A resume or CV (curriculum vitae) is a concise summary of your education, professional experiences, skills, and achievements. In short, a resume shows a potential employer what you have done and why they should hire you. Whereas an academic or graduate school CV (for application to research positions or graduate and PhD programs) shows graduate faculty or admissions committees why they should consider you for acceptance into their position or institution.
What is the difference between a CV and a resume?
When it comes to hiring, there is now almost no formal difference between a resume and a CV. In Europe. a professional CV is what Americans call a “resume.” And an academic CV is what Americans refer to as a “CV.” Applicants should understand these basic distinctions, so they know what information to include in their document and where. (Sample Graduate CV for Academic and Research Positions)
Most content within the resume or CV sections will follow the same principles of style and formatting. This article explains which content to include in your resume or CV and which common errors in grammar, mechanics, and punctuation to fix to ensure that your document will be well received by employers of school officials.
All issues in the checklists below are addressed by Wordvice professional resume editing services. Wordvice only employs admissions editors with extensive experience in editing CVs, resumes, and other academic and professional application documents. Because recruiters spend an average of only seven seconds scanning each CV, making a good first impression is key. If you submit a properly organized and fully edited document, you will convince readers to spend more time looking at your application.
Use this checklist to ensure that you have crafted the best resume or CV possible.
How to Edit CVs and Resumes (a checklist)
Let’s first break up common issues with resumes into three categories:
- Structure and Content Issues
- Style and Language Issues
- Grammar, Punctuation, Mechanics, and Formatting Issues
While writing a resume or CV, you should pay attention to all these issues at once. When editing, reviewing these issues separately helps ensure that you do not overlook any potential writing or content errors.
Resume/CV Structure and Content Issues
A header with your name, phone number, and other contact information.
- If you have a strong social media profile on LinkedIn or another professional platform, include these in your contact details.
- If your social media profiles are unprofessional or do not match the information on your CV, this can cause your application to be immediately rejected.
An “Objective” section (or “Executive Summary” for professional positions) or a CV summary.
- Before going into the details of your academic and work record, add a brief 1-3 phrase section that explains your goals and gives a summary of who you are as a candidate.
- Include the name of the position and/or company or institution to which you are applying.
Do not use complete sentences here, just as in the bulleted parts of other sections.
Example Objective for a CV: “Responsible licensed hospital medical records expert trained to work in high-tension environments and perform well under pressure. Seeking to use meticulous record-keeping and analytical abilities to assist St. Luke’s Hospital with all of its record-keeping needs.”
A “Work Experience” section detailing what positions you have worked in, along with start and end dates.
- List job positions you have worked in reverse chronological order; include your most recent experience first.
- Use bulleted lines to explain your roles and accomplishments in each position; include only one or two items in each bulleted line. Bullets should be only one line in length if possible.
- For academic CVs, include the “Work Experience” section after the other elements listed here. Include the “Education” section (detailed further below) first for these types of application documents, or if you have very little work experience.
An “Education” section listing which institutions you attended, what degree(s) you received, your major, any relevant details about your education experience, and the corresponding dates of attendance or receipt of degree.
- List in reverse chronological order: your most recent degrees received or schools attended first and older educational experiences afterwards.
- List any honors associated with your degree in this line (“cum laude,” “magna cum laude,” “with honors, etc.)
- In the first line, list your degree and major on the left-hand side of the page in bold, with the date(s) presented on the right-hand side of the page.
- Underneath the degree and major, provide the university or college name and the location of the school.
- If you have received multiple degrees or minors from one school, list the degrees in separate lines first and include the school name underneath this information.
If your thesis or dissertation content is pertinent to the position you are applying to, include the title of your work under the name of the school like so.
“Thesis Title: ‘Operating in the Dark: a critique of postcolonial literature’”
A “Skills” section detailing what relevant skills you have that will indicate a good fit in this position.
- If you list many skills (more than 4-5), separate these into distinct sections of “technical competency” (computer software and programs, analytical tools, etc.) and more general “skills” (personal traits like self-motivation, dedication to work schedules, and even language competency).
- Do not list every single skill you have; only include those that will show the hiring manager or committee that you have what it takes for this position.
If your CV or resume is very short (less than a page) or your record needs to be filled out a bit more, consider including other sections with relevant and important information. Essentially, any information that does not fit neatly into other sections but is important should be included as a separate section.
- “Achievements and Awards” (scholarships, proposal grants, honors, competitive awards, etc.).
