The Elements and How To Put Them Together
Listed above are the dozen plus categories of information that are most often included in a CV (It is also useful to think of them as modules that can be moved around to suit particular openings and circumstances). It would be rare for someone to use all of them in a single CV.
Aside from the first two (contact information and education/postdoc(s)) which generally lead, the order that follows depends on your own particular strengths and the nature of the job you are applying for. If you have published an article in a well-regarded journal or won a prestigious fellowship, you want that right up front. If the position is at a small college that emphasizes teaching, and you have received an Outstanding GSI Award then it should make an appearance on the first page.
As your audience scans down the first page of your CV, he/she is building a narrative of you in his/her mind, and you want control over that narrative. Think “Speed Dating.” That is, what are the three things you want them to know about you as they near the end of the first page on the basis of which they are likely to decide whether they are willing to invest more time in your candidacy. Likely, the first two are your affiliation with Berkeley and areas of expertise. The third should be whatever piece of information will help you the most with this particular audience, and not what is the most common choice among the sample CVs you’ve seen.
There is no standard format or recipe. Rather, the key organizing principle behind your CV is what will make the most effective presentation of your ability to fulfill the requirements of the job at hand. Consequently, you should expect to have two to three versions of your CV by the end of the application process. In addition, some disciplines have idiosyncratic conventions about how certain types of information should be conveyed. Be sure to have your CV reviewed by a member of your department before sending it out into the great beyond.
You can also get help with your CV and other application materials from a PhD counselor by making an appointment.
The CV is always headed with your name and contact information including address (now considered optional), phone number and email. Your name should stand out in some fashion using a combination of ALL CAPS, bold, and/or larger font size. You should also put your name and the page number in a header or footer after the first page. At some point in the process, the sheets of your CV will likely be printed and we want to make sure your pages are collated in the proper order.
The phone number listed should have an answering machine or voicemail that is under your control and has a professional sounding message that preferably includes your full name. Relying on a shared office or lab phone can lead to situations where you don’t get the message until after the interested department has offered “your” interview slot to someone else.
You should not include information about your marital status, children, or place of birth.
4268 Arch Street
Berkeley, CA 94618
For graduate students and PhDs with less than two or three years of experience beyond Berkeley, your educational background comes next both because it is the primary qualification you bring to the job and because your PhD is from an institution that, in most disciplines, represents a powerful, positive imprimatur. As discussed above, there are a number of accepted formats for presenting this information, simply make sure that you select one that makes it easy for the reader to identify you with Berkeley.
Your degrees should be listed in reverse chronological order. If you are ABD, put “expected” before May 2023 or December 2022, and be prepared to explain the basis for your confidence that you can finish by that date (e.g., I have four of six chapters in draft form and positive feedback from my chair). If you graduated with Latin honors and/or Phi Beta Kappa from your undergraduate institution and don’t plan on having a separate honors section, you can list them after the undergraduate degree.
You need not list every college and university you have attended. If you spent a year at another institution in the course of your graduate studies without receiving a degree and think it helps you, list it under Berkeley. If not, forget about it. If you went to two undergraduate institutions, you need list only the one from which you received your degree. If, however, you went to a small, liberal arts college and then transferred to a large university and are applying to a similar small college, you may want to include it in order to be able to say in your cover letter that, based on your experience, you understand the particular needs and opportunities of such an institution as opposed to the very different demands of a large, research university.
In addition to the colleges and universities you’ve attended, you can increase the informational quotient the reader gains from this first block of substantive information by adding information on your areas of expertise, committee members/PI, dissertation topic (if it is likely to enhance their interest in you); always with an attention to formatting. In most instances you will benefit by your association with the faculty on your committee so list them here rather than require the reader to see their names, when (if) they look at your letters of recommendation. Especially at smaller institutions, the inclusion of areas of specialty (or exam fields) can give them a sense of how you might “fit” in the department.
PhD University of California, Berkeley
Comparative Biochemistry, expected May 2023
The biochemical mechanisms of Lyme disease in ferret-type animals
Ikura Wasabi (Chair), Linda Ryan, E. Barry Keehn
Specialties: Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
If information is worth mentioning, then it’s worth doing it in an easily read manner. Compare the format above with the same information below. Which has the higher signal to noise ratio?
2010-present Doctor of Philosophy in Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley, The biochemical mechanisms of Lyme disease in ferret-type animals, Ikura Wasabi, Linda Ryan, E. Barry Keehn Examination Fields: Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
If you’re a postdoc what should come after contact info? If this is your first postdoc, I would suggest bringing your postdoc appointment at Berkeley into the education section as follows:
Postdoc University of California, Berkeley
Immunology, 2020 – present
Advisor: Alan Jose
PhD University of Rhode Island
Comparative Biochemistry, May 2020
The biochemical mechanisms of Lyme disease in ferret-type animals
Ikura Wasabi (Chair)
Areas of Expertise: Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
If you’re trying to decide which experience should appear first, ask yourself (in this instance), would you rather be thought of as a “UC Berkeley” person or a “URI PhD”? My advice, lead with the strongest institution.
