The CV Doctor Returns - 2010

Brian Taylor

November 04, 2010

Last year, given the even weaker than usual job market in academe, we focused our annual CV critique on both improving the vitae of two job candidates and revising their résumés for nonacademic positions. This year, we continued that approach by reviewing the CV and résumé of a new Ph.D. in the sciences.

We also chose to evaluate the hybrid CV/résumé of another new Ph.D. in the sciences, whose doctoral degree is from an online university.

But first we have a few words of advice based on reviewing the dozens of CV's and résumés submitted to us.

In this economy, we have a lot of candidates looking at a broad range of job options. We cannot stress enough how important it is to tailor your application materials to a particular opening. That means taking the time to look closely at a job description and think carefully about the type of organization or institution to which you're applying.

Some employers will require you to send a CV; others will require you to send a résumé. A résumé is shorter (one to two pages), and is much more targeted to a particular position than a CV is. Some candidates will include a profile at the top of their résumé, which is a summary of the most important skills and achievements that connect them with a particular job.

While a good résumé is a snapshot of your accomplishments, a CV tends to be longer and is more of an autobiography of your scholarly accomplishments. It can be structured, however, to highlight different aspects of your experience.

If you are searching for a job, it's very important to have a professional presence on the Internet. That doesn't just mean editing your Facebook page; it also means creating a profile on career sites such as LinkedIn and on scholarly and professional sites that are important in your discipline. If you're unfamiliar with those sites, ask mentors and colleagues for information about what you're missing.

We've run into many people who seem to have had bad experiences working with professional résumé and CV writers (including one reader who described the experience as "soul crushing"). While we know some very good career professionals out there, we'd like to make one thing clear: Your CV and résumé are yours. Advice and feedback can be useful, but if anyone tells you that you must do something a certain way or else you won't find a position, you should look elsewhere for advice. As we demonstrate in our monthly column, this process is a dialogue rather than a list of commands.

The three exceptions to that rule are correct spelling, good grammar, and consistent formatting and punctuation. Find someone who can be exacting with your document on those points. You might even take the time to consult a style guide (The Chicago Manual of Style is a good one), if you're not sure about the rules.

Thank you to the many people who sent us their job-hunting materials. It is always difficult to select only two candidates for this exercise, but we hope the advice proves useful.

Julie Miller Vick is senior associate director of career services at the University of Pennsylvania, and Jennifer S. Furlong is associate director of New York University's Office of Faculty Resources. They are the authors of "The Academic Job Search Handbook" (University of Pennsylvania Press). If you have questions for the Career Talk columnists, send them to