Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Using Resumes as a Guide

Most of the resumes law school hiring committees allow the rest of a faculty to see are those indicating that the candidate has elite creditials. Given that, is there any real way for the class bias conscious law professor to make a distinction. I think so. First, of course, the most important information on a resume is about scholarship and teaching effectiveness, although I have yet to determine a way to evaluate the latter. In fact, I think it is pretty well settled that student evaluations are not dependable indicators of effectiveness.

Beyond the “hard” information, can a resume tell you something about what kind of colleague the person will be and how important it will be for that person to perpetuate the myth that credentials make the man (or woman) ? I think so. I really liked what the form told me about a recent candidate. First, although the candidate had “pure elite” credentials, they were found near the end of the resume. In the publication section, the symposia pieces were listed in a separate category apart from books and articles. To me this signaled modesty and honesty because, all things being equal, I do not value symposium pieces as much as standard articles. It can vary, of course, but generally the symposium article is accepted before it is written and it would be hard for the sponsor to refuse to publish it. And so many symposia are choir practice. The resume was relatively short, meaning it did not include an entry for every Rotary Club speech. The image I formed was of a low maintenance, confident colleague who was likely to be a good listener and unlikely to spend hours in the dean’s office demanding extra travel money and special teaching loads. More importantly, here was a candidate who put productivity over credentials when it came to what would be impressive.

And then there is the resume that, fairly or not, creates a negative image. “Pure elite” credentials are listed near the top. “This is who I am,” the resume seems to say. The list of publications is long and stuffed with everything that could remotely be called a publication – a panel discussion that was taped and then transcribed, an op-ed piece in a local newspaper, a three-page descriptive book review, a two- page introduction to a symposium. The resume is long because there is an entry for every law-related event ever attended whether a presentation was made or not. And don't forget every law school and university committee. I see this candidate as self-absorbed and constantly on the look-out to promote himself whether or not it is of benefit to the school. You know the type: constant demands for extra travel money, all kinds of special needs, etc. This candidate is in a defensive stance and not likely to be friendly toward lower- credentialed applicants.

If the relevant information is the same, I will pick the first candidate every time. It is not just a matter of what type of colleague I prefer. If I must hire someone with elitist credentials, I want the person who does not puff and does recognize that productivity trumps all. I think that choice is also consistent with MoneyLaw rules. If there is a tie with respect to productive potential, the lower-cost candidate gets the nod.

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