so you need to write a CV

Sep 12 2012 Published by under academia

This morning on the twitter, there has been a discussion about CV's. What do you include, format, etc. DrugMonkey reacted to the conversation. And he's correct, of course. EVERYONE should have a long-form CV. That has everything (it is your "life's work"). And it should be updated frequently.

I actually have two CV's. The one formatted for MRU and my NIH Biosketch (rules for formating and template here). So I'm going to focus on the free-form version for the rest of this post. First: make it look nice! White space, consistent margins, etc. If you give it to someone and it looks crappy then they may assume that you are generally inattentive to detail. Use section headings so that it is easy to find what you are looking for. This is the order of mine (YMMV):

These are my "headings" on the long-form CV
Contact information - you know, how to get a hold of me! I include my lab webpage here. But don't include personal info that is irrelevant (such as your birthday, marital status, etc).

Education - what degrees and where.

Professional appointments and research experience - more detailed than the education section. includes who i did my grad and postdoc work with.

Faculty Affiliations - departments and grad programs that I am affiliated with

Awards and Honors - all the way back to the National Merit scholarship (that's from HS). I have lost some "little" awards from this over time. But I keep things like National awards, phi beta kappa, etc.

Peer Reviewed Publications - these are sub-headed into "research articles" and "reviews and book chapters". I also have a separate sections for "in review". If in your field abstracts are peer-reviewed then i would put a separate section here.

Presentations - these are sub-headed into "speaking engagements" and I note which were selected abstracts and which were invited lectures. If you are BFD then you may also want a section for named lectures, etc. I also have a "poster abstracts" section here. In my field for many meetings basically every abstract submitted is allowed to give a poster.

Patent Filings - you know, for your IP

Research Support - these are subheaded as "ongoing", "pending", and "completed". My role (PI, fellow, etc) the dates and total award amount are included.

Teaching Experience - for MRU teaching I include ~# of students, level of course, and my role in the class (if team-taught). I have a separate subheading "prior to faculty appointment" which has this info but is a little shorter.

Mentoring - these are subheaded as "postdoctoral fellows", "graduate student trainees", "undergraduate research associates", "high school research interns", "graduate rotation students", and "graduate thesis committees". I include what program grad students are from, when they defend, and where my grad students and postdocs go after they leave my lab.

University Service - committees, etc.

Other Professional Activities - service to the science community, outreach, peer review service, grant panel review service, and any SAB

Professional Societies - where I am a member, and the years that I was a member


Now that is a LOT of info. And it is really hard to remember all that shit after the fact. So start your CV NOW and KEEP IT UP TO DATE.



35 responses so far

  • DrugMonkey says:

    " includes who i did my grad and postdoc work with."

    This. One of my pet peeves are ppl who leave this off. Not always obvious from pubs, people.

    • sciwo says:

      Why does it matter who I did my grad and postdoc work with? Does the fact that my former advisors are BSDs or not materially affect your opinion of me? Shouldn't I be judged by my research output and all those things on the other 10+ pages of my CV?

      • gerty-z says:

        Of course it matters who your advisors are. The other 10+ pages are important, but you KNOW that folks want to know this information. So why would you leave it off? Heck, it may be helpful for you, as an applicant. Maybe I know them, or know other folks from that lab. There is no reason not to include this information.

        • sciwo says:

          Maybe I'm biased because I have never seen this info on a CV of someone in my (non-biomed) field. To me it reeks of invoking the old boys club. And I'm particularly inclined not to favor that odor.

          • DrugMonkey says:

            And should one omit the identity of the training University because that reeks of credentialing by association? and just list paper titles b/c god forbid someone should judge a paper based on the journal in which it was published?

          • DrugMonkey says:

            ps. where you been sciwo? we miss you! wanna GuestBlogge????? 🙂

      • DrugMonkey says:

        Of course it matters who you worked with. It matters who supervised you, who appears where on your publication lines, etc. The CV is to help someone get acquainted with who you are as a scientist. Your "research output" is tied up with who you did your research with.

        Whether the advisor is a BSD or not is totally orthogonal...that depends on what sort of information a reviewer prioritizes. There is little you can do about that so why hide it? Why make the reviewer's job harder to get the information that is important for his/her decision making? Why risk this reviewer making an inaccurate assumption based on your pubs (or lack thereof) and scientific interests?

    • miko says:

      I have my references w/contact info at the end of my CV, where they are identified by relationship (PhD supervisor, collaborator, etc). Necessary to put this more up front?

      Also, I have this super fucking lame section on page 1 with bullet points about my "research accomplishments" from PhD and Postdocs. I HAAAAAAATE THIS. The fucking papers are the accomplishments. But some career-adviser type absolutely insisted it was not only normal but required.

