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Writing an Academic CV or Résumé

Release Date: November 03, 2014
Category: Academic Writing
Author: Jana B., Ph.D.

Looking for a new position or job can require considerable time and effort. Knowing how to write and advertise your skill sets will inevitably save you time and help your application stand out among the many other applicants.

Difference between CV and résumé

Many academic researchers are familiar with the traditional academic curriculum vitae (CV). Curriculum vitae is a Latin term that can be roughly translated to “the course of my life”. A CV is generally a comprehensive list of all education, previous positions and experience, publications, grant funding, and any other qualifications that you wish to highlight (e.g., courses taught, students mentored). A CV is more comprehensive than a résumé, and is formatted to emphasize your career history, whereas a résumé is formatted to focus on applicable job experience. When applying for academic positions, either educational or research positions, it is best to submit a CV, allowing the employer to assess all of your accomplishments, including your invited presentations, honors, and awards. A CV can also be used when applying for research fellowships, grants, and scholarships.

A résumé is used when applying for non-academic positions in private industry, non-profit organizations, and government. A résumé is usually limited to one page and is almost always no more than two pages in length, whereas a CV can be tens of pages, especially if you are an experienced scientist. A résumé is a focused synopsis of how your skill set fills the needs of the position. Hiring managers review hundreds of résumés for each position, and your résumé should list the skills and experiences you have obtained, either from previous employment or from volunteer and extracurricular activities.

For certain jobs, a hybrid CV/ résumé may be used in the application process. For example, if you are applying for non-academic research positions or administrative positions in academia, it is best to include any research publications, research experience, and knowledge of funding or regulatory processes, while still maintaining a concise length of typically no more than two pages.

For both CVs and resumes, it is best to use a font that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri, with a font size no smaller than 11 or 12 points. Using bold, italicized, underlined, or larger fonts can help differentiate and highlight your headings and subheadings.

Listing professional references is not required. Professional references can be included in academic position application packets, and are often listed in a separate document.

Tailoring Your CV/résumé

Your CV/résumé should be tailored and organized according to the type of job you are applying for.

For academic positions, your CV may be organized based on whether your primary responsibilities will be teaching or research. For teaching positions, it is important to list any courses you have taught and any students, fellows, or technicians that you have mentored. Additionally, you can list the current career positions of your mentees. If the position you are applying for includes both teaching and research duties, you can tailor the format to the primary job responsibility. Below is an example of how to organize your CV for a teaching-focused, academic position.

  1. Your educational background
  2. Your teaching experience
  3. List of the courses you have taught or any laboratory mentoring, including the number of students and evaluations
  4. List of courses that you are qualified to teach
  5. List of courses that you would like to develop
  6. List of courses attended/presented
  7. Your teaching awards
  8. Your research experience
  9. Your grants
  10. Your publications

For research-focused academic positions, it is customary to list your educational/ training background, followed by research interests and experience, along with publications and invited presentations. Below is an example of how to organize your CV for a research-focused, academic position.

  1. Your educational background
  2. Your research experience
  3. Your research interests
  4. Your grants
  5. Your publications
  6. Your invited research seminars and presentations
  7. Your university service including committees
  8. Your professional society memberships
  9. List of your mentees and their current career status
  10. Your other teaching experiences

If your goal is to conduct research in the private sector, including pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and contract research organizations, it is essential to list your technical skills, including those in data acquisition, data analysis, and project management. It is useful to provide examples of how these skills translated into tangible results such as publications, intellectual property, development of new technologies, integration and completion of other projects, etc.

Academic and research career tracks are not the only career option for scientists. Scientists work in a variety of jobs, and non-traditional careers in science are becoming increasingly popular. Although you may not have extensive experience in these jobs, you can still highlight skills gained from your research and teaching experiences.

For example, to tailor your CV/résumé to a sales/marketing position, elaborate on the fact that you have sales experience because you are continually convincing others of the value of your data and research in your grant proposals, scientific presentations, and journal publications. For technical application positions, highlight your intricate knowledge and expertise of laboratory and/or medical equipment used in your research. For technology transfer/intellectual property positions, elaborate on any technology that you have developed or contributed to developing that could be, or is patented. Alternatively, you can elaborate on your knowledge and experience of translational research and how this is applicable to the development of intellectual property. Scientists are also needed in policy-making, and can work in legislative offices consulting with government lawmakers. Any experiences that you have in graduate student councils or leadership in post-doctoral organizations should be included when applying for these types of positions.

Scientific writing/editing has become a career path for many people. When writing your CV/résumé, include all your publications, journals for which you have been a peer reviewer, and any freelance writing (including blogs) and editing you have provided for lab colleagues.

The content of your CV/résumé depends on the stage of your career. If you have little or no previous employment experience, you can highlight volunteer experience or extracurricular activities to convince a future employer of your transferrable skill sets.

Cover Letters should include the same words and verbiage listed in the job description because many human resources departments now send your resume and cover letter through computer programs to screen for certain required or desirable experience. Provide examples of your ability to perform those lists of duties and responsibilities. The cover letter should be one page and include the date, company name, job number or job title, your contact information, a salutation using the hiring manager’s name or search committee. End the cover letter with enthusiasm, describing how you would contribute to the success of the organization.

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