Is your CV hurting you?

The “circular file cabinet” for bad CVs

By Madeline McCurry-Schmidt / ASAS Communications

A good CV is a door opener. A good CV will make potential employers want to learn more about you.

A bad CV slams doors shut.

In a post titled “38 tips for writing an academic CV,” Nature blogger Rachel Bowden offers some tips for writing (and editing) your resume. I think her advice is worth checking out. I’ve summarized my favorite tips here:

Structure is more important than length. Many of us were told that a resume should not be longer than one page. But CVs are usually longer in the academic world. The down side to this is that some people assume a employer is willing to slog through the whole document. Bowden writes that structure is important no matter how long the CV is. Be succinct. Put the most relevant information on the first half of the first page.

Know your real strengths. Bowden writes that too many CVs start with a description like “I’m a passionate, hard-working individual with a PhD and I’m good at working in teams.” This generic description doesn’t make a person stand out. Actual work experience and research goals do make a person unique.

Don’t ignore teaching and admin skills. Bowden writes that people often don’t give enough detail about their work outside the lab. When you describe your teaching experience, you can show that you work well with others and enjoy sharing your research. You should highlight your administrative skills too. Your experience planning symposia or mini-conferences shows that you can organize people and take on big projects.

Be consistent with formatting. Assume the potential employer is a busy person. Your CV might just be skimmed at first, so be willing to use headlines and bullet points to organize the information. Inconsistent formatting makes it hard to see what information belongs in what section of the CV.

I sorted through internship applications last year, so I know that a poorly formatted CV can really annoy a potential employer. Go easy on the bold and italic type. Bolding can work for headlines, but don’t use it like this for emphasis. And studies show that italicized type slows reading speed. Underlined typed is also overused. Too much “creativity” makes your CV look unprofessional and desperate.

Related article: Four tips for getting that internship!

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