A reader sends along a question that has been on the minds of many a grad student and post-doc over the years. He’s working away on his project, and trying to get work published. And naturally enough, he’d like to see it in the best possible journal, but what if the best possible journals turn it down?
As someone who aspires to work in pharma someday, I wondered how much journal names on a CV really matter to those in the industry who hire chemists as opposed to the size of the body of work. . .
I may not be the best single person to ask, since I’ve barely been in on hiring anyone in years myself, which might say something about the industry right there. But I think you’ll get a range of opinions on this one. I’ll notice if the publication list is nothing but A-list stuff, because that stands out, and I’ll notice if it’s nothing but really low-tier journals, like things I’ve barely heard of, because that stands out. But in between, I don’t really care that much. For getting in the door, what group a person comes from (for example) is more of an influence than what proportion of their papers made JACS, because the reputation and judgment of a given professor is more dependable than the reputations (and judgments) of a bunch of unknown random reviewers for the journals.
This sort of thing divides into two parts: getting in the door, and getting a job offer. The big-name stuff is certainly helpful in the former, because an awful lot of CVs come in the door, but it does not seal the deal for the latter. A lot of intangibles make the difference there – if you’re having someone in for an interview, it means that you already can (in theory) picture hiring them for the position. Otherwise, why waste your time and theirs? But whether you make them an offer depends on things like “Does this candidate seem like someone I (and the rest of the group) can work with?”, and “Do they actually know their stuff, as opposed to seeming on paper like they know their stuff?” These are questions that can really only be answered in person, which is why we still fly people in and put them up in a hotel room for a night.
So the number of publications a person has, and what journals they appeared in, will generally affect just the get-in-the-door stage of things. And it’s not that that isn’t important, but there are bigger variables there, too. And once you’re in the door, you have to do the talking, not your publication list. No one every hires anybody while saying “Well, you know, this person’s kind of intolerable when you’re in the same room with them, and they couldn’t answer half my questions, but boy, they had four JACS papers!”
I look forward to hearing what the readership has to say on this one, so be sure to check the comments section for more. . .