As part of my research I solicited comments from graduate students. I had 73 respondents. Here’s what they said back in 2003:


What kind of advice have you received about CV writing?




Not much, talked to friends


Some, Workshop  or class





 What sources do you use (books, your friend’s CV’s, etc.)?


Friends, colleagues






Word 2000 builder






Would you be willing to buy a comprehensive guide to CV writing?









What do you want to know about writing CV’s?



Basically, I want to know (a) is my CV easy to read, interesting, boring, too  long, OK, too short, (b) – would it convince you that I am a dedicated  professional?, (c) – related to (a) – does it look good, (d) – What do I need  to do to improve it?


I have a lot of practical work experience because i have helped out on many projects but i dont know how to realy show that on a  cv, my own work is on terrestrial mammals but i have worked on fish, plants, and marine life


I guess that my biggest question right now relates to  organization so as to maximize the impact of the experience and skills I do have (kind of skimpy because I’m still early in my career) as well as advice on what’s important to include and what information is unnecessary.


General format, amount of information that should be provided at each stage of one’s carreer.


How to use write a CV which targets employers! If there’s any way to enhance my c.v. (besides accomplishing more).


I thought it is a lot like a resume, but highlighting what you doas a scientist, such as lectures, posters, papers published etc. Most people and lots of international (at least graduate students) are a bit perplexed on the differences, since they both are representing your abilities and accomplishments.


–  After looking at several other scientists’ CV’s, both students and professionals, it seems to me that there are very few rules.  I am correct in this thinking?  If not, what are the do’s and don’t for what goes into a CV, what should not be included, order, length, level of description of projects and funding, etc.?  Specifically, the content and level of description varies greatly from CV to CV and from student to professional.  The inconsistencies between documents increases the difficulty of judging the quality of your own.

–  In my humble opinion, when applying for graduate positions and jobs a CV is one of the most important documents along with references.  Most faculty would agree that GRE scores are overrated to some extent.  Transcripts are very important, but they are merely a history of coursework, which will be only one aspect of the potential student’s upcoming graduate experience.  That said, all of these documents aside from CV’s have some format that is followed and fairly straightforward.  My question refers back to what are the SOP’s?  Furthermore, are CV’s destined for applications for professional jobs with state agencies similarly formatted and inclusive as those composed for graduate  positions?


I’d like to know how to make myself look as attractive as possible for the position advertised.


I’d like to know how much detail to put in or leave out.  For example, one professor friend advised me to include that I was a National Merit Finalist in high school, but I disregarded her advice–22 years ago seemed to be reaching too far back.


is there a particular format that’s supposed to be used?  are there certain things that should be avoided at all costs?  should i include a paragraph or two about my research interests (i just saw one today that included it)?


Are there any key things to always avoid/include in a CV? Is it always best to list educational experiences first?  Should a statement of purpose or a career goal statement be general and short or more like a short paragraph and more specific?


-producing a strong CV

-how to address complicated projects and experiences succinctly.


How to best get across my strengths to obtain an academic job.


Suggested length, proper format (important), strategic points


How much specialization of the cv should I do (position to position)? Should I add a “service” section?  A “grant” section? Should I call published abstracts publication or presentation?


What I really need help with is cover letters and statements of research and teaching interest.  These are the documents I am really punting on.  Any sort of guidelines, etc. here would be especially helpful.


How can I make my credentials stand out?  Or have it not be just another CV.  I also have a lot of experience and Im not sure if I can fit it on one sheet, what do you suggest?


Of course, how to catch the employers eye. And how to make previous jobs sound grander than they really were. (it seems that the successful CVs are very good at this aspect)


How to maximize success in finding job opportunities


Layout (advice and opinions about typefaces, use of bold, underline, etc.) and well as categories of information to present.




What are the important parts about making a CV good. What has to be in it, what can be omitted. What really is the difference between a resume and a CV (They still look the same to me). I like looking at different formats to get an idea on how to make it look appealing. How long can a CV be? Is there a maximum number of pages? Since I am a student, I don’t have any real publications and most of my presentations are at insignificant meetings. Should I still put them on or leave them off?


