(4) Four steps to write a curriculum vitae or résumé

By Eddy Montilla.


Those times when people were working all or almost all their life for the same company are today a thing of the past. Even in countries like Japan where workers where clung to the same company until they retire, you can see people these days looking for new jobs. And you are right there… in the middle of a world economic order cruelly designed to destroy or create jobs in the direction that best serves particular individual or group interests. Since you are not the son of a very rich man, owner of a company that you will run sooner or later, since your father does not have very influential friends in high circles, you have to apply for a job like any other person, either because you are unemployed or because you are looking for a better future. Because your search for a job starts from your curriculum vitae (CV) or resumé, let’s see some steps that will help you to do this better and… Good luck!

Step 1: Make a good impression with a clear, easy to read and well laid out CV

     Remember that before meeting you, an employer will meet your CV or résumé first. A bad impression created by the appearance of your CV may be enough to decide to scan through it quickly or … skip it because we are talking about a person who has more than 100 CVs on his or her desk and the unpleasant task to deal with them. So, your CV should be carefully designed to have a good aesthetic appearance. You can find several templates on the Internet that will help you to make your CV look great, but if you cannot do it yourself, get some help or pay some money to get something good (it is something that you will only pay once, but can keep forever, so it is a good deal, isn’t it?). If your CV looks horrible, it will probably end up inside a waste-paper basket. I recommend you to pay attention to the following points:

  • Font size: Avoid too big font sizes (you only have one or two pages) and very small font sizes too (they cause fatigue). Personally, I prefer between a 10 and 12 point size.
  • Extension of your document: The main difference between a resume and curriculum vitae is what is included. A resume is usually shorter and it contains your level of education, experience, skills, etc. while a CV includes other aspects like publications, research experience, affiliations, etc. If you apply for a position as a teacher at a university, for example, you should send a CV. It also depends on where you are. It seems that in Europe, employers expect to receive CVs in situations where their American counterparts would accept a resume. However, no matter what you write, a CV or resume, keep it between one and two pages.
  • Format: There is no a “best and specific way” to structure a CV or résumé, but to be concise is absolutely necessary (the employer will thank you. Do not forget the 100 CVs on the desk!). In order to be concise, you will have to reduce the number of words and show relevant and specific ideas instead. And how do you do that? With the use of short paragraphs, bullets and boxes. It is advisable to highlight headings and relevant information like job titles and other things related to work experience and education in bold type too.

Step 2: Write all your information in a proper and logical order

     For an employer, your skills, references, etc. are irrelevant if he does not even know who you are or what you can do. So, the golden rule here is first things first.

  • Personal details: Your name, address, telephone number and e-mail. In USA and UK, for example, curricula vitae do not usually include a photograph since it could lead to rejection on grounds of ethnicity, sex or age (in plain English, it could lead to discrimination). If you are applying for a position in other countries, please get information about it because in Latin America, Japan and countries in Europe it is a common practice to include it. As for your e-mail, it is preferable to use your own name (Johnsmith@xxxx.com) to a hidden one (keeprolling@xxxx.com) because it shows that you are a person who has a lot of personality and strength of character.
  • Education, professional training, certification: Write here all information on Bachelor, Master, Ph.D., postdoctoral or other relevant studies, in reverse chronological order, i.e., most recent first. It also includes degree awarded or anticipated, name of institution, location, date, etc. Skills (languages, computing, etc.) can be part of this section.
  • Work experience: Describe your professional and work experience connected with the job that you are seeking. With the use of tables or bullets, you can create different sections to highlight details. Organize the jobs you have had in reverse chronological order within each section, i.e., most recent first. Do not forget to include beginning and terminating dates, job title, name of company and location. Use action verbs (supervised, promoted, etc.) to describe your skills, jobs, and accomplishments in your CV since they express achievements or something a person does in a concise and persuasive manner.
  • Publication (usually for CVs): You should include the title, publisher, place of publication, volume, ISBN, date of publication, number of pages, etc.
  • Conferences and presentations (usually for CVs): Make a list of conference seminars, presentations and professional workshops.
  • Professional affiliations: List organizations you belong to and include current memberships, with dates.
  • Volunteer experience: You can list here the organizations for which you volunteered or add brief detail about your contributions.
  • Hobbies and interests: Insofar as you can do, show hobbies and interests with relevance to academic life and the job you are seeking.
  • References: This point is not strictly necessary. If you are running short of space, just write: “References are available on request.” In case you decide to write about references, supply the name, title and contact information of your referees and be sure to ask their permission before submitting their names.

Step 3: Be accurate in its content and be careful with spelling mistakes

     Your CV is not a book of 120 pages; it has only 2, so keep the number of mistakes in zero or at least below the acceptable limit and this limit is … one! Many employers will probably move on to the next CV as soon as he or she detects a second mistake. In some cases, for example, if you are applying for a teaching position, even a single mistake is unacceptable. There is no margin for error there.

Step 4: Be honest

     A lie might help you to get a job, but it will not prevent you from being fired as soon as the employer finds out what’s going on there. Be honest because honesty is as highly appreciated as your curriculum or résumé.

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