the next few weeks, I’ll be taking on another little “project” at work. This
one won’t involve pipettes, chemicals, or the lab bench. Instead, it’ll be me,
my reading glasses, a few labmates, and piles of resumes (and CVs). A great
co-worker recently left the lab for greener pastures across the country, and
those of us left behind are responsible for finding the perfect person to fill
the internet, and even within these Bio Career blog entries, I’m sure you’ll
come across lots of tips on how to write an effective CV. I certainly did my
fair share of research when I was on my job hunt last year. Being on the
interviewer side, however, I’ve come to realize a few things and wanted to
share them. Bear in mind, I’m writing from the position of a scientist who’s
looking for a future co-worker and peer. I have no idea what job recruiters or human
resources look for in a potential hire.
here are a few key things YOU (the CV writer) should know about ME (the CV
I am human. I
am not a machine. I get tired. PLEASE
make your CV easy to read.
the first round of CV reading goes something like this:
receives a pile of CVs
reads the first 5 CVs very carefully and separates them into the “Maybe not” and
“Let’s think about calling these people” piles
realizes she’s tired
quickly skims through CVs 6-500 and tosses them around
gratefully passes the CV piles to the next person to pick through
are so many great candidates out there, it really is hard to know when you’ve
got your hands on a good fit for the lab. After a while, the CV reader has to
get efficient with screening so many documents. In the end, it becomes less
about how great the candidate is and more about how well the CV reads. That’s
because the ones that don’t fit are obvious and the rest are all just so great.
So how do you get ahead in the CV game? Make it easier for me to love your CV.
Help me help you!
are my tips and rationales on writing an easier-to-read CV. Some of it is basic
and some is a little more nuanced. None of it is on how to write a CV, however.
For that, you can hunt around the internet for some skeleton examples. Here we
Put YOUR NAME at the top
of the CV!!!
I came across a bunch that said “Curriculum Vitae” at the
very top. What’s the point of that? I know what I’m reading!! One CV had the
candidate’s name buried in the middle of the page on the left. I put that in
the “No” pile. Don’t make it hard for me to find your name. (grr)
Use either Center or
Right Justified for your name/contact info.
Again, make it easy for me to find your name. I might
like what I read and want to find your name again. I like Right-Justified
names, personally. If I am flipping through a pile of CVs and they are bound at
the left margin, it’s easier for the right justified name to be seen.
Put your name at the top
right header of pages 2 and on. Put page X of Y in the center footer of pages 2
Typically, we have to convert your electronic CV to hard
copy. If we lose a page, make it easier for us to find it. We’ve actually done
that, so I know it happens.
Include and tailor an
Objective section to the job requisition.
If you’ve submitted your CV through a head hunter, you
might not have a tailored objective heading. However, it’s the first thing I
actually read on a CV – even before the name (I try not get swayed by gender or
nationality clues in a name so I head to the objective first). If I get the
feeling you put work into your CV for my job opening, I’m more inclined to put
some work into reading your resume. Perhaps not fair, but honest.
Use bullets points!
Long blocks of text REALLY put off a reader. Remember,
we’re wading through a lot of documents. Be concise.
Don’t make your blurbs
When you use blurbs to summarize (e.g. a project re-cap),
keep the text to a 3-4 lines.
Do utilize CAPS, underline, italics and bold to highlight and segment sections of the CV.
Just be consistent when you do it. (e.g. BOLD CAPS for Section headers, CAPS for
Avoid crazy fonts,
I came across a CV with an awesome Objective. It seemed
like a great fit. Then I turned the page and was visually shocked by all the
crazy fonts. I was really sad to put that one in the “No” pile. We tend to
conjecture that a crazy looking CV translates into some sort of crazy
personality. That’s only a problem when we’re not looking for crazy.
Serif versus Sans serif
This one I don’t judge too harshly on. It’s more of a
design preference, in my opinion. In general, you should keep in mind that
serif fonts (like Times New Roman) are designed to keep the reader deeply
engaged with the text. The eye gets hung up on those little ticks.
Sans serif fonts like Arial, however, make it easier for
the eye to skim through the text. It is definitely easier for me to read a
document in Arial.
List your experience in
reverse chronological order.
We want to know what your most-relevant work is about.
Typically, your most recent training is your forte. An exception would be if
some other previous training has great bearing on the job posting.
White space – use it.
A large block of text will overwhelm a reader. Don’t
worry so much about a CV getting long. It’s supposed to get long. Put space and
line breaks between the different sections of the CV, and use indentations to
help guide the reader’s eye to locate the different sub-sections.
If possible, submit your
CV as a PDF file, not a text file.
In this electronic age, we receive all the CVs and have
to print them out ourselves. Let us read your CV the way you intended it to be
Have a friend/labmate
proofread your CV.
It seems like a no-brainer, but I cannot believe how many
typos I came across in reading CVs. A CV is a document that represents you and
your work. If the writer can’t take the time to get it perfect, the reader
feels less inclined to take the document seriously.
You’ll notice that none of my tips is really
about content. I can’t really help with any of that. My tips are all about
presentation. So much of CV writing and reading is psychological. So, any
little boost you give your CV in spotlighting your talents is a good thing.