Next to your academic pedigree, the nature of your dissertation and the reputation of your advisors are usually the most important feature of your CV. The title should be set off in a way that makes it easy to read, and, unless the conventions of your discipline are to the contrary, list all of the members of your committee and not just your chair. They all represent an endorsement of your work as a scholar, and the other members may be more recognizable to members of the search committee outside of your specialty than your chair. Even if you attach an abstract, think about including a brief two to five line description of the work, especially if the title does not convey the subject matter. Especially at smaller schools, most readers will not be very familiar with your area of expertise. Make it easy for them.
Some people include the title of their master’s thesis, especially if it communicates expertise in an area germane to the job description. In this case it is easier to have the dissertation and thesis information fall under each degree. It is also common practice in many disciplines to list your examination fields or areas of expertise in this section of the CV.
What follows next depends on your strengths and the type of position the CV is being used for. The idea is to have a strategy for a given set of jobs and design the CV as part of the means of implementing that strategy. If you have two or more honors/fellowships (especially prestigious and competitive ones) create a separate section and put them front and center. If you have even one publication in a reputable journal (especially in a field where they are rare for someone at your stage) get it on the first page. If you have extensive teaching experience and/or awards and it is for schools that value teaching highly, put it next. What do you want them to know about you?
List your awards in reverse chronological order. Don’t overestimate the recognizability of your awards and honors beyond your immediate circle. Include enough information for the reader to understand the magnitude and importance of especially noteworthy ones.
Chancellor’s Fellowship for Dissertation Research, UC Berkeley 2017-2019
One of three awarded campus-wide from over two hundred submissions
Again you are looking to distinguish yourself from all the other pretenders to your throne. This is not the time to be modest about your accomplishments.
For many schools this category is of paramount importance so take the time to clearly convey the depth and breadth of your experience. Graduate students at Berkeley teach in a range of capacities and with differing levels of responsibilities, but, almost inevitably, all of this experience is grouped under the formal title of Graduate Student Instructor. At one end of the spectrum, teaching assistants are adjuncts who follow in the wake of the professor. At the other end, instructors are professors absent the PhD running their own courses with little or no supervision. To more accurately communicate the nature and extent of you experience you can use the following four categories:
- Teaching Assistants: Run sections/labs & Grade problem sets, papers and exams
- Teaching Associates: Give lectures to the whole class (15-49 percent of the total) Have some influence on the content of the syllabus Run sections/labs & Grade problem sets, papers and exams
- Lecturers: Give at least half the lectures Have some influence on the content of the syllabus Run sections/labs & Grade problem sets, papers and exams
- Instructors: Give most or all of the lectures Have substantial influence on the content of the syllabus Run sections/labs & Grade problem sets, papers and exams
If you have a lot of teaching experience, think about breaking it out by level of responsibility. In a similar manner, separate teaching experience at Berkeley from courses taught at other institutions, especially if they offered the opportunity to develop your own syllabi and lecturing ability.
Think about the question, what are members of search committees trying to learn from your teaching experience section. At a teaching-oriented institution, the key questions are like: where have you taught? What have you taught, and with what level of responsibility? Formatting, like that below, structures the information in a way that makes it easy for them to grasp the range and extent of your experience.
Occidental College, Department of English, Spring 2014
European Cultures II – The Enlightenment to the Present
Team-taught, multidisciplinary survey course required for all freshmen.
Contested Territories: Ethnic/Racial Literatures of the U.S. “Southwest”
Upper Division; study of texts which treat the “Southwest” as a determining and
originary site of cultural interaction and expressive production.
University of California, Berkeley, Department of English, 2009-2012
Junior Seminar – The Augustan Age
Intensive study of critical and methodological problems in the study of literature.
Reading and Composition – Travel Fiction of the Nineteenth Century
Reading and Composition – Lawyers & the Law in Contemporary Society
American Literature: Before 1800 (Upper Division)
When you describe courses, don’t bother to list Berkeley course numbers, and if the formal title doesn’t convey all of the relevant information, add a descriptive line.
If you have teaching experience in a course or sub-field that is rare and possibly more sought after (such as methodology and/or quantitative analysis in many of the social sciences) make sure it is clear from the course description.
If you have only limited teaching experience or if most of it was in courses other than those you want to teach in the future, you can add a section that lists teaching interests either in the form of broad areas (19th Century American Literature) and/or as course titles. Possible headings for this section include: Teaching Interests or Prepared to Teach.
If you are using the CV for a job which calls for teaching in an area you have not taught before but are confident you could handle, help demonstrate this ability by listing specific courses you would offer in that sub-field.
AREAS OF TEACHING INTEREST
- Japanese Politics
- Research Methods
If the list of courses you are prepared to teach is lengthy, you may want to list them on a separate sheet. For more on preparing a teaching portfolio or other compendium of your teaching interests and credentials.
These elements of your CV, in addition to your dissertation, collectively testify to your development as a scholar and a nascent member of a scholarly community. ABDs especially should not be overly distracted by the compulsion to have something in one or more of these categories. The most important academic credential you will bring to the job market is a compelling, completed dissertation that produces strong letters of recommendation and generates interest and respect among others working in your field.
