Years ago, as I was training a career development staff, I created this list of questions I frequently heard from trainees. If you have a question about resume writing that you don’t see represented here, send it along and I’ll post an answer here!
Q: An employer requested a CV in a job ad I found, but it is not a faculty opening. Should I send a resume or a CV?
A: Resume. The term “CV” is sometimes generically used to refer to any kind of personal qualifications document, but what employers are actually seeking is a resume. That is, employers who request “CVs” want to see categories typically included on a resume but not on an academic CV, such as skills or techniques, job descriptions for research you have conducted, etc.
Q: Should I include personal information on my resume, such as marital status, number of children, social security number, age, etc.?
A: No, not if you are applying for jobs in the United States. Including a social security number can be especially hazardous because of the potential for identity theft.
Q: Is an objective required on a resume?
A: No, but if used, it should be specific and demonstrate what you have to offer an employer. Alternatively, consider using a summary of qualifications or professional profile at the beginning of the resume to demonstrate focus.
Q: Should I list my postdoctoral experience under “Education,” “Research Experience,” or both?
A: It may depend on what you are applying for. If you are moving away from the bench, it may be fine to list your postdoctoral appointment under “Education.” However, if you expect to use laboratory skills day-to-day in your next position, list it under “Research Experience”—which should fall right after “Education.”
Q: Can I include volunteer work as experience?
A: Yes, as long as you don’t include it in a category entitled “Work Experience,” or “Employment.” The words “work” and “employment” denote paid experiences.
Q: Should I list my current advisor as a reference if we don’t have a very good relationship?
A: No—but be prepared for a prospective employer to contact that person. You can let employers know that you are conducting your job search in confidence, but some may still try to contact your current advisor.
Q: Do I need to print my resume on “good” paper when preparing to attend a job fair?
A: If you wish, but clean, 20-lb. white paper is just as good.
Q: Should I list presentations I’ve given in lab meetings? What about departmental presentations?
A: Lab meeting presentations: no; department-wide, Institute-wide: yes.
Q: I am on an H1-B. Should I list my visa status on my resume?
A: Deciding when to share your visa status with a potential employer is a personal decision. However, you may choose to wait until the interview stage to disclose your status, simply because that gives the employer an opportunity to review your credentials without considering sponsorship requirements—and it may be that they are willing to sponsor you after learning more about you and your abilities.
Q: Should I use the first person on my resume?
A: No. It is best not to use “I,” “me,” or “my” on your resume.
Q: Does font style matter? How about size?
A: Yes—the font used on a resume should be clean and easy to read. Arial and Times New Roman are used most often. Any font smaller than 11 pt. becomes difficult to read for some.
Q: What if my resume extends beyond one page?
A: That is fine. Consider both your education and level of experience. Generally speaking, graduate students have had more education and experience than undergrads, postdoctoral scholars more than grad students, etc. That said, going on to 2, 3, even 4 pages may be fine for you, depending on where you are in your science career.
Q: Should I list organizations I’ve been involved with that would reveal my religious affiliation? Political affiliation?
A: This is a personal decision—but be aware that it may introduce bias, depending on the point of view of the reader. Generally speaking, it is best not to include such information, unless you would not be interested in working in a place that would discriminate against a particular value, belief, or orientation you hold.
Q: Should I list professional affiliations?
A: Yes, if they are relevant to the position you are seeking. You may also choose to list fraternal or community service organizations if you think that participation in such groups demonstrates your civic mindedness and will be perceived positively by a prospective employer.