- “Teaching Experience” (this can be useful when you are applying to a graduate teaching assistant position; include this section under the “Objective” if you are applying for such a position)
- “Publications” (publication in academic or professional journals; include citations)
- “Conference Presentations”
- “Academic Memberships”
- “Leadership Experiences” (positions in school clubs or teams or other positions of leadership)
- “Volunteer Experience” (presenting significant amounts of volunteer work can positively impact your application to academic positions)
- “References” (include professional references if required or requested)
Resume/CV Style and Language Issues
Writing with strong, natural, and professional language can be a difficult task, even for native English-speaking applicants with years of experience. Because resumes and CVs offer very little room to present a well-rounded picture of yourself to the reader, you must keep the language concise and powerful to create an effective CV or resume.
Here are a few key “dos and don’ts” when it comes to vocabulary and style in these documents.
DO NOT repeat the same information.
- Include all relevant information about a role or achievement in one line.
- Do not repeat the exact same data or information for emphasis; rather, clarify the previously stated information and add pertinent details.
DO NOT make statements that are subjective, misleading, or over-flattering.
- Be truthful in portraying who you are and what you have accomplished.
- Rather than making bold subjective assertions (such as “Hardest worker in the office”), show the reader through concrete details (such as “Achieved the highest office sales numbers each month over a 5-year period”).
DO NOT use complete sentences in bulleted lists.
- Bullets are used in almost all sections of the resume/CV. Omit the subject of the sentence and start with a “power verb” instead.
You can also remove unneeded articles and pronouns.
Incorrect: “I improved performance in the GSC system with my colleagues.”
Correct: “Improved performance in the GSC system alongside colleagues.”
DO use power verbs to begin each bulleted line within a section.
- A “power verb” is an action verb that precisely captures your action or achievement.
- Use each verb only ONCE as a power verb in each section.
Weak verb phrases:
“Tried to make performance better…”
“Got the required amount…”
“Wrote down employee performance…”
Power verb phrases:
“Achieved the required amount…”
“Recorded employee performance…”
DO use numbers and figures to give the reader precise information.
- Using actual data and numbers makes your claims more concrete and easier to assess.
- Instead of “Completed a high number of monthly transactions,” write “Completed over 3,500 transactions monthly.”
DO customize your resume or CV for the specific position you are seeking.
- While you may want to use the same document to apply to several positions, DO NOT DO THIS!
- Change the “Objective” section to fit the required qualifications to the specific position.
- Include only achievements, experiences, and skills relevant to a given position.
DO use academic terms and expressions instead of idioms or informal language.
- Applicants can improve their CV and resume writing by choosing specific terms, including jargon and abbreviations used in their industry.
Grammar, Punctuation, Mechanics, and Formatting Checklist
Correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation are important in any document. In CVs and resumes, they may be even more important, as mistakes are clearly visible to readers. Additionally, poor formatting can result in a disorganized and messy document that no one will want to read.
Use this checklist to eliminate objective errors in your document and ensure that you follow commonly applied CV and resume formatting rules.
- Make sure all verbs and nouns agree in number and tense.
- Include articles where needed and omit them where unnecessary.
- Double-check the spelling of all terms, people, institutions, and locations.
Punctuation and Mechanics Issues
- Capitalize the first word of any bulleted line and the first word of any sentence or paragraph.
- Apply periods and end punctuation consistently. If you use a period for one bulleted line, use one on EVERY bulleted line.
- Do not use exclamation points or emojis anywhere in the document.
- Use periods when abbreviating (“Co., etc., Corp., Inc.”).
- Use em dashes or en dashes to indicate periods of time between dates (“2007—2009”).
Do not begin any line with a numeral.
- Incorrect: “2 years of experience in marketing.”
- Correct: “Two years of experience in marketing.”
- Use bolded and italicized text styles to separate levels of importance. Bolded text should be used for the main headings and subheadings; italics should be used to indicate secondary details; regular text style should be applied everywhere else.
- Do not include photos or images anywhere on your CV or resume and avoid using multiple colors on the page. Keep it neat!
Use clear and legible fonts.Apply a standard CV typeface: Arial, Tahoma, or Helvetica for sans-serif fonts, or Times New Roman if you prefer serif fonts.
- Use 11 to 12 pt. font size and apply single spacing. For name and section headings, use14 to 16 pt. font size.
- To increase visibility, leave slightly more spacing (1.5 spacing or double spacing) before headings and groups of related information within headings.
Keep your formatting consistent!
- If your dates are right justified, apply this to all dates.
- If you use a certain font and size for one section, apply the same to equivalent information in other sections.
Keep your CV or resume brief but relevant.
- A two-page document is usually more than sufficient at detailing your most relevant skills, experiences, and achievements.
- Try to make sure the finished work has a visually appealing length: 1, 1.5, or 2 pages in length is okay, but do not include only one section on the second page, for instance.
Get Resume Editing with Wordvice Resume Editing Services
Because hiring managers can review several hundred applications for a given position, you need to ensure that your document stands out from the crowd. It must be well written and completely free of typographical errors. And for resumes and CVs, it pays to have a pair of fresh and experienced eyes look at your work.
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