By Miranda Haus
Why do we care about CVs? Biographical sketches, etc.
As the job climate in biological research becomes more daunting, with a greater number of PhDs entering the field than jobs being created, distinguishing ourselves from our peers can seem equally overwhelming. Most applications are centered around the CV, so we asked our Professors – Gregg Howe, Sheng Yang He, and Brad Day – to review and critique four postdocs CVs. This is what we learned:
CV’s have some flexibility, but overall the subheading format should be arranged as:
- Name and contact information
- Research experience
- Teaching experience
- Outreach/Synergistic activities
- Communication (oral/poster presentations)
Always include professional contact information to show affiliations, especially physical and email addresses. Phone number can be your cell and does not need to go to an office phone. If you are entering into a phase between affiliations, such as a newly graduated PhD student, you may have concerns regarding how long your previous school email will remain functional. In this case, a personal/professional website and email associated with that site is much preferred to a Gmail or Yahoo account. As 93% of recruiters use social media – especially LinkedIn – as a way of screening applicants (Jobvite), including links to relevant accounts is important. Our Professors also suggested including a link to your Google Scholar Citations for applying to academic positions.
Education and research experience sections should be separate, even if these overlap. The education section should include your dissertation title and any honors, but anything more may clutter your CV, and clutter at the top of your first page does not make a good first impression.
Teaching experience can include mentoring experience, as this is evidence of training highly qualified personnel.
Organization is not all set in stone, however, and may change depending on application instructions and your target audience. For example, some applications may request references within the CV. Or, if you are looking towards an education position, you may reorganize your CV to highlight your teaching experience. Industry positions would find a list of technical expertise more useful, while an academic position would be deterred by the clutter, and perhaps limitations, of your expertise section.
There is not a limit on what you can or cannot include, but you should tailor your CV to each job position including key words found in the position announcement. That said, applications for proposals may institute a page limit. Be ready and decisive about what to cut based on the position qualifications.
Stay consistent with formatting. Most application reviewers will go through a ton of CVs at once. You can organize your information as you see fit, but having a streamlined CV, with consistent formatting allows the reader to access and refer to information quickly. For example, our PIs seemed to prefer listing points by date, using indents to align dates on the left side. If using indents, remember to keep spacing consistent between sections.
Along those same lines, having your name in the header of each page will help the reader remember who of the 100 people they are reading about.
Don’t include the months that you worked at a location. The year that you worked is enough. Adding months will clutter the CV with unnecessary information and potentially show gaps in your resume.
Never include publications that are “in preparation,” but feel free to include those that are “submitted” or “under review.” Everyone has some paper in preparation, but listing it on your CV may come off as desperate or trying to fill space. If you are listing papers submitted and under review, remember to include which journal you have submitted to.
Finally, if you are applying to a job in a country other than your own, it’s a good idea to consult with a professor or colleague from that country. They will have the experience and expectations to structure your CV for your target audience.
Recent Changes with NSF
NSF now asks you to list specific undergraduates you have mentored by name. It is a good idea to list who you have mentored and where they are now. As mentioned above, this can go in your Teaching Experience section, or as its own separate section.
NSF no longer includes collaborators on a biographical sketch, but finds listing collaborators a potential conflict of interest. Do not include these names.
NSF now requires a PubMed Central ID Number. This should go on your CV in your contact information area.
So what’s next?
Remember that there is a lot of flexibility in an application; the CV is only a snapshot of your work. For example, you will still have a cover letter that can elaborate on your current work or explain gaps in your timeline. There is also a teaching philosophy statement, a diversity statement, and a research statement. So, while the CV is the core of an application process, it’s only one of many components.
That’s why we concluded at the end of The Pub Club session that we need a full session specific to each component of the application package as well as the application process. While the advice our three PIs have provided is valuable and can be applied to any job application, they mentioned that their perspective is going to be more specific to academic positions. As the statistics say that only 1 in 6 of us will get a job in academe (Crispin Taylor’s quote of NSF stats), we will look to incorporate information relevant for the remaining 83% of us in our future discussions. Stay tuned and check in to The Pub Club’s Upcoming Events for discussions revolving around the application process and more “PI Perspective!”
2 thoughts on “PI Perspective: TPC’s Critical Evaluation of CVs”
Following Miranda’s post, a Recruitment company out of the UK, SIRE Life Sciences, contacted us to be included as a Job Hunting Resource. Here is a useful link to their “tips & tricks” for your CV/cover letter: https://sire-search.com/home/tips/tips-for-your-cv-and-cover-letter/
Thanks for the great post, Miranda!
Another key tip Brad Day mentioned (Sheng Yang & Gregg both agreed) was to be sure to check your CV carefully for spelling and grammar errors. These mistakes may seem minor, but there is no better way to get your CV tossed from the pile than to have one of these pesky errors hiding out. Of course, one issue we can all have is that the more you read through something, the harder it is to catch the mistakes. I personally ask a couple of friends to review my CV (and other important writing) prior to submitting it.
Looking forward to seeing more comments from scientific professionals across the hiring spectrum to help us polish our Professional Portfolios, including our CVs.