• Resumes, CV's, Portfolios

Resume vs. CV?

Most students at the undergraduate level write resumes (even though they may call it a CV).  When you get to grad school, you need to decide whether you should write a CV, a resume, or both. A CV is appropriate if you are seeking an academic positions - postdoc, professor, and, possibly, some positions at government labs (e.g., DOE national labs and NIST).  But for most non-academic positions, go with a resume.  

So, what's the difference?  If you do a simple web search of "CV vs. resume," you'll find lots of explanations.  The MIT career office web site has a nice chart , highlighting some of the differences.  One huge difference is the length, CV's being several pages and resumes being limited to one or two.  But the content also differs.  If you don't know whether you will aim for an academic or industrial job, make up two separate documents. You will be continuously revising both documents, as you move through your graduate career and beyond, so get both started now.

A CV is a several-page document in which you demonstrate your accomplishments that are essential for academic appointments - research, publishing, and teaching.  Details are important.  The professors who read these will certainly develop strategies for sifting through the many applications they receive for any given position, but expect them to spend time going over the details on any that they consider possible. 

OCS has a detailed guide that you can download from the GSAS tab on their Resumes, CV's, Cover Letters web page.  In addition to the several examples within that document, I suggest that you look at the examples on the MIT Career Office website.

Resumes and Cover Letters

A resume is often the first document that you will send or hand to a potential employer or even someone who might advise you.  You may (and should) spend time revising it continually, but you should always assume that the person seeing it for the first time may only spend 10-15 seconds looking at it.  Think of the hiring manager who has been given a stack of 100 resumes (which have already been filtered beforehand by someone in HR), who is trying to fill one or two slots.  You have a very short time to catch that hiring manager's attention to be one of the few resumes to survive her/his first pass through that stack.

It is quite tempting to try to pack as much information as possible into your resume.  But always think about that brief time to make a first impression.  While it is quite reasonable for a graduate student to have a two-page resume (postdocs even longer), pay particular attention to the first page. 

What will a hiring manager (who could be an individual engineer, scientist, programmer, etc. or a manager of a group who is hiring a summer intern) look for in that initial pass through the resumes.  This can differ by organization, which is one reason we encourage students to connect to alumni for advice. However, let me emphasize one concept - what the hiring manager is trying to accomplish by hiring you.

The hiring manager will usually be hiring you to solve a problem during your internship or a broader, yet focused, set of problems in your post-graduate employment.  She/he will want to know if you have the skills necessary to solve that problem.  You want to convey the message that you have such skills, even though your particular thesis research may be focused on a different problem than hers/his.  Hence, make sure that you have skills section on the first page of your resume. List programming languages, expertise with fabrication or measurement tools, machining skills, etc. It is also important for you to show how you used those skills.  You may have several undergraduate and graduate research experiences that you can list.  Don't just focus on the goal of the research; make sure that you also mention the skills that you used in conducting the research projects.

There are several items that are critical parts of a CV, but have little or no importance on a resume. 

  • Don't put references on a resume.  There may be an occasional job that will ask for them with your application, but most companies will only ask for them, when you are much closer to be hired.
  • You can put teaching positions on the resume, but don't use too much space on them.  They mainly signify that you know the material for that class.
  • Publications are often not nearly as important for an industrial job as an academic job.  If you have several publications, you can save space with a couple of techniques.  You could list one or two selected publications.  Or you could simply state the number of publications and provide a link to an online portfolio, where you list them.

There are many guides to writing a resume available online.  OCS has two guides that you can download from the GSAS tab on their Resumes, CV's, Cover Letters web page.   The first one is more general, aimed at the wide cross-section of Harvard PhD fields.  That one contains a page of action verbs that may prove helpful in composing your resume and a few example resumes.  Then there is also a guide (really a set of slides) aimed at Scientists, which will most likely apply to you.  The basics of writing a resume will be similar at most schools, but you may glean some additional ideas by checking out sample resumes elsewhere.  For example, I often encourage students to check out the sample resumes on MIT's career office website.  (Scroll down to the PhD resumes.) 

Portfolios and Github

Let's say that the hiring manager has put your resume into the small group of resumes to be examined in more depth.  At this point, if you have an online portfolio or github, they will likely want to spend extra time to look at your accomplishments and work/project history in more depth. 

If you are applying for a back-end programming job, have a well-organized github account that the hiring manager can search.  Don't put anything online that you don't want the outside world to see.  Obviously, if you did some work for a company, they will likely consider that proprietary.  But this caution may also hold for research work under a professor, as he/she may want to keep it secret until published.

For most other types of jobs - front-end programming, engineering, design, etc. - a portfolio is a better choice for demonstrating your skills and activities in a format that is much more extensive than a resume. 

Most students use templates provided commercial website companies such as Squarespace, WIX, Wordpress, Start Bootstrap, etc. - there are many out there.  A free alternative available to Harvard students is OpenScholar .

