How to write your academic CV
If you are applying for any sort of academic position or post graduate study, your academic CV (or resume) is one of the first thing you need. A lot of people have their details all over the place in a resume that makes it very hard for the reader. I used to have the same problem too and over the years I have learned how not to bore or irritate the reader and the aim of this post is to share those tips to help you write a resume that covers the essence but easy to read.
[Caution: I am not an expert - this is my OPINION only that I formed through trial and error]
Start with your name and contact only
The first thing you should have is your name and contact. Many people (including me previously) fills this part with all sorts of personal details. Personal details are important but they should not be the first thing that you should be looking at. Think about it, unless you are interested and impressed by a person do you want to know more?
You can always use different ways, and you can learn more styles in the book “The Resume.Com Guide to Writing Unbeatable Resume” that I have listed below the post.
However the idea is, your name should be the focus. Then is your brief address so that they can know where you are writing from. Your phone no and importantly your email address for them to contact.
Some people put their website, blog etc and if you have a portfolio site that you want to put this is a good place to put. If you don’t have any site perhaps you can put your twitter if you are active in twitter. I am not sure putting Facebook is good idea though.
Tell them your research Interest
If you are writing to a professor in Agriculture and you put your research interest is Telecommunication, he can already decide that this is not the right person. So please modify this part according to the person you are sending the email to.
Now, at this point I know it may sound like you are trying to cheat by modifying your research interest, but for a postgraduate student that may not be the case. At this level you may just have lot of area of interest that are not in the same field but somewhat related (example : I am interested in Augmented Reality as well as Social media as well as Big Data).
However, if your professor is good at a specific area, it is important that you put that or similar area in the first few words of your research interest. This will give them the interest to read more.
Your future supervisor surely wants to know what have you achieved so far and from where. This section is HUGE because if you are a graduate from Oxford or MIT and your result is not too good, the supervisor still may want you.
However if you are not so high profile school, you need to tell them that at least you were one of the best in the class so that they are still interested to talk to you further.
On top of that, it is also important that you put your CGPA or class. Some people also put their rank in the class. The idea here is, if you are from an Arts Major, the chance that it is not too easy to get a first class – but at least you tell you were in the top 5%. As my CGPA was enough (barely enough) to fit the passing criteria, I only put that.
At this point I must tell you that, if your undergrad is NOT FIRST class, you MUST have a masters or EXCEPTIONAL research records to get a scholarship. If you have first class honors in undergrad it seems much easier.
What is your research experience
When you are applying for a postgrad, your supervisor would want to know if you have some previous experience. If you don’t have a great educational qualification this section becomes even more important. So fill up with all research experience you have. I will write another post in the future but important is, you put it here.
And this would be a good time to tell how you should put the details. I like to tell the title, duration my role in the project and supervisor followed by brief description. I find it important to write the supervisor’s name because there is always a chance that your potential supervisor might know the supervisor you mentioned. And unless you have bad relationship with current supervisor, I find it good to write.
Have you brought in any research funding?
Funding is crucial for research activities. It is crucial for any kind of activities but for most of the researchers, writing grants is the core (if not only) money generator for their research. As an academic (full time or starting or post grad) you will be involved in some sort of grant writing applications. Therefore it is awesome to inform that you have already been involved in some.
And how do you put it in? Title comes first, then is the amount of money you brought in. I find it useful to add a converted amount if you are not applying in the same country. So if your project was 100 thousand USD, you may want to put how much is in Euro if you are applying in Europe and how much is in GBP if it is in England.
Have you done any teaching?
Most of the academic position will want you to do some teaching. So if you have some teaching experience it is good place to tell now.
I usually start with my position. Then I inform the reader where did I teach, how long and which subjects. Mentioning the subject will give your potential reader the idea that you can teach at least these subjects. If you have taught different streams it shows that you are versatile.
Publish or Perish
This is perhaps one of the MOST crucial part of your academic CV. You may actually want to put it before your teaching. If you are applying for a Biology related are and you published in Nature, huge chance that you will get the job or the scholarship – at least you will be shortlisted and get called for interview.
If you dont have high flying publication, thats ok too. It is better to have publication in few not so known places rather than not having any. So please, and I repeat, please put any publication you have. If you have not done any publication, I will be writing how you may attempt it.
Academic line is often divided in three types of work. Research, Teaching and Service. So service is basically anything to everything that do not go under research or teaching but holds value. So if you have served in some committees, organized some seminars – you should probably put it here.
Since this is not the area that will give you your job or scholarship (it is the papers you published and your research with some teaching that gets you shortlisted) I suggest not to make it too long. Put some of the big name ones that you have worked with and that should be enough from my point of view.
No Work experience?
In a normal resume, Work Experience is the first thing to put after your name. But for academic resume / cv I reckon this goes at the end. Unless you have worked with Google, Facebook, Baidu or Tata I am not sure if you should put it earlier. Even if you have worked with them, I am still not sure you should put it earlier because publication and research are really the heavy weights in academic line.
For me my work was all starting up companies. So I selected those projects that was related to my area and put it there. You still need to write it like the regular resume. Tell them where you worked or what you founded. How long you were involved and your role.
Skill sets and membership
By now whoever is reading your resume will have a good idea about you. But you should still mention what you can do. And this is where you put your skill set. For me it was design and programming.
Membership is important too as it shows that you are serious about what you are doing. Usually these means professional membership and not your golf club membership.
I think it is important to list down your reference and not “reference will be provided upon request.” My stand on this is, if you do not want to provide reference you don’t include it. However, all the academic resume I have seen, everyone provides reference. So I think it is a good practice to put that.
Some suggests putting 3 reference – 2 from academic and 1 from industry. I put 2 only because of my formatting of the document. This part you have to try and see what looks best.
I guess by now you will be asking how long your resume should be? If you put all the above, your resume is already 2 page by now. If you have some experience it should be 3rd page already. Generally 3 pages are good (I think). But this is something you should experiment.
This is not part of your resume but this is to summarize all the things I wrote. Basically the idea is, your reader is busy because they are important people and they get hundreds of resumes. So make it easy for them to read. Make their life easy by identifying if they are talking to the right prospect. If you follow the format I suggested, there is a good chance that you may get a reply.
- My own CV : Updated in January 2012 while I was still teaching at Multimedia University, Malaysia
- CV of Naushad – in short and long format . He was my junior at high school and I learned most by looking at his resume. Look at his work too if you are a Computer Science Major.
- CV of Dr Floyd Mueller. His resume is a bit too long but then again, he has just too much accomplishments.
And buy this super cool book for many resume styles
This book is another book that I bought and keep as reference. This book has in details setup – it really goes details like how to setup your word preference, page setup to what words to use and what words not to use. This is an extremely highly recommended book. Buy it and you wont regret it.