The C.V. Doctor Returns

October 20, 2000

A polished curriculum vitae can get you noticed by the right search committees, while an unrefined one can kill any chance of landing that first interview. Last year, we helped five scholars, in disciplines from art to biology, smooth out the rough edges in their C.V.'s.

This fall, we are at it again. But this time, we have critiqued the C.V.'s of three academics: a new Ph.D. looking for his first tenure-track job after changing careers, a new Ph.D. who is already in his first tenure-track job, and a faculty member turned administrator. Scholars submitted their C.V.'s for an online critique, and we selected three that were already strong but could benefit from some revisions.

The lesson from this year's batch of résumés is simple -- know your audience. Highlight areas that are going to interest each particular employer. The C.V.'s we've reviewed here are from people who have done a lot career-wise. They've been highly productive, but they are trying to sell themselves to members of search committees without a lot of time on their hands. The folks doing the hiring want to be able to glance at a C.V. and see immediately whether they want to look further.

All of the C.V.'s we reviewed could benefit from condensing information and organizing it in ways that make the crucial details easier to find. The exception comes for candidates applying for research-oriented positions. No matter how many publications you have in key journals or how many presentations you've made at national conferences, resist the urge to condense the list.

Most search committees are going to be looking at your C.V. on paper, not online. Keep in mind that every page of your C.V. should include your last name and a page number. It's extraordinary how many people don't do that. And it's best to avoid stapling the pages together because it makes it harder to copy. The less you can do to annoy a search committee, the better.

Mary Morris Heiberger and Julia Miller Vick are the authors of The Academic Job Search Handbook (University of Pennsylvania Press). They have provided career services for thousands of graduate and professional students since 1985. Ms. Heiberger is associate director and Ms. Vick is graduate career counselor at the Career Services office of the University of Pennsylvania.

You can order their book directly from the University of Pennsylvania Press or from either of the on-line booksellers below.  Barnes & Noble