In Student Career Development

  • Internships (U)
  • Part-Time Positions
  • Post-Graduate Positions (U)
  • Resumes & Portfolios
  • Winter Break / Term Opportunities
  • European Job Portals and Fellowships & Short Stays in Europe
  • Internships (G)
  • Post-Graduate Positions (G)
  • Scholarships, Fellowships, Conferences, Etc.
  • Selected Hackathons, Competitions, Etc.
  • Government Lab Internships and Jobs
  • Career Mixers
  • Groups (Typically Startups) Looking for Team Members

Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

Criteria for Success

  • It takes less than 60 seconds for your resume to convince a targeted employer that you are qualified for the target job.
  • A resume is no more than 2 pages (1 sheet of paper).
  • You show a select group of skills and experiences that match those required by the job.
  • The organization and formatting help the reader find the information that shows you are qualified.
  • Your experiences are concrete and quantified.
  • There are absolutely no typos or errors.

Just to clarify: A CV is a kind of resume

A curriculum vitae (CV) is a special kind of resume intended for academic or research positions. In this article, we say “resume” to mean “resume or CV” except when we contrast the two.

Resume CV
Shows how your experiences and skills qualify you for the target job Shows your academic achievements and research qualifications
Strict 2-page (1 sheet of paper) limit 2-3 pages for a graduate student; gets longer through a career

Resumes must quickly convince readers that you are qualified

Your resume and cover letter are the first parts of your application that your potential employers will read. Your resume is designed to make the person reading your resume move your application forward in the recruiting process by, say, inviting you for an interview. Your resume should quickly convince your potential employer that you are a well-qualified candidate for the specific job for which you applied.

Analyze your audience

Your resume should be tailored to the job for which you’re applying and—if possible—to the specific people who will be reading it. Do research to find out who will be reading your resume and what they hope to see in it. If the job has explicit job requirements, make sure your resume makes it obvious that you meet all those requirements. Customize the content so it will excite your specific readers.

Your resume shouldn’t tell your whole story. In many cases, the people who read your resume will be reading a whole pile of them. Make it easy for them to put you in the “yes” pile. You can share your life story during the interview.

Make a custom resume for every application

First, read each job posting carefully. Make a list of what qualifications are required for the specific role you for which are applying. For example, a job posting that says you will “drive independent research” might require very different skills from one that says you will “work closely with an interdisciplinary team”.

Next, highlight the skills and accomplishments that demonstrate that you have those qualifications. To do this, you can:

  • include different experiences in your resume
  • put more bullet points under the most relevant experiences
  • move important experiences earlier in the document.

Resumes in particular have limited space, so you should be critical about what experiences you should include and which you should leave out.

Concretize and quantify

Give concrete—preferably quantitative—evidence that you are a qualified match for the organization you want to work in and the specific role you are applying for.

Vaguely-worded experience Concrete, quantified experience
Researched chemotherapy targets in the Jones Lab
Teaching Assistant for Bio 101
Treasurer for Young Biologist Society
Sports editor for school newspaper
Increased club membership
Developed relationships with new sponsors
Worked weekly with team

Use verbs that illustrate impact over verbs that make you sound passive and are more specific to the actual contribution you made.

Weak verbs Action verbs

When describing research experiences, it’s okay to include a brief overview of the lab, but it’s critical to characterize your individual contributions.

If you are applying for a research position, include your PI’s name. Your academic pedigree is important currency in the scientific community.

Make your document easy to skim

Recruiters will skim your resume in 30 to 60 seconds. You need to make relevant information easily identifiable.

Use headers that package your experiences in a way that best shows you are qualified for the job. For example, if the job involves teaching or entrepreneurship, make sure to include the relevant header to highlight your experience in these areas.

Order your headers  so that the sections that have the experiences that are most relevant to this job come first.

Use white space to make it easy for a hiring manager to read your resume. Use indentation and bullet points to partition information. A dense resume has more information in it but is hard to read. A spacious resume might have less information, but your reader will understand more of it.

Bold important words so the reader can quickly find the important content.

Proofread! Spell check!

A single mistake can be enough to get you put in the “no” pile. Have a detail-oriented friend help you catch things you missed.

This content was adapted from from an article originally created by the  MIT Biological Engineering Communication Lab .

Resources and Annotated Examples

Annotated example 1.

Example Job Posting 49 KB

Annotated Example 2

Example Resume 53 KB

IMAGES

  1. Harvard Resume Guide: Tips, Examples & Templates

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  2. PhD Graduate CV examples + guide [Get hired quick]

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  3. Harvard Resume Template Pdf

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  4. Academic Cv Template Harvard

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  5. Harvard Resume Template Pdf

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  6. PhD Research Resume template

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COMMENTS

  1. PDF CVs and Cover Letters

    Harvard University • Harvard College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences 54 Dunster Street • Cambridge, MA 02138 Telephone: (617) 495-2595 • www.ocs.fas.harvard.edu ... Every graduate student needs a curriculum vitae, or CV Your CV represents your accomplishments and experience as an academic and helps to establish your

  2. PDF Resumes & Cover Letters for Student PhD Students Graduate

    No part of this publication may be reproduced in any way without the express written permission of the Harvard University Faculty of Arts & Sciences Mignone Center for Career Success. 4/23. Mignone Center for Career Success Harvard University, Faculty of Arts & Sciences Cambridge, MA 02138 Phone: (617) 495-2595 careerservices.fas.harvard.edu.

