Have you ever considered what makes a CV or résumé effective? Maybe you’ve wondered what an employer is looking for when sifting through hundreds of applications? Crafting a CV or résumé is a difficult task full of nuance and skill. Recently, Beyond the PhD hosted a résumé and CV workshop to help answer some questions about creating these documents and using them for job applications.
What is a CV?
A curriculum vitae (CV) is a detailed document listing all your experience and important information. A CV should cover things such as your contact information, education, post-graduate education and training, academic appointments, other employment, professional society memberships, honors and awards, teaching, mentorship, presentations, funding, service, and publications. Additionally, there is no page limit, and it will grow as you gain experience and move up the academic ladder.
What is a résumé?
A résumé is a succinct and clear summary of your experience and education. It promotes special skills and competencies and is generally tailored for a specific position. The typical length of a résumé is 1-2 pages, but a single page is often preferred. Standard sections in a résumé include contact information, an objective statement, education, employment history, relevant experience, and a skills section. Think of a résumé as an executive summary; you only need to present the most pertinent information.
When and where to use a CV or résumé
When applying for a new job, it is important to know your audience. When deciding whether to submit a CV or résumé, you can take into consideration what the company values, what they would be looking for in a candidate, and what other materials you are providing.
What an employer is looking for will be different for depending on the role. Hiring committees in academia are often looking for impactful science, independence as a scientist and/or researcher, fundability of projects, potential for collaboration, as well as service and involvement in professional societies.
Industry employers will likely be looking for a different skill set such as technical proficiency, relevant research, project management, communication skills, ability to see the big picture, and business acumen. Examples of industry STEM positions where these skills could come in handy include (but are definitely not limited to) staff scientist, research associate, data scientist, research analyst, or scientific consultant.
There are also non-research STEM positions such as program manager, science writer, medical science liaison, journal editor, or grant support specialist. These types of roles are often looking for skills such as scientific communication, scientific writing, public speaking skills, adaptability, the capacity to learn and synthesize new science, and other transferrable skills.
If you’re interested in learning more about various careers inside or outside of academia, check out the career discovery seminar series on the Beyond the PhD website (https://beyond-the-phd.com/).
Crafting and Formatting a CV or Résumé
Below are some guidelines for crafting a strong résumé and CV. First, order the information presented in a chronological, concise, clear, and intuitive way. Also, make sure you know to the best of your ability who will be reviewing you application and the type of position you’re applying to. Using action words in the bulleted content sections can make your experience stand out. Below, you’ll find a table of action words you can utilize to upgrade your application materials.
Another way to improve the content in your résumé is to incorporate metrics. For example, you could quantify the number of papers you’ve published, talks you’ve given, or posters you’ve presented. Another example would be to list the amount of grant funding you’ve received. Making your résumé and CV visually appealing can also help it get noticed. Ways to do this include effectively using white space and making the formatting consistent and legible. To organize the content in your sections, use headings, subheadings, bold, and underline to make headings and titles stand out. You can additionally use bullet points to break up big blocks of text and describe your accomplishments. However, it is recommended to stick with the same font throughout.
Finally, you need to tailor your application materials specifically for the position you are applying to. Since the requirements for each role will probably be different, you may need to modify your application for each job. Additionally, résumés are slightly subjective, so using a more generic résumé is often safer than submitting something overly creative. One thing to note is that both objective statements and skills sections are optional and can be removed to conserve space. You could also add a link to your LinkedIn profile, twitter handle (if appropriate), or a link to a blog or website under your information in the contact section. To optimize your résumé, consult the job postings and include as many preferred skills as possible. Make the content of your résumé keyword rich as well as appropriate for the sector. Lastly, don’t forget that it’s totally okay to apply for jobs that you aren’t 100% qualified for. A strong résumé or CV can help you stand out as a quality applicant!