Back in 2003 I wrote federal resumes as a freelance writer on the side and got the idea of writing a Curriculum vitae (CV)-writing handbook. At that time, and still in my opinion, the definitive how-to book on CV’s has not been written. Sure, you can get hundreds of business resume books, but academics are often left to their own devices when writing job application materials. So I started doing some research and solicited CV’s from volunteer graduate students, postdocs, and professors. I wrote a full-scale book proposal and shopped it around, even getting a publisher to have it reviewed. But then I got a job at NOAA and my priorities changed, so no book. Rather than have that material languish in my archives, I’m starting a new advice series on CV’s.
To begin, I’m presenting some anonymized responses I received from academics and others in the position to hire new faculty. I asked them what they want to see in CV’s. Names have been redacted to protect the innocent.
I’m not university faculty, but I have dealt with student CVs in several capacities: as a consultant for non-profit nature centers and outdoor learning facilities, as a senior-level department administrator (e.g., director of education and research) for a botanical garden and conservation organization, and as executive director for [redacted]. Some of those CVs have been submitted as part of applications for entry-level jobs, others for international internship programs that I supervise(d).
A couple of points derived from dealing with them:
–Undergrads applying for internships are usually at a complete loss over what to include in a CV. In the first place, they have less experience than a graduate student, but often they seem unable to select academic or life experiences that relate to the job or internship in which they are interested. Since the CV is likely to be sparse, I think it’s worth mentioning that a well-drafted cover letter can be very important.
–In my opinion, a CV should look good AND contain significant content. Despite the availability of information about the variety of “acceptable” formats for CVs, some applicants still use goofy indents, bad spacings, etc. This should be a no-brainer, but . . . .
–Spelling, syntax, punctuation. (Another no-brainer that some students seem to ignore. Get someone to proof-read your CV before you send it.)
–A CV should be tailored for the job for which an applicant is interested. Most applicants apparently create a CV and then use the same one for job after job. Even worse, some applicants have apparently customized a CV for a certain job and then used it to apply for other not-quite-similar jobs. (And what could be worse than
getting a cover letter that contains the wrong address, salutation, or internal reference because the applicant forgot to cut-and-paste or mail-merge properly?)
When evaluating a CV for a faculty position, I mainly look at the list of publications (since [redacted] is a research university).For a grad student, I look for things like academic honors (i. e., evidence of academic achievement beyond grades/scores) and research experience here I am mainly interested in what the student did for each project).
When I look at a CVfor a job applicant I try to predict future performance from a) past productivity, b) whether the person is heading in a direction that is likely to be of increasing or decreasing importance, and c) whether they seem to have the creativity and independence to lead.
I think your idea sounds very good. I know this would be helpful for many beginning academics, as most of the material out there pertains to business
CVs (eg., keep it one page). I have not been in the position to review many CVs, mostly from student workers, but here are some things I have looked for:
1. Contacts for supervisors of past jobs. A quick call is often very useful to find out if the person is padding a bit too much (this has happened to me
before–of course, I didn’t call this person’s contacts and wish I had!)
2. Some people say that people spend too much time trying to make their CVs look nice and don’t focus on substance. However, I think there is a strong
correlation between attention to detail on a CV and attention to detail on the job. Sloppy CVs mean sloppy work, or at least that they did not take the time to ask for advice on how to make a good CV (or look it up in a book such as yours!)
3. The CV should be thorough, but should not contain irrelevancies. References should be relevant. For example, it usually does not matter where you went to High School, and just because your father knows a Congressman doesn’t mean you will be able to identfiy birds in the field.
CV’s should be customized for the job type and so there is no such thing as “a” CV.A CV for a senior level faculty position would be very different than one for an assistant professor or for a postdoc, and, of course, CVs to accompany proposals are completely different.When hiring someone (or give them a grant, etc) for a particular job (project) you are looking to the CV for a concise listing of their credentials for that particular job.This includes both formal and informal training and demonstrations = products of that person (publications, grants, etc.).The CV also should give the chronology of the person’s career so that their products can be placed on a timeline to assess productivity.CVs that do not provide all this information in a clear, concise, timeline framework are viewed as deceptive, and so is the person.CVs need not provide information that is irrelevant to the job – e.g. personal or family information. The most typical reason for a CV not getting selected for a job search (junior faculty or postdoc) is poor productivity (rate of production, i.e., quantity, and quality of products).But again, CVs that are cryptic, deceptive or overly long (which has the effect of hiding essential information with non-essential information) are also a turn off.
Since I have not applied for any jobs at my level (full professor) in some years now, I can’t say I have my CV in shape for a job search.All I have is my 2-page NSF proposal version CV, which is highly structured by NSF guidelines.I would need to do substantial editing to update my CV for a job search – and again, it should be tailored to the particular job.I think it bad advice to suggest that people create generic CVs.
Sure there are general guidelines – like positions held, academic background, etc. but I guess I just see those as basic to anyone who is preparing a CV for an academic job as opposed to a resume for other jobs. By cryptic or deceptive I mean that the CV is not clear and concise as to what that person was doing in each year of their formal career (from undergraduate college on), or the listing of productivity mixes different types of products (such as peer review and non-peer review, publications and abstracts, etc.) or is unclear on authorship or P.I. order, etc.Length depends on job type, which is basically related to career length – CVs grow with age as productivity adds up and collaborations develop.
• Looking for the fit.
• Teaching experience highlighted in CV:
-Placement up front
-Detail: duties and responsibilities, evidence of course development
• Likes teaching portfolios
-Still new enough to make an applicant stand out.
-Still new enough that its diffcicult to discern what makes a good one.
Advice: look at several CV for ideas, list education first, teaching second.
Molecular biology: laboratory skills but this could be in the ad and therefore cover letter.
On the whole the advice is pretty general and mostly common sense. Most of this could generically be applied to any resume.