Ahh, the dreaded curriculum vitae….vita?…Latin? WHY?!…oh gosh!…either way, you know it well. It’s that nebulous document hidden somewhere in the depths of the files on your computer and you have no idea which version is the most up-to-date, what to include in it, how to write it, and ohhhhhh the formatting issues!! I’ve been there, your colleagues have been there, and we know you’ve been there too.
I’ve put together a list of suggestions and helpful hints on how to get your CV in perfect shape! But remember, it’s always a work in progress.
Tip #1. Save your CV with the date you have updated it. I usually save mine as “TavassolieCV_12.4.15” and I keep them all in a folder on my computer called “CV.” This makes it easy to find when you want to update the latest version, and then all you have to do is “save as” with the current date you’re working on it. But remember two important details: (1) Always, always, always save your CV with your last name (i.e. “TavassolieCV”), you don’t want to be caught with some generic name like “CV” and run the risk of the recipient saving the wrong one or getting confused when they look through the applications, (2) when you are sending this CV to someone (maybe a recommender, job application, or internship) remember to DELETE the date and leave only your name, like above, “TavassolieCV.”
Tip #2. College stuff only, no high school…unless is super relevant. The general rule of thumb is, once you get to college, high school stuff doesn’t really matter, and you should only keep things on your CV that you participated in during college. However, this might not always be a strict rule. As long as it doesn’t take up more than 2-4 lines on your CV, you can include high school activities, as long as it’s relevant to your current career path.
Tip#3. Organization is key. Your CV should go backwards in time. This means, in each section, the first item should be your most recent activity and your last item should be the oldest thing you have done. This will help the reader’s eye navigate through all your activities easily and quickly. No fancy fonts, no weird formatting. Keep it simple and easy to read.
Tip#4. What sections should you have? Generally, organizing your activities and accomplishments into fewer categories is best. Too many categories with too few activities listed in each, not good. You should pretty much always have your “Education” listed somewhere towards the top of the CV. Then some sort of “Research Experiences” and/or “Work Experience” sections next. If you have received any “Awards” or “Honors” those typically go in their own section as well.
Tip #5. Do a little self-reflecting. This tip comes from years of seeing people downplay their accomplishments. Think about every little thing you have done, received, volunteered for, helped with, etc. since the beginning of college. Put it all on there in the beginning. Then, talk to people (friends, professors, old bosses), show them your CV, and ask for advice. People love helping with this kind of thing. They will be able to tell you if something is relevant or not important to be on your CV and from here, you can start trimming down.
I’ve put together a few documents that might help even further.
Here is the CV I used when I was applying to graduate school.
Here is the CV I currently use to apply for internships.