 I am not sure what sort of information to include or what I should emphasize.  I am just finishing my Master’s degree and I don’t have any publications yet or many other exciting things to put in in my CV.  I’m  also not sure how to work in things that I did as an undergraduate (clubs, volunteer etc) that might be useful information for someone whom is reviewing my qualifications, especially since I am just starting mycareer.


What is the protocol for how long your CV ought to be?  How far back should you go (high school jobs?)?  Also, when I was at university I was told it was important what kind of paper you use…  Since e-mailing CV’s seems to be the norm now, are there things one can do to make a CV stand out (comperable to putting the CV on flash paper)?  Though I think it would also be very helpful to provide advice about the cover letter as I find this a real challenge.


How to tailor it for an academic job versus a public sector job, What is effective, what is not

What makes a more powerful CV?  How do you get noticed without appearing flashy? How do you play up my strengths and downplay my weaknesses?


When listing information about a teaching position or research experience, how detailed should the description be?


How good resumes differ according to field and country. I mostly only find books on resumes written in the States with a heavy business-sales bias. Does the same kind of reume work in science? In Australia for example, do you risk coming across as an arrogant git?


A. The general do’s and don’ts for any CV.

B. Is there a particular protocol used in my field?


How to make CV’s more focused for specific disiplens (i.e. chemistry vs.botany).  General expectations and things to aviod


What do you want to know about writing CV’s?  I specifically feel that my CV is lacking different lab procedures, sampling techniques, etc. that I learned in school and are not part of my work experience.  Is there a category where I could list these.  The only way employer’s can get an idea now is only if I include my transcripts which are still a little vague.


How to tailor CV’s to specific job adds, general rules of thumb in terms of organization, font size, length, order of stuff presented (perhaps by discipline?), etc.


I would like to know what type of format stands out, content of your CV, font type, etc .  I also would like a guide that separates academic CV’s from Professional.


I guess the most important thing to me is ‘how can I improve my chances of getting an interview?’.  Are there things I can do to separate my cv from the pack?  I’m not looking for bells and whistles that aren’t going to help me get an interview.


when to begin including information, i.e. should undergraduate experiences be included?  Also, what information should be included.  I’ve seen CVs with

some stuff I never would have thought to include, such as information about being a reviewer for journals, coaching a high school science quiz team, volunteer work done at meetings., etc.  Which things are appropriate? Should it include only major information like jobs held, publications, courses taught, very important awards won. . .would like to know about the types of material to include on a CV, how to structure a CV, and would like to see examples of excellent cvs.


What do you want to know about writing CV’s? What is too much vs too little. How different are CVs for different professions, i.e., academic positions vs NGO conservation/research groups?


anything and everything, if it is geared towards the wildlife biologist field Is there a standard format?  Can you expand upon job responsibilities/descriptions and still have it be truly considered a CV…or is it now a resume?  How legitimate is it to include “in prep” papers?  Finally, I have always been bothered by the inclusion of a “Reports” section in other folks CV’s… I have always considered these ‘unpublished’ and therefore part of the un-citable grey literature.  Is such a section legitimate?  If so, when and why?


How to present an unconventional work history. I would like to know what is the best format in each case scenario.  e.g., what is a good format when sending a grant application to NSF, NASA, a foundation, a job application, etc.


Formating, what to include or exluded.


I most want to know how a scientist with a PhD can develop a CV that shows our range of skills more broadly than academic CV’s usually encourages.  I

want to know how to represent my skills to industry, government, and other non-academics without coming across a narrowly-trained PhD or some egotistical fresh academic that knows nothing else (common criticisms of new PhDs I hear).


Is there stuff I should add or cut out of mine?  Are some of the details I’ve listed too personal or low-level?


How to target them to different audiences.  This CV is for fellowship  applications, how should I structure a CV for an academic job, a government  job, etc?


What should be included? What are the differences between a CV and a resume? In my case, the proper format to include my unique experience? How much detail is enough? How much is too much? How can you tell?


What are the important parts about making a CV good. What has to be in it, what can be omitted. What really is the difference between a resume and a CV (They still look the same to me). I like looking at different formats to get an idea on how to make it look appealing. How long can a CV be? Is there a maximum number of pages? Since I am a student, I don’t have any real publications and most of my presentations are at insignificant meetings. Should I still put them on or leave them off?


i guess i am most interested in sort of the psychology of reading CVs. how  do you emphasize certain areas? what are you emphasizing by formating certain  ways? etc.


