One thing that academics have a hard time doing is converting their multi-page CVs into one-page resumes. Not only can it be upsetting to delete years of hard work from your impressive list of accomplishments, but it can also be very difficult to figure out which ones to keep and which ones to cut in the CV-to-Resume transition.
To help you create this shortened version of your accomplishments, ask yourself the following questions:
1) Does this experience/task/responsibility relate to the job description?
The cardinal rule when it comes to writing resumes is to ‘tailor your resume to a particular job.’ So, naturally, one question you should ask yourself is “does this item/experience/bullet point relate to the job description?”
Start by comparing your CV to the job description itself. Highlight everything on your CV that is directly relevant to the skills and requirements listed in the job posting. Then, take everything you just highlighted and add it to your resume, leaving the other items and bullet points behind.
It’s possible that this exercise will leave you with a multi-page resume. Even if it’s still shorter than your CV, you’ll need to cut it down further. Sorry :-/
Once you’ve transferred everything that’s relevant, start going through the list again and this time prioritize the activities that made the first cut. List the MOST relevant items and experiences at the top of your resume and continue to prioritize your way down the list to the least relevant (of the relevant) items. Whatever doesn’t fit on the page should ultimately get cut.
2) Could I potentially do something similar in this next role?
After you’ve identified the experiences you will include in your resume, you should then apply the same logic as before to the bullet points within a given role. Ask yourself if a certain task is – or is similar to – something that you could do in the role you’re applying for.
For example, if you’re applying for a position as a teacher, you should certainly keep the bullet points that highlight any guest lectures for undergraduate or graduate courses that you’ve given.
What may be less obvious is that, if you are applying for a position as a Safety and Compliance Officer at an institution, you should also list this teaching experience. Why? Because demonstrating that you can effectively teach something to a group a people – whether it’s an organic chemistry lesson to undergraduate students or a laboratory safety-training program to a group of new employees – is vital for this job application.
3) Was this a big responsibility within the role?
The other thing to consider when debating whether or not to keep a particular bullet point is the importance of a specific task within a role.
For example, if you’re applying for a position in Science Communications, you may opt to keep your role as the President of a student organization on your resume, but between the following two bullet points, one is obviously less important than the other:
~ Planned and produced monthly podcasts broadcasted to over 5000+ members of the Yale community
~ Organized and ran weekly board meetings
Clearly, the first bullet point is a big deal and certainly worth mentioning, especially on an application for a position in Science Communications, but the second bullet point really adds little to no value (for this job application). If you can plan and execute successful podcasts delivered to an entire campus, it’s pretty much understood that you can organize and run a weekly meeting with approximately 10 people. This second bullet point is merely a waste of space on your resume – cut it.
4) Do I state this elsewhere on my resume?
Speaking of how precious resume real estate is, the next thing you should ask yourself is whether or not things are duplicated on your resume. Since you only get one page, do not waste any space with redundancy.
This can be tricky to manage because perhaps you have two experiences that are very relevant to the job you’re applying for, but for the most part, your duties in those two experiences are essentially exactly the same. You certainly don’t want to eliminate an entire experience/previous employment from your resume if it’s relevant, but if all the bullet points beneath that experience would be the same as those stated elsewhere on your resume, those bullets are a waste of space. So what do you do?
A general rule of thumb is to include the most relevant tasks and responsibilities under the most recent experience. The thought here is that if you are currently doing (or have very recently done) that task, it is fresh in your mind and you are likely aware of any new trends and technologies associated with that task.
So then the question is what do you do about your other experience? Leave it blank with zero bullet points? No, certainly not. Instead, list other skills that are not duplicated in your most recent experience to demonstrate that you have a variety of skills. Here’s an example:
Let’s say you are a postdoc applying for a position in Industry R&D, and one of the criteria listed on the job posting is project management skills. Clearly, you’ll want to list your graduate career and your current postdoctoral work on your resume for this application, and as the ‘manager’ of your research project(s), you could potentially list this skill in both places, but you shouldn’t take up precious resume space with redundancy.
What you should do is list the project management skills under your postdoctoral experience because A) it’s the most recent, and B) the connotation is that postdocs have more independence than graduate students so listing project management skills under your graduate experience doesn’t carry as much weight as it would if it were listed under your postdoctoral experience. Then, for your graduate experience section, find and list another relevant skill that would not only be relevant for the job application, but also highlight a skill that would be desired in that new workplace. See below:
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Yale University School of Medicine
~ Successfully managed a highly collaborative inter/national team of scientists, clinicians, statisticians, and students to identify genes mutated in specific cancers; pivotal findings will be/are published in top-tier journals, including Nature.
Graduate Research Assistant
The University of Amazing Students
~ Developed novel methods of permeabilizing embryos to facilitate high-throughout screens of small molecules to identify potential therapeutic candidates for the treatment of XYZ disease.
In this example, the applicant maximized the space on his/her resume by not repeating similar accomplishments, even though there was most certainly a degree of project management that occurred during his/her graduate experience. Additionally, considering that the applicant is applying for a position in R&D, the bullet point included in the graduate career section is HIGHLY relevant and will likely make the candidate stand out amongst the competition.
Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what to include or discuss when the obvious choices would be redundant or irrelevant. This exercise can take some brainstorming, but as a scientist, there are plenty of transferrable skills that you already have that would be perfect for this section as long as those tasks and responsibilities are phrased strategically. For more on this topic, see our previous blog post on how to Rethink and Reshape Your Skills.
5) Is this just really amazingly impressive?
The last thing you should ask yourself about something you’d like to include on your resume that may not be directly relevant to the job posting is whether or not something is just downright impressive. If it is, then it should be included; however, if you are the only person who finds it impressive (yes, take a poll!), then it should not be included.
This is clearly a very subjective question, which is why it’s important to make sure that other people find the accomplishment in question impressive. Unfortunately, as amazing as it is, publishing three Nature papers in three years and getting selected for an invite-only talk at the International Conference of Awesome Scientists isn’t going to cut it. Yes, those are impressive, but they are not what this question is getting at.
What this question refers to are the unique, impressive awards and accomplishments that VERY few people ever accomplish. For example, if a method you developed received a patent, or if you were named one of Forbes’ “30 under 30” (30 amazing people under 30 years old), then regardless of what the application is for, these items belong on your resume because very, Very, VERY few people ever achieve these honors.
These five questions will help guide you as you convert your CV into a resume. Of course, keep in mind that every person and every situation is different, so what works for someone else may not apply to you. Additionally, you will likely have to repeat this exercise for each job application because, again, we want to tailor the resume to a specific job listing – a resume submitted to an application for a position at a biotech company should obviously contain different content than one submitted for a position as a high school science teacher.
Finally, once you have restructured your accomplishments into resume format, have others read it and provide feedback. Sometimes, what we view as impressive or relevant may not be perceived that way by outsiders. This could be because of the way it’s worded or perhaps it’s really not relevant at all. So, importantly, ask your proofreaders why they would cut something that you deemed essential for your resume. Based on their responses, either reword an experience or responsibility to make it fit the job description more closely or revisit these questions to further evaluate whether or not something should be included in your resume to make the next draft even better.
** Ask yourself these questions and share your job application success stories with us! **
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