The Post Academic CV series: How to stand out
Yesterday, we discussed the basics that every CV should include, mostly as a service to younger academics who haven’t put one together yet, but also as a refresher course for any folks who might be looking to give the one they already have a makeover. This time, I’ll discuss what it takes to package up the info you have to help it stand out a little more in a stack of a couple hundred CVs. Again, the best thing to make a CV a great one is, of course, awesome content, like lots of publications, awards, and conference papers. But that doesn’t mean folks with fewer achievements can’t come up with a strong CV that can stand out, whether that’s in form or content or–hopefully–both.
Highlight Your Strengths: I mentioned this yesterday when discussing how to organize the basic sections of your CV, suggesting that there’s no set-in-stone way put it all together. Another way to think about the order of things on your CV is to foreground your best assets, while not completely doing away with those elements of your background you might not consider as strong. For, say, a relatively new grad student who hasn’t had a chance to publish a lot, that means placing your “Awards and Fellowships” first, especially if you have some swanky sounding titles. Just be sure to put *something* down for “Publications”, if for no other reason than to show whoever’s looking at the document that you are aware of their importance and that you are functioning, working academic–even when you yourself don’t feel that way!
More ways to stand out below the fold…
Declutter Your CV: What I mean here isn’t to get rid of all the stuff you want to include on your CV, though you might want to ask yourself if you really need to list some undergrad essay award you won as a sophomore. Rather, decluttering your CV means that you should think at least a little bit about how you want to structure all the material you include. While the impulse, of course, is to cram as much on your CV as you can–which, by the way, is a somewhat different mindset than you should have composing a resume–how you do so should also be something you consider. Be sure to create a CV that’s very clear and clean, where all the information can be easily accessed and read. And for those of you who are worried that your CV might not be long enough, you might be able to stretch the thing out more by being organized and setting clear categories and sub-categories, which beats relying on including dubious achievements to pad the thing. (We’ll talk about the latter issue next time.)
Be Graphic: Don’t underestimate the importance of how your CV looks–how you represent yourself can really add to what you have to say about yourself. So if you’ve always felt like you have your sense of style, try to design your CV in ways that might reflect your sensibilities. Like, you know, are you a serif or a sans serif person? Do you prefer a more traditional font or a more modern one? Personally, I add lines between sections to include a geometric element to break up all the text, and use a relatively non-standard font–I changed fonts after I found out the original font I used was the official typface of the McCain campaign! Again, you can have some fun with your CV if you’re not having to put it together at the last minute, so indulge your creative side!
Stand Out, Don’t Stick Out: One of the least obvious–and actually somewhat difficult–ways to stand out is to make sure your CV is carefully edited and has no glaring errors that stick out. You’d be surprised how easy it is for a CV to look wonky, whether it’s with a few typos, inconsistent formatting, mismatched fonts, or even bad spacing. Maybe the search committee won’t catch a couple of mistakes and won’t penalize you for bad formatting, but wouldn’t you rather feel at ease turning in a clean copy? In this situation, not having your intended audience notice anything out of the ordinary is probably to your advantage, even minimally. Whatever the case, it’s just a good idea to represent yourself as the sort of person who is detail oriented and minds your p’s-and-q’s.