How is it different from a resume?  And which do I actually have, a CV or a resume?


a) what are the common mistakes we academics make
b) how important is presentation, really
c) how can I maximize impact of my CV
d) how can I identify, then highlight my strengths while minimizing the weaknesses
e) what’s the most effective order for presenting information


I think the thing I would find most helpful in writing a CV would be what the employers want to see and don’t want to see. I am sure varying employers would like to see different things as well (academic vs government vs private) and I am sure it may need a  certain emphasis in one area or another.  As I understand it, the cover letter is probably as critical if not more so than the CV since the cover letter should be in fact a hook to reel in their attention to then refer to the CV for more details of your past education and/or experience.  So as you may have noticed, there is probably a lot more info in my CV than is really needed for either an unsolicited CV or one that may be for a general chemist position.


Obviously info on what to include depends on the job, but I could use help with formatting & some of the types of info to include.  Also – it would be nice if the guide had interviewed employers in different kinds of institutions to see what they are looking for.


How do you make a CV stand out?? When is it appropriate to send a shortened CV and when will this just sell you short? How long is too long?? To what degree does what position you are applying for (e.g. academic vs private sector) dictate the style of your CV??


I produced this CV because I needed it for something in a hurry (and they just needed a CV to put in the file, it wasn’t going to be very important).  But I’d like to be able to produce an impressive CV, that will help me get jobs (especially as I may be looking here, pretty soon).  Of course, the thing that would help best is to have something to put on it.  But it never hurts to have what’s there in a good format.


It would be nice to have guide or template for specifics such as how much previous work/research information should be included, what is a good way to highlight teaching or research depending on the job you are applying for.


Mainly stuff *specific to* ecology!!!  I’ve found most advice from the above sources relates to resumes for people getting jobs in non-science disciplines, or biology (but cellular/molecular disciplines…not close to ecology).  Also, something about writing a CV at my stage in life.  (One of my professors explained that a CV and resume are pretty much equivalent, especially as grant proposals are requiring shorter CVs, and especially for me right now.  In that case, I’ve gotten a decent amount of advice in the form of ‘resume’ advice.  However, the only CV-specific advice I found online was for people who were post-docs or professors…no undergraduate/early graduate advice.) I also have many other little random questions, which made me excited to see that someone like you might want to write about them and answer them!


I want to know how to write one that best showcases my strengths and helps me get a job as a research assistant working for a university or government agency. I would like to know what it is that I can do to make my rather long and rambling cv more snappish and to make the person holding it immediately want to know who I am (and then to give me a very high paying job, to make up for  all the times I have worked unpaid!)


How do I improve mine?


what’s considered appropriate on an academic professional cv, how to  highlight particular information best


What level of detail is appropriate?  I view my CV as an outline of my career, a basis from which people can ask questions if they want more detail.  I have seen others that contain minute details about their responsibilities in each course they have taught.  (Responsibilities that I think are common to all teaching.)  I imagine that most members of job search committees are not going to take the time to wade through all of that information.  Am I wrong?


I’d like advice on what types of information should be emphasized for applying to a Ph. D or other research position.  Especially how to get across the experience I have gained while working towards my master’s degree.  There’s a lot of intangible things I have  gotten out of my research-being able to design an experiment, extensive data analysis using SAS, organizing my results for presentation, etc., but I find these to be really hard to get across in a CV.  I’m also not clear if I should include all the grunt-work I’ve done as an undergraduate.


I would be interested in what sort of, and how much,  information should be highlighted, the degree of “salesmanship” that should  be included, and direction in cover letter writing


I want to know how to make CV’s more palatable to potential employers.  I am clueless on how to write a better CV without lying about my experience.


 So that is what graduate students were saying in 2003. My question to you now is, has anything changed? Are graduate students getting better training these days?





One thought on “CV Writing Advice II: What the students say

  1. Pingback: Curriculum Vitae writing advice | David F. Raikow's River Continua

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