This post is part of a series on career advice for graduate students who are considering career options both inside and outside academia. If you are broadening your job search beyond the academic world, it is likely you will need both a Curriculum Vita (CV) for academic-related opportunities and a resume for everything else. Keep in mind as you review this material that I am providing general guidelines which can and should be adapted to fit your situation.
Resumes and CV's are both marketing documents designed to pique the reader's (employer's) interest, persuade the employer to want to learn more about you, and get invited for an interview-- so it's imperative that with both documents you keep your audience in mind, and write in a way which will appeal to them. As a result you will want to target your CV or resume to the position you're seeking, and you will likely have several versions of your documents. Remember-- not all employers are the same, even within a field. You will likely have 3 different CV's, for example, if you're applying to community colleges, liberal arts colleges, and research universities. And if you're seeking administrative positions at these institutions, you will probably use a resume.
The bottom line as you construct both your CV and resume is: Have I made my top three skills/strengths relevant to this position clear? Remember this question while you write your documents, including your cover letter.
Key differences: Length and Audience
The two biggest differences between a resume and a CV are the length of the document and the audience for whom they are intended. A CV for a recent Ph.D. graduate will likely be about 3-5 pages. That same individual's resume will be 1 page; 2 at the most. The audience for the CV is academic in nature: a CV is designed for a scholarly audience and is primarily used for academic positions, research grants, fellowships, etc. (Please note: this article focuses on an American CV; international CV's are different-- read this if you're trying to write a CV for the international market.)
How do you know when to use each document? Sometimes it's a judgment call, so start with the job description and/or the position advertisement. Does the employer specifically request a resume or a CV? If the position requires substantial academic training (doctorate) it is more likely to require a CV, even if it's not in an academic setting. On the other hand, lawyers and other professionals who have the equivalent of doctoral-level training generally use resumes. Keep in mind the audience for the document.
As you write either document you'll want to think about how to create the most effective presentation of your skills and talents, as well as what factors in your experience and education demonstrate your ability to fulfill the requirements of the job.
Well-written CV's and resumes both need to be relevant to the employer, be organized in such a manner that the reader can find the desired information quickly and easily, be clear in language and presentation, and show a consistent message and format.
Before we proceed with more details about specific sections of a resume or CV, let's stop to consider what's actually going on in the human resources office or on the search committee. In both cases, the individuals screening candidates are trying to get the stack of resumes/CV's down to a manageable size. They are going to make rapid decisions based on hiring criteria, and their goal generally is to eliminate as many candidates as possible in the first round. This means that any misspelled words or typos, mistakes, irrelevant information, sloppy formatting, are all going to result in elimination.
If you want your resume/CV to stay in the consideration pile, you need to make sure that the information about you that is most relevant to the position you're seeking hits the reader between the eyes. Don't bury important information in the middle of your document. Make it easy for an employer to see what your strengths and talents are and connect them to the desired position.
Both resumes and CV's present information in reverse chronological order: the most recent education and experiences are listed first in their respective sections. Use action verbs to highlight your strengths and accomplishments. Here's a nice guide to active verbs with helpful explanations on creating strong bullet point entries.
Present your information in an organized hierarchical system-- again, with the most relevant information first. Use what is called "gapping language" rather than full sentences in both resumes and CV's. Gapping language refers to the use of sentence fragments which begin with an active verb followed by a noun or a description of sorts. (There is no "I" in a resume or CV.) For instance, instead of writing, "Last summer I participated in a research study of teenagers, collecting and analyzing the data for an article soon to be published" you might write:
Researched adolescent behavior; interviewed subjects, collected and coded data, and analyzed data using XYZ statistical software.
Prepared data for inclusion in forthcoming article in Psychology Today.
Here are some specific sections of a resume/CV to consider:
This is usually the first section in a CV and resume for recent graduates because it's what you are selling to the employer.
The experience section is critical to your job search and should be built up as much as possible.
PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES OR SCHOLARLY EXPERIENCE
These headings include publications, presentations, research, service to the institution, etc.
"Using Films to Teach Abnormal Psychology." The American Psychological Association Convention. Orlando, FL. August, 2012.
Want to learn more and see examples of good CV's? Check out these excellent resources:
For help writing your cover letter, check out these blog posts:
Want to learn more? Here are the links to my series of posts related to helping graduate students find jobs outside academia: