The normal application for an academic position consists of about four things: a CV, a research statement, a teaching statement, and references.
For me, the CV is the most important document. There’s the old adage that the best predictor of future performance is past performance. I
spend much more time scrutinizing CVs than any other parts of the application. Even then, I confess that is usually a
quick read through.
I get the impression that applicants spend the most time polishing their
research statement, and the least on their teaching statement. I understand why. The research statement is the thing you can fine tune the most for each individual job application, but that you can control what it says means you might overestimate its importance. People tend not to spend time on their teaching statement, because much of academic culture does not value it.
Here’s what I look for when I’m looking through CVs. Obviously, what any particular person looks for in a CV will vary.
Publications. I look at the publication titles to get a sense of the kind of research you do. The CV informs me as much about your research, if not more, than the research statement.
Yes, I do count the number of publications, though I don’t have any specific number in mind. I keep a rough comparison with others in the applicant pool. I don’t look for Glamour Mag pubs, though if I notice them, I think, “Good for you,” but that’s about all.
I am also on the watch for any attempts to inflate the number of publications, like listing abstracts or theses as papers. Very bad. Don’t do that.
Teaching experience. Given that we’re at a big undergraduate university with a substantial teaching load, I am looking for evidence of some teaching experience. I don’t necessarily expect that you’ve taught a class from stem to stern, but at least that you’ve been a teaching assistant, and maybe given some guest lectures.
Service. I am looking for some evidence that you do more than just run experiments. I particularly like it when I see people who have done stuff for their scientific societies. That shows someone is a good academic citizen, and someone who gives back.
The overall questions I am trying to answer from your CV: Do I think you are a good fit for this department, both in terms of the kind of research you do and your willingness to teach? Do you do research that I can understand? Do you do more, scientifically, than publish papers?
Little CV secrets
The truth about teaching statements
The truth about teaching statements, part 2
The truth about research statements, I hope
“Can you teach this class?”