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Getting the Right Resume: PhD Candidate Guide

written by: Dr. Ranee Kaur Banerjee•edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch•updated: 6/29/2010

You've finished your coursework, taken your comprehensives, defended your proposal and are now a bona fide PhD candidate. Here are some practical tips on the right resume format for a PhD candidate so you can take your first step towards getting that all important job interview.

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    About Resumes

    Basically, a resume, whatever its format, is a selling document. It showcases your strengths and credentials in the best light for your future employers, post-doctoral fellowship or grant authorities, or anybody who will make the decision on the direction your professional life will take next.

    Resumes may be organized in various ways according to the purpose you want them to serve and according to the strengths you would like to highlight. With the resume format for a PhD candidate, you may want to use: a skill-based organization if you don’t have an employment history that does justice to your capabilities; a targeted or customized resume when you apply for a specific job and are well aware of its requirements in terms of skill-sets and competencies; or a (reverse) chronological organization when you have a strong, unbroken record in academia or employment and would like to highlight that history.

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    The CV format

    Generally, academics and professionals like to use the Curriculum Vitae or CV format with their educational accomplishments and relevant experience listed in reverse chronological order. This is because the CV allows them to include a lot more detail than the shorter resume format. While a resume is normally no longer than a page or two, a CV may run to several pages if necessary.

    If your objective is to find employment in teaching or research; if you are looking for a consultant’s position; if you’re applying for a job in administration in an institution of higher learning; or if you’re writing your resume in support of a grant proposal, I would definitely recommend the CV format to you.

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    Arranging Your CV

    Arrange the information you want to furnish under different headings. These can include (but not be restricted to):

    • your educational qualifications
    • your research and teaching experience
    • other certification and licenses if you feel they are pertinent
    • your interest areas in research and/or teaching
    • any related non-academic or industry experience
    • other relevant skills such as languages you know or specific computer applications
    • your awards, honors, memberships and affiliations
    • your publications
    • papers you have read at conferences
    • extra-curricular interests and achievements that may be germane to the kind of position you are looking for
    • names of people who would act as your referees
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    Some Practical Tips on Writing Your CV

    • Restrict your personal information to your name and full contact details.
    • Your CV will get you an interview; it cannot get you the job. Remember this cliché and writing your CV will become easier.
    • Be as brief as possible but don’t leave out any essential information. Be specific rather than vague.
    • Before you draft your CV, try to see things from your reader’s point of view. What kind of information about you would most interest the recruiters or admissions committee members who will be reading your resume? What are the specific details they would be looking for?
    • Specific departments or areas of study may have varying requirements in terms of content, format or style. Do read some CVs written by others in your department in order to get a fair idea of the kind of information you should include in yours.
    • Your CV should be interesting, but it is not necessary to be creative and “different." As a business document, your emphasis should be on communicating the most information in the most direct way possible.
    • Arrange your information to highlight your strengths. Put your strongest, most attractive details right on top.
    • Be honest in whatever you write on your CV and be absolutely matter-of-fact about your achievements. You don’t need to be modest but you should also not come across as gloating!
    • Pay special attention to neatness and legibility. Do have at least an inch or more of margin space on all sides.
    • Do use a standard font such as Times, Garamond, Roman or Georgia. Depending on the font face, your font size should be in the easily readable range of 10-12 points.
    • Use a layout that makes it easy for your reader to access all your information with the minimum of effort.
    • Bulleted lists are fine. You shouldn’t waste precious space writing full sentences.
    • Include details such as your dissertation topic and particulars about your publications and papers. Don’t include extra information that is expendable.
    • Do incorporate full names, designations and contact details of your referees. You may also want to provide a line detailing your association with them.
    • Make absolutely sure that your CV is error-free. Do proof-read, spell-check, grammar-check and fact-check until you are completely confident.
    • Print the CV on good, heavy-grade paper. Research has shown that the quality, color, weight and texture of the paper you use are factors of unintentional communication: they matter almost as much as the words you have printed on it.

PhD Guides

Articles to help prospective and current PhD students and PhD candidates secure their future goals.
  1. Average Number of Years to Earn a PhD
  2. Getting the Right Resume: PhD Candidate Guide
  3. Creating the Best Personal Statement