10 tips to get your CV in shape


The tips here are adapted for PhD applications, but they cut across the board for both academic and non-academic applications.

#1 Keep it short

The best way to apply for any position is to put yourself in the shoes of the person assessing your application. They probably have thousands of applicants to go through and they are almost certainly doing this on top of their regular workload.

In other words, they do not have the time to go through a ten-page manifesto listing every single skill you have ever applied and every single activity you ever took part in. Draw a line at two pages of well spaced-out and formatted text – you are more likely to draw the interest of your readers and to keep their attention!

#2 Prioritize!

This is a CV for a PhD, so organise it accordingly (and get the really important content on the first page).

Start with your “Education” section (detailing which courses you have taken and when). Follow up with your “Research Experience” section. Order your qualifications and experience in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent ones and going backwards.

Since your CV can only be two pages long, you are probably going to have to cut some things out. Start from activities that are further in the past and move forward. For example, your education section probably doesn’t need anything older than your A-levels. While “cutting from the back” is a good rule of thumb, apply common sense as you go through your own CV. If you took part in something truly extraordinary as a high school student that is really relevant to your subject, it should probably take precedence over your university intramural netball games!

#3 Read the job description

Whatever PhD position you are applying to, it will come with a project description. To the Machiavellian-minded, that description can contain the secrets to tailoring a successful CV for that PhD.

What are the supervisors looking for? What skills does the ideal applicant have? What kind of research goals and experience? You can use this information to structure your CV as a point-by-point response to the PhD position advertisement.

For example, a PhD position might be looking for somebody with research experience in biological chemistry and coding skills. It might also refer to teaching skills (perhaps working as a teaching assistant is a mandatory part of the programme) and strong multitasking skills (essential if the student will need to coordinate work carried out in different laboratories). The savvy applicant might structure his or her CV with a “Research Experience” section, followed by a “Coding Skills” section, a “Teaching Experience” section and a “Multitasking Experience” part. Do not worry if your efforts are a little obvious, this is what you are supposed to be doing after all!

#4 Never, never, never ever lie. . .

Lying on your CV is not only immoral – it’s really counterproductive. Don’t forget, you are hopefully going to sit in an interview room with whoever reads your CV and at least some questions will revolve around the information in it. Lying on your CV could set you up for a very embarrassing moment. Believe me, there is no coming back from having to admit you just made something up on your CV!

My personal favourite urban legend tells the story of a young applicant who wrote on his CV that he was fluent in Portuguese, while he had, in fact, no idea about any foreign languages whatsoever. Unfortunately, one of his interviewers was Brazilian and thought that having a little chat in Portuguese would be a fun way to break the ice. Needless to say, that particular interview did not go well.

…This article was reblogged with the permission of the good folk at FindAPhD. Read the rest of it here.


Image credit: eresumex.com


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