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No one likes writing a resume, but it's a critical part of the job search in all fields. In academics, the resume is called a curriculum vitae (or CV) and it is even less fun to write. Unlike a resume which presents your experience and skills within a 1-page format, the curriculum vitae has no page limit. The most prolific professionals I have encountered have CVs that are dozens of pages long and bound as books. That's highly unusual, of course, but the point is that the CV is a comprehensive list of your experiences, accomplishments, and the products of your work. Your mentor likely has a CV of 20 pages or more, depending on his or her productivity, rank, and experience. Beginning graduate students usually start out with 1 page CVs and work hard to flesh them out into multiple page documents.
It can be easy to add pages when you consider what goes into a CV. The CV lists your education, work experience, research background and interests, teaching history, publications, and more. There's lots of information to work with, but can you include too much information? Is there anything that you should not include on your CV?
Don't Include Personal Information
It was once common for people to include personal information on their CVs. Never include any of the following:
- Social security number
- Marital status
- Height, weight, hair color, or other personal attributes
- Number of children
It is illegal for employers to discriminate against potential employees on the basis of personal characteristics. That said, people naturally judge others. Allow yourself to be judged only on your professional merits and not on your personal characteristics.
Don't Include Photos
Given the ban on personal information, it should go without saying that applicants should not send photographs of themselves. Unless you are an actor, dancer, or another performer, never attach a picture of yourself to your CV or application.
Don't Add Irrelevant Information
Hobbies and interests should not appear on your CV. Include only extracurricular activities that are directly related to your work. Remember that your goal is to portray yourself as serious and an expert in your discipline. Hobbies can suggest that you're not working hard enough or that you are not serious about your career. Leave them out.
Don't Include Too Much Detail
It's an odd paradox: Your CV presents detailed information about your career, but you must take care not to go into too much depth in describing the content of your work. Your CV will be accompanied by a research statement in which you walk readers through your research, explaining its development and your goals. You will also write a statement of teaching philosophy, explaining your perspective on teaching. Given these documents, there is no need to go into minute detail describing your research and teaching other than the facts: where, when, what, awards granted, etc.
Don't Include Ancient Information
Do not discuss anything from high school. Period. Unless you discovered a supernova, that is. Your curriculum vitae describes your qualifications for a professional academic career. It is unlikely that experiences from college are relevant to this. From college, list only your major, graduation year, scholarships, awards, and honors. Do not list any extracurricular activities from high school or college.
Do Not List References
Your CV is a statement about YOU. There is no need to include references. Undoubtedly you'll be asked to provide references but your references do not belong on your CV. Don't list that your "references are available upon request." Surely the employer will request references if you're a potential candidate. Wait until you are asked and then remind your references and tell them to expect a call or email.
Do Not Lie
It should be obvious but many applicants make the mistake of including items that are not entirely true. For example, they might list a poster presentation that they were invited to give but didn't. Or list a paper as under review that is still being drafted. There are no harmless lies. Don't exaggerate or lie about anything. It will come back to haunt you and ruin your career.
Although you should never lie, don't give employers a reason to dump your CV in the trash-pile. That means don't spill the beans unless you are asked. If they're interested and you're offered the job you may be asked to consent to a background check. If so, that's when you discuss your record - when you know that they are interested, Discuss it too soon and you may lose an opportunity.
Don't Write in Solid Blocks of Text
Remember that employers scan CVs. Make yours easy to read by using bold headings and short descriptions of items. Do not include big blocks of text. No paragraphs.
Don't Include Errors
What's the fastest way to get your CV and application tossed? Spelling mistakes. Bad grammar. Typos. Do you prefer to be known as careless or poorly educated? Neither will help you advance in your career. Always review your CV carefully before submitting.
Don't Include a Touch of Flair
Fancy paper. Unusual font. Colored font. Scented paper. Although you want your CV to stand out, be sure that it stands out for the right reasons, such as its quality. Do not make your CV look different in color, shape, or format unless you want it passed around as a source of humor.