CV. Thanks for posting, again, and allowing me to think about it and make a more informed decision.

Slightly_Rifted said...

Sorry I am a bit late to the party on this discussion.
This weekend I was at a conference where I was chatting with one of the organizers and she asked me to speak in the afternoon session. I accepted and they worked me into the schedule.
Later that evening, I was having dinner with friends when one of my male colleagues suggested I list it as an invited talk on my CV. I had no idea whether or not this was appropriate. Google brought me to you.
What do you think?

Female Science Professor said...

I have given a few impromptu "invited" talks like that, but have not listed them on my CV. But then, I'm old and it wasn't that important to me. I'll ask this question in a blog post in the near future to get more opinions for you.