Thursday, November 02, 2006

Should you omit a PhD in your resume?

Joel Spolsky wrote an interesting paragraph in his guerrilla guide to interviewing:

People who are Smart but don’t Get Things Done often have PhDs and work in big companies where nobody listens to them because they are completely impractical. They would rather mull over something academic about a problem rather than ship on time. These kind of people can be identified because they love to point out the theoretical similarity between two widely divergent concepts. For example, they will say, “Spreadsheets are really just a special case of programming language,” and then go off for a week and write a thrilling, brilliant whitepaper about the theoretical computational linguistic attributes of a spreadsheet as a programming language. Smart, but not useful. The other way to identify these people is that they have a tendency to show up at your office, coffee mug in hand, and try to start a long conversation about the relative merits of Java introspection vs. COM type libraries, on the day you are trying to ship a beta.

As a Ph.D. student, I find it a bit offensive. To be fair, he does not focus on PhD's but in attitudes, which is good, but the fact that a Ph.D. is a warning of "Being Smart but Don't Getting Things Done" makes me wonder if I should omit my academic side in my resume.
A couple of professors somehow involved with corporations outside Academia have told me to hide it. Specially while dealing with Spanish companies which are not interested in smart and ambitious people.

So this is my (sad) question: Should you omit a PhD in your resume and go to job interviews disguised as a rower?


Sam said...


nice to see you around here... but I also hope that this new blog won't affect the one you have in barrapunto, i would really miss it

As for your question, i would say that it depends, perhaps for a great part of the spanish computer-related companies it would be as Joel says, it can make you look like an impractical guy

as for companies from other countries, i guess that it will depend on the individual company and the individual position you are opting to

i've found that a spanish common practice, that of adding anything and everything to the resume, is not always a good practice in other countries, as the to-be employer could think you better or more experienced than you really are and judge you as "overqualified"

while a Ph.D. can promote you to that category and throw you out of the job, it can have the exact oposite efect and make you the best candidate

after all, there are not a lot of Ph.D.'s around there...

anyway, that's just my two cents...

Good luck with your new blog, I will follow it closely.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree at all when Joel states "...they are completely impractical". I think the difference between a 'conventional' job and a a non-conventional one is that you'll be considered as a whole, not as a x-years experienced worker. This is the different between what we call "cárnicas" -meat dealers in English- (SW factories which deals with developers as if they were meat) and big companies like google, MS, Oracle, etc. After all, in a PhD you don't get only an official qualification, but a lot of experience, knowledge, even people (contacts are the bets employers ;)

Riviera said...

It depends on the job you're after. If your life plan includes taking a prototypical programming job, perhaps a PhD is not the right way to get there. Unfortunately, in Spain there are not too many places where a PhD would come handy... except the University and a few public research labs. I prefer to take it one step at a time. Right now I'm doing research and having a lot of fun. I'll think about the future when time comes :).

Riviera said...

For the record, and knowing that this is about one year old, my opinion has solidified in the past couple of months. If you have to hide something good about yourself, you don't want to work in that company. Let them have their attitude problems.