The title specifically says "for US jobs" because a CV and a résumé are the same thing in Europe. This post is for Americans looking to leave the field of academia who need to shrink their three to 20-page CV down to a one or two-page résumé.
1. Don't get personal
The personal information section on your CV may include a photograph, your age, gender, marital status, and your hometown. Delete all that and just leave:
- Your first and last name
- Your title (optional): title as in Sir, or PhD or BA; only use Mr./Mrs./Miss if you have a gender-neutral name
- Contact details: do include your phone number and email address. You may include your current address and website if relevant and if space allows.
2. To write an objective or not to write an objective
If you do include an objective, it shouldn’t be more than two sentences. It might not take up much space, but why force it in here when you can – and will – explain it much more eloquently in your covering letter?
Why you should have one
- Sell yourself. If a résumé is a sales pitch, an objective is your slogan. Tell them you’re selling a great team worker, not that you’re looking for a team environment.
- Answer the question "Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?" Condensing your goals into a brief statement of your ambitions gives you a good objective, prepares you for the interview, and keeps you focused.
- Be concise. You only have two sentences to mention the job title you want and why you’re great for it. The recruiter only wants to spend a few seconds scanning for keywords.
Why you shouldn’t
Alison Green is a hiring manager who has never found an objective useful, and says that recruiters prefer to be given the facts and draw their own conclusions. She describes three categories of bad objectives:
"I want" rather than "I can offer". You’re supposed to be helping them, not making demands.
- One size (doesn’t) fit all. If you choose to only have one résumé, at the very least have a different one for each industry – a healthcare recruiter doesn’t want to read about your goals in finance!
- "I’m looking for a challenge" is not just a waste of space, but something employers hope and expect to be true.
3. Work experience
While your CV will talk about each one of your 20 jobs chronologically and in detail, a résumé will only have the relevant ones with bullet points of the most important things you did there. There are three ways to tackle this section:
Like a CV, this will start with your current or most recent position and go back to your first. Unlike a CV, however, you can leave out anything less than a week and anything irrelevant: a department store manager doesn’t care about your lecturing work unless you lack experience and need it to demonstrate your speaking skills. The best date format is "10 June 2015" for two reasons: if you take it outside the US, 6/10 could be misunderstood for the 6th of October; also, fewer numbers make for an easier read.
A functional résumé has the same information as the chronological one, but the jobs are rearranged and grouped by skill, from most to least relevant. Beware that one disadvantage of the functional résumé is that the disorderly dates can be confusing or even look like you’re hiding something.
A combination résumé may take up more space, but if you lack experience. it emphasizes your skills by listing those first and including the date, title and company information later.
4. Publications, awards, talks, and more
Unless they’re somehow relevant, a job outside academia is unlikely to care about that paper you spent three years researching (sorry!), and this section therefore has to go. Including anything of the sort can also risk you looking overqualified, and the last thing you want is an employer feeling too intimidated to hire you.
The education section should come after your work experience, unless you’re a recent graduate with little experience or specific education is asked for. Pongo gives you tips on what to include and how:
- College graduates can start and stop with their bachelor’s degree. Non-graduates should give dates, their major, how many credits they earned, and high school information.
- High school graduates can include a GPA of 3.0 or higher for three years after graduation and should drop irrelevant extracurricular activities after two years. Non-graduates should give the years they attended and when they gained their GED, if they did.
6. Hobbies and interests
You probably don’t have these on your CV, but if you do, consider whether they’re likely to sway the undecided recruiter who bothers to read this section. Do you think you’ll be more successful if, say, you coach a kids’ football team every weekend, or if you admit you spend every night in front of the television?
7. Cut the references
Wait! Press copy, cut the information from your CV, and paste it into another document: your future self will thank you. Your work experience is your reference section, and recruiters tend to ask for contact details later in the process. If internet safety has ever made you hesitate before sharing your own contact details, then spare a thought for the referees who have agreed to do you a favour.
If you have a CV, and especially if it’s long, then you definitely want to keep a hold of it; it’s all the information you could ever need for whatever kind of résumé you’re writing, bearing in mind that they should be tailored to each job. What résumé format works best for you? Do you do something different? Let us know!