At this point in my career, I’ve literally reviewed thousands of resumes or CVs for positions I was hiring for. A few years ago, I started putting on workshops for students on Resume and CV building, mostly because I was aghast at some of the simple pitfalls people seem to constantly step in.
On Tuesday, we had a cross-over meeting of the Futures Initiative Leadership and Peer Mentor Program and the LaGuardia Mellon Humanities Scholars program. A tiny part of that workshop was a peer review session for resumes.
I’ve found that it’s extremely helpful to have other people look at your resume or CV, and for you to get to see other resumes and CVs from people who have similar credentials to yours. You can get together with a small group of 2-4 people and do your own resume or CV peer review critique session. Here’s how:
Résumé or CV Crit Session!
- Find people who are also applying for jobs or programs – Honestly, the more similar to yours, the better, but it’s absolutely fine if you’re from different industries or fields.
- Exchange résumés or CV across the group in advance – The draft doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t even need to be updated. The point of the exercise is to get feedback, so that you can update it! If people have specific jobs they’re applying to, have them also share the job description along with their resume or CV. It helps with the in-depth review
- As a group, review one of the resumes or CVs. Have the person who wrote the CV or resume facilitate the following prompts:
- Take 30 seconds: Barely glancing at the résumé or CV (as though you have 50 on your desk and have to find the best 5 in 30 minutes), what are the words and phrases that pop out at you?
- Take 1 minute: Based on the résumé or CV, what kind of jobs or positions does it seem like this person would be applying for?
- Take 3 minute: Reading the résumé more thoroughly, what do you think is the most impressive credential?
- Take 1 minute: Are there pieces of information or areas on the résumé or CV that are unclear or need more information?
- Take 1 minute: What makes this person unique as a candidate?
- (Add any other questions you like)
- Then, have a discussion on that resume or CV based on the responses to these questions. Then, move on to the next one resume or CV and repeat until everyone has received feedback from the group.
- Bonus: after everyone has reviewed the résumés and CVs, take some time to find one thing on each that the person did really well, and discuss those positives as good examples for everyone during the session
Reflect on Your Own Résumé
Once you’ve done a peer review and gotten feedback from other people on your draft, you want to go through and update your CV or resume. But, your work doesn’t end there! Even if you have a terrific draft resume or CV, you should customize it for each position you apply to. Spend some time reviewing your resume or CV for the position with the following questions in mind:
- What makes you a good fit for this position? And, how are you representing that in your résumé?
- Did you include all of the sections that other people do in your industry? If not, why not?
- Why did you order the sections of your resume the way that you did?
- In each section, have you highlighted (by bolding or emphasizing in some other way) the most important part of the information provided?
- Have you defined (even in a small way) what each accomplishment or accolade means? If you were on the review committee, how could you differentiate various positions and fellowships? What is your role in those positions?
- What are you forgetting? What did you not put in the résumé? (You’d be surprised. I always ask this question during workshops, and invariably everyone has something they’ve forgotten – from whole sections to jobs to skills! So, what did you forget?)
Starting Your Resume or CV
If you’re earlier in the process, and need some guidance on how to get started. Here are some notes I’d recommend reviewing:
Purpose of Resume or CV: to get you a job or into a school program!
But, not just any job, the job or program that you want. For each item on your Resume or CV, think about who you’re telling it to, and why you’re telling them that thing.
Keep in mind that resumes are dramatically different than CVs in structure and often substance. The biggest difference is length. Resumes should generally be no longer than two digital pages. That means every line is precious! CVs can be as long as you need them to be, and often include sections like research interests, presentations, and publications, that are not included in a resume.
- Intro to Résumés for CV-Minded Academics, which includes good general advice when building a résumé
- RésuméGenius.com, which provides sample résumés by field, and résumé-building tool (costs $2 for 14-day access)
- Job Applicant Pitfalls – CVs, Résumés, Interviews, which provides broader advice on interviews as well as résumé-building
- Off Track: Job Seekers, Recalibrate Your Honesty Filter
Notes to keep in mind when constructing your résumé or CV:
- Proper grammar and spelling matter – always.
- Résumés should be 1-2 pages (one piece of paper)
- Each line is precious!
- Keep concise, so that there is not a 1-2 word overhang
- CVs can be as long as they need to be (at least 2 pages)
- Make sure you’re explaining everything thoroughly
- Include “research interests” and skills sections
- Résumés should be 1-2 pages (one piece of paper)
- Information provided, order of information, and word choice will change depending on the field and job you’re applying to
- Try to find sample résumés in the field
- Make sure the information and order of info reflects the organization’s priorities (e.g., technical skills or language proficiencies)
- Use language from job application and organization website (i.e., mimic the “Responsibilities Include” language)
- Style matters!
- Style needs to match institutional style (e.g., serif v. sans-serif fonts)
- Highlight (by bolding, etc.) your most important qualifications
- Résumés should be written in third person
It’s not just about the résumé!
- Google yourself — what you find might surprise you!
- Manage your social media privacy settings, if needed
- Prepare other materials:
- Cover letter
- Writing samples, portfolios, or examples of projects (again, depending on the industry)
- References or reference letters – Ideally, you should ask references ahead of time whether they’ll provide you with a positive reference. For reference letters, try to give people as much lead time as possible, even if you don’t have all your materials prepared. If they know they’re writing a letter for you, they can create a draft early that they can edit for the individual applications.