Guest Post: Hosting a CV review

Today’s post was contributed by tenured professor of pediatrics Pascale Lane, MD.

I remember when How To Host A Murder first hit the shelves in the 1970s. The concept was simple; each box contained the basic narrative for a murder. Characters, distributed randomly at the start of the evening, then acted out themselves at the party. Eventually, someone ends up as a corpse (not really, of course), and the characters continue to interact until the mystery gets solved. Wine is not required, but highly recommended.

In academia, hosting a CV review may be less entertaining but far more useful. The CV, or curriculum vitae, literally means the course of action of a life in Latin. This document provides a comprehensive summary of a career, and it should be up to date at all times. Institutions generally have a required format for CVs; failure to use this layout can be enough to shoot down a promotion application!

What Components are in a CV?
The order varies from place to place, but the information in most academic CVs remains the same:

  • Name, Degrees, and Contact Information
  • Education and Training
  • Professional Experience
  • Military Service
  • Professional Certification
  • Honors and Awards
  • Scholarship
  • Teaching
  • Professional Service
  • Professional Memberships
  • Community Service

Why Do CV reviews?
The CV is the most important part of the promotion and tenure package. It will be perused by external reviewers in the field as well as at several levels in the home institution. Other documents accompany the CV in the promotion and tenure (P&T) packet, but they merely illuminate and supplement the CV.
Most institutions have an annual review process during which professional performance, upcoming goals, and progress toward promotion are assessed. At many places, this process proceeds less vigorously than it should. Some supervisors fail to consider the entire CV, even though it usually has to be included in the evaluation packet! Getting others to review a CV may thus ward off career problems in the future.

How Do You Organize a Review?
Colleagues make or break a review. Some reviews may include participants within a field, such as one during a professional conference. Others can occur within an institution. The setting may differ, but ultimately the idea is to identify gaps in the CV that may block career progress. Having senior colleagues involved grants the activity more value. People at least one level above the participant on the P&T scale have the knowledge to better identify those pesky gaps that require more information or activity.

  • Within One Institution: Prior to reviewing CVs, everyone should have access to and familiarity with the university’s P&T guidelines, especially the required CV format. Copies can be provided with the calendar invitation, just to make sure all participants know the goals.
  • Within a Field: Participants coming from a number of universities will likely have different requirements, both in formatting of materials and in P&T specifications. These reviews will obviously not be able to address specifics, but can still be useful since the P&T process requires external review by a senior person in the field in question. Savvy junior faculty can provide their P&T guidelines to the colleagues with whom they meet.

The Review Process
Participants can be paired or in small groups. People exchange CVs and take time to read through them. They then discuss them together. Junior faculty can benefit from seeing a senior CV in many ways. Realizing all the stuff that successful senior faculty include can be intimidating, but it may also aid the junior participants to remember to include all of their relevant activities. The real heart of the review occurs when the senior participants identify CV gaps. The CV review rarely identifies publication or funding gaps; those are usually obvious to the faculty member. So what can this process point out?

  • Timeline gaps: If there is a gap of 3-6 months at any point in education or employment, it should be explained in the CV. Illnesses, maternity leave, or travel should be described at least briefly. Most instructions for CVs specify what sort of gap should be documented.
  • Documentation gaps: Lack of documentation can occur in the areas of teaching and service. All lectures should be listed, along with some indication of ratings or feedback received. Handouts for patients can also count as educational effort. Committee work can be overlooked; everyone in my section participates in
    the Dialysis and Transplantation Committee. For junior faculty, that may be the only committee they work on, and omitting it would be detrimental.
  • Level of reputation: Regional, national, and even international reputation often appears as a criterion for promotion. Rarely do those guides illuminate how this can be documented. Often the committee depends on the word of the external reviewer. The candidate should make it easier for them by pointing out speaking engagements, presentations, and committee work at each level. Involvement with professional organizations can really help with this area.
  • Relative value of service: Some types of service lend themselves to measurement. In medical schools, patient visits can be totaled and compared to national standards. Committee work can be trickier. It is not merely a numbers game; service on multiple departmental committees will not be equal to serving on campus or university-wide work groups. In academic medicine, two committees are mandated by federal law and universally recognized as a lot of work: the Internal Review Board for human subjects protection and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Appointment to one of these groups will be recognized as a lot of service to the institution.

Create a Take-Home Message
Scribbled notes in the margins of the CV can work for this exercise. To help make the critique more complete, a worksheet can be provided for participants. Specific gaps can be outlined by reviewers. An additional column can be provided for the candidate’s action plan; if they do not take this advice to heart and use it, then hosting the review was a waste of time.

CVs provide the key component of the P&T packet. They deserve our frequent attention to make sure they stay complete and up to date. After all, no one cares more about this document than the person whose life it summarizes.

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