Publications, Creative Work
In the sciences
The two pieces of information of greatest interest to your audience are: author placement and where it has been published. One way to ensure that both are conspicuous is to bold your name in the author list and use bold and italics for the journal title. This will make both pieces of information pop especially in a long list of publications.
In the social sciences and humanities
If you have publications (especially in a refereed journal) even if they are only book reviews, they nonetheless demonstrate engagement in the profession. Publications should be listed in reverse chronological order with a full citation. If you have a refereed article or a chapter in an edited volume, you may want to break it out from other, less rarefied publications.
For books and journal articles, use the bibliographic conventions of your field. Examples of other common, graduate student publications are listed below. For rarer, more exotic forms, check the Chicago Manual of Style.
Review of Asia’s Next Giant, by Alice Amsden, Journal of Japanese Studies, XXI (Winter 2006): 237-239.
Andrew E. Green and William Rose, “The Professor’s Dream: Getting Students to Talk and Read Intelligently,” Political Science, 97 (December 2016): 1287-89.
Chapter in an Edited Book
“Thursday Nights at the Providence Bridge Club.” In Post-War Rhode Island Cultural History, edited by G. Sheldon Lowell, Providence: The Friar Press, 2006.
Monograph Published as a Part of a Series
Identity Against Ideology: Multiculturalism in the Post-Modern Age, Townsend Center for the Humanities Occasional Papers, no. 13, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005.
If you work in a field where publications are not the primary means of scholarly or creative expression, or if much of your work appears in a new or unusual form (e.g., software or published on the internet); make sure to take a couple of lines to explain its significance. This is particularly important if departments in your field tend to be small because the search committee that receives your CV is likely to contain people who either haven’t been involved in a search for a while or are seconded from other departments.
If you have had an article or chapter that has been accepted for publication, but it has not yet appeared, you may list it under publications with “forthcoming” replacing the publication date. You should only do this if your work has in fact been accepted, and not if it has only been submitted or is under review.
Many journals will allow graduate students to write book reviews, and you may be tempted to do so to gain a “publication” and a free book. Beware. Book reviews can be very time-consuming, and take away the energy you need to devote to your dissertation. A negative book review in an innocuous-sounding journal can also thrust you into a political/ideological maelstrom far beyond your expectations. The prudent, potential reviewer will talk to their advisor before venturing forth.
Most new PhDs in the humanities and social sciences don’t have publications, and there are other ways of demonstrating scholarly engagement. If one or more of your chapters stands alone as an interesting article and you have submitted them to a journal, you can list them under a heading titled Work Submitted for Publication. List them in bibliographic form with a phrase describing its current status (e.g., under review or accepted pending revisions).
Works in Progress
If you’re not ready to send articles out, but know how you want to frame your work when you do submit it at a later date, you can list prospective titles in a Works in Progress section. If you have finished your dissertation, you can use this section to indicate the anticipated direction of your future research.
Another marker of professional development is giving presentations at conferences, colloquia, and meetings. Whether at the national, regional or local level, meetings and conferences offer the opportunity to present and get feedback on your work, meet others involved in similar research, and practice your presentation skills. They also serve as evidence of your ability and desire to enter into the scholarly fray.
List all the papers and presentations you have delivered or will deliver, along with the names, dates, and locations of the conferences or meetings where you presented the work. If you have given a number of presentations at regional and national meetings, you may want to pull out the presentations at national meetings or other venues where there is a screening process and some degree of competition and give them a separate sub-heading. Formal presentations at a workshop or colloquium at Berkeley count as well; go ahead and list them.
List memberships in all major professional associations. If you have been active in one or more, you may want to describe the nature of your involvement.
List any special training you have received through your department, the university or some other professional organization. Such training might include courses on teaching, quantitative methods, computer applications, etc.
Quantitative Methodology Summer Workshop: Statistics & Formal Modeling
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 2018
In many fields, languages are a marker of the scholarly caste, even if you do not use them in your research. In recent years, some schools have received foundation funding for courses (or more often, parts of courses) taught in a foreign language (e.g., Latin American Social Movements with a weekly meeting conducted in Spanish), and are on the lookout for faculty with the ability to participate in such programs. Provide some indication of your level of expertise.
If you have experience (either paid or volunteer) that is relevant to your work as an academic, list it here. For example, if your field is education and you served on the board of a charter school, or if you are in Asian Studies and worked as an associate director of the Japan Society of Southern California. If the connection between your professional experience and your current field is readily apparent, briefly explain it. If you can’t, it probably doesn’t belong here.
If you have served on any committees, or in any appointed or elected positions, go ahead and list them. If you have helped found or expand a study group, committee, or other organization and your work there demonstrates your initiative and ability to make things happen, convey that vitality in your description.
List your references on a separate page, and include useful contact information: address, phone, and email. Your letters will arrive separately. This page is designed to serve as a quick and easy resource should they want to communicate directly with any of your advocates.
Professor Dana Landis, Chair
Department of Psychology
University of California, Berkeley