      True or no?

      • gerty-z says:

        Refs are OK at the end, especially if you are applying for a job. I would also have that information up front, though. The "research accomplishments" section - I say NO. If there is something super awesome that you have done then that will be in the pubs, right? Though I have seen some people that put a short description of their project under each entry in the Research Experience section. That is OK, I guess.

      • Spiny Norman says:

        No. Not true. Bullet points are so much bullshit. You need a NARRATIVE description of your research. What problems interest you? WHY? How have you addressed these problems? What have you discovered? Where might this lead in the future?

        TELL YOUR STORY. You can do it in your cover letter, on your CV, or both.

        And no. fucking. bullet. points.

        • kevin. says:

          Good, cuz I like the cute little stars from powerpoint anyway.

        • gerty-z says:

          I never said "submit" the long-form CV. You should have it so it can be molded for each time it is used. But you should have a complete version somewhere.

          • Namnezia says:

            Your research accomplishments, in bullet or narrative form, do not belong on your CV, at most you can put the title of your thesis. Although the NIH biosketch form has a little personal statement section, but I thought that that was used more for clearing up holes in your cv or highlighting specific experience (ie. mentoring postdocs) in a training grant.

          • Spiny Norman says:

            I disagree. The purpose of a curriculum vitae is to explain, literally, your course of life, and because lives differ there are few universal hard and fast rules about what a CV should contain or how it should be formatted. Of course, some CV formats are mandated: institutional formats, or the NIH biosketch. But few academic job searches demand rigid formats and I've seen plenty of successful CVs that incorporate a narrative component.

          • Spiny Norman says:

            ...and in a competitive job market, do you really want to blend into the crowd?

          • gerty-z says:

            Maybe you don't want to "blend in". But you also don't want your CV to be distracting. I think that some CV's with a "narrative" can work. But most of the ones that are like this that I've seen IRL end up looking like a wall of text - blech!

          • gerty-z says:

            oh, and ALSO: CV's are used for lots of things, not just a job search. So I reiterate my assertion that you should craft each version of your CV (starting from the "long-form) for what it is being used for.

  • Scicurious says:

    Is including the number of students in the course really key? I didn't do that at the beginning, and looking back my memory is fuzzy...

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I generally move Research Support up between awards and pubs, but everyone has slight variation and there is no "right" way to do it (although a lot of wrong ways to do it).

  • Remember there may be institution and department-specific ways to format a CV too. I have to use the layout assigned by my College for anything official here.

  • Bashir says:

    Right now I have everything conference related mixed in. Posters, talks, etc. Maybe I should separate that.

    The question that usually gets peoples backs up is what to include under presentations. Some people have it titled "Invited Presentations" and apparently "invited" has a very specific meaning. I recall one person saying that if you do not get an honorarium then it shouldn't be on your CV. If you give a brown bag talk at some other Uni because you happen to be visiting or what not, that doesn't count.

  • Megan says:

    Yes, yes, YES to to the long-form CV. A lot of this stuff never sees the light of day for me, but having all the details in one place is so important. I was fortunate in grad school that we had to fill out a form once a year with updates on what we'd done over the last year, so I would sit down and double check that everything made it to the CV at the same time. At least once a year I sit down and comb through the CV and my e-mails and papers to make sure I've included all the recent academic events.

    • Spiny Norman says:

      I'd add that putting EVERYTHING on the CV can go too far.

      Today I was sitting in a search committee meeting and presenting the package for a highly-qualified candidate for a senior position. The CV was the most detailed, granular CV that I have EVER encountered. One could not readily extract the important items from the blizzard of detail. I had the admin assistant project the PDF on-screen in two-page mode. There were audible gasps from a group of people who really have seen everything.

      This, along with a weak cover letter (terse, impersonal, lacking information about why we might benefit from applicant's presence vs. how how applicant might benefit from our environment), caused the committee to remove from consideration an otherwise distinguished, highly-funded applicant. No one wanted to work with someone so unable to communicate major career landmarks, and so obviously OCD about cataloging the kind of minor experiential details that accrue in any fully-lived scientific life.

      So keep that version on hand for archival purposes but for frack's sake don't mail it to anyone! Think about how you might emphasize the most important and salient parts of your professional life.

  • [...] history NASA Built That! Flesh-eaters of the Crystal Coast: why I prefer my oysters roasted So you need to write a CV Ancient flower lives only on two Spanish cliffs, and uses ants to [...]

  • [...] a CV yet, what’s the hold up? Here’s a crash course primer to what should be included in your CV (hint: Everything)–bearing in mind that CV’s will need to be tailored for each job [...]

Leave a Reply