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  4. Create a Resume/CV or Cover Letter

    Create a Resume/CV or Cover Letter. A resume is a brief, informative document summarizing your abilities, education, and experience. It should highlight your strongest assets and differentiate you from other candidates. Used most frequently in academic settings, a CV (curriculum vitae) is also a summary of your experience and abilities, but a ...

  5. Resumes/CVs

    Sign in using your Harvard Key and check out the career development resources: short videos on a broad range of subjects including career planning, the job search, preparing your resume, plus topics around management and leadership. Resources Outside Harvard. Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC): Guide for the Academic Medicine CV.

  6. PDF RESUME/CV GUIDE

    CV GUIDELINES Getting Started A Curriculum Vitae (CV) details all your educational and academic credentials and achievements, and may include teaching experiences, publications, and academic honors and awards. A CV in the U.S. is typically used for seeking jobs in academia as well as for applying for academic postdoctoral research

  7. Handbook: Resumes & Cover Letters for PhD Students (from Harvard

    A comprehensive guide to the world of Resumes and Cover Letters, written and presented specifically for PhD students by the Harvard FAS Office of Career Services. Click here to access the handbook. Office for Graduate Education Harvard Medical School 260 Longwood Avenue, TMEC 435

  8. PDF CV

    CV "template" (in Word) has been posted on the graduate student Job Market Advice page. It is a guide. Other than the first 15 or so lines (up to and including "Graduate Studies"), which must be followed, you can tailor it. Most of you will want to follow the guide and fill in the "template.". Even though one size fits most, it does ...

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  10. PDF RESUMES and COVER LETTERS

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  11. PDF Harvard College Guide to Resumes & Cover Letters

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  12. PDF CV

    Here's how to create yours. CV "template" (in Word) has been posted on the graduate student Job Placement. Advice page.1 Please note that to fill it in you should turn on "gridlines" so you can see the large number of separate tables. Other than the first 15 or so lines (up to and including "References"), which must be followed ...

  13. PDF The Scientist's Conundrum: CV, Resume or Something In-Between?

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  14. Harvard College Bullet Point Resume Template

    Word (.docx) version. Download or make a copy to edit (do not request edit access): Google Docs version. Use this bullet-point template to build out your first draft of your resume.

  15. Handbook: CVs and Cover Letters (from Harvard FAS Office of Career

    A comprehensive, widely-applicable guide to the world of CVs and Cover Letters, written and presented by the Harvard FAS Office of Career Services. Click here to access the handbook. Office for Graduate Education

  16. How to Use the Harvard Resume Template (Guide and Examples)

    You should use the Harvard resume template when you're applying to highly formal jobs that put an emphasis on your achievements. For example, the Harvard resume template would be helpful if you're applying to any of the following roles: Management and executive. Consultants. Academic positions.

  17. Resumes, CV's, Portfolios

    OCS has two guides that you can download from the GSAS tab on their Resumes, CV's, Cover Letters web page. The first one is more general, aimed at the wide cross-section of Harvard PhD fields. That one contains a page of action verbs that may prove helpful in composing your resume and a few example resumes.

  18. CREATE A STRONG RESUME

    Draft a resume using one of the MCS templates. Attend a Resume Workshop to learn the nuts and bolts of getting started. See the MCS events calendar for dates. View the recorded MCS Resume Webinar. Get advice via drop-ins, Monday-Friday, 1:00-4:00pm. Ask quick career-related questions and have an advisor review your resume.

  19. PDF Resumes & Cover Letters for PhD Students

    No part of this publication may be reproduced in any way without the express written permission of the Harvard University Faculty of Arts & Sciences Office of Career Services. 8/19 Ofice of Career Services Harvard University Faculty of Arts & Sciences Cambridge, MA 02138 Phone: (617) 495-2595 www.ocs.fas.harvard.edu. Resumes and Cover Letters.

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    OFFICE OF CAREER SERVICES. GSAS: Resumes and Cover Letters. Harvard University • Harvard College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences 54 Dunster Street • Cambridge, MA 02138. Telephone: (617) 495-2595 •. www.ocs.fas.harvard.edu. Resumes & Cover Letters for Master's Students. GSAS: www.ocs.fas.harvard.edu. Graduate.

  22. CV/Resume : Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

    A curriculum vitae (CV) is a special kind of resume intended for academic or research positions. In this article, we say "resume" to mean "resume or CV" except when we contrast the two. Resume. CV. Goal. Shows how your experiences and skills qualify you for the target job. Shows your academic achievements and research qualifications.

  23. PDF OCS COVER LETTERS RESUMES

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  24. Europass CV

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