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Resumes, Cover Letters & Curricula Vitae

You have more experience than you think. Share who you are and what you're capable of.

Resumes

Most employers spend approximately 7 seconds scanning your resume in their first pass through job applications. In those few seconds, you need to clearly demonstrate how your skills, experience, education, and characteristics match what they are looking for. Seven seconds isn’t long to make that kind of impression. Here’s how to do it.

Tailor your resume

Ensure that you have reviewed and tailored your resume to the job posting. To begin tailoring your resume you could: 

  • Review the accomplishment statements under each role on your resume, and make them relevant to the job to which you are applying. 

  • Ensure that you have a “highlights section” in your resume speaking to the value you bring to the role to which you are applying.

Accomplishment statements

Accomplishment statements are the foundation of an outstanding and competitive resume. By the end of this short video, you will be able to identify the components of an effective accomplishment statement. It will also provide you with a step-by-step guide for creating powerful accomplishment statements that uniquely reflect your skills, abilities and potential.

Resumes 101

Consider how you might apply what you heard to your resume. Here are some questions to consider:

  • How have you described your experiences in your resume? What accomplishment statements already exist in your document?
  • What about your experience can be better described with the VERB + TASK + RESULT formula? How might you quantify and qualify your experience even better?
  • How can you apply “fast numbers” (e.g. service to over 250 clients, collaborated with a team of four classmates, raised $4,000 dollars, supervised 10 volunteers, etc.) to the statements in your resume?

Formatting & Readability

It’s important to ensure that your job application documents are professional, consistent, and error free. While some of this can be subjective, key elements include:

  • Reviewing your documents for spelling and grammar.
  • Formatting your documents for easy reading (for e.g. paying attention to fonts and white space) 
  • Keeping formatting consistent across your documents (i.e. resume and cover letter)

In addition, as employers spend approximately 7 seconds scanning in their initial scan of resumes received:

  • Ensure that key elements of your resume stand out in quick scan (for e.g. your education, key roles, highlights).

Cover letters

Always write a cover letter to go with your application. It personalizes your application and is a chance to emphasize your most relevant qualifications and make a case for why you're a great candidate.

Ideally, your cover letter should fit on one page.

What to put in your cover letter

Contact information + date
  • Include your name, address, telephone, and e-mail
  • Keep the format of this section consistent with your resume
  • State the month, day, and year (e.g., May 15, 2018)
Employer’s information
  • Include the name of the contact person, job title, company name, address, and postal code
  • Try to obtain as many of these details as possible through research or by calling the company
Salutation
  • Begin with “Dear” or “To”
  • Address the contact person by the last name starting with “Mr.” or “Ms.”
  • If you don’t know the person’s name, address the person by their job title or address your letter to “Human Resources”
  • Avoid “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam”
Opening paragraph

Keep your opening pragraph brief. Try to:

  • Mention the position you are applying for and how you learned about the job (i.e. are you responding to an advertisement, or a referral. For e.g., “Joe Davis, Manager of Customer Service, suggested I write you...”
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the position: say why you are interested, mention two or three strengths that make you a strong candidate for the position
Follow-up paragraphs
  • Pick 2-3 key strengths you bring to this role that are also identified in the posting or from your research. 

  • These can be accomplishments from your past work, volunteer, and academic experiences that show your strengths & skills

  • Use the next 2-3 paragraphs to explain the strengths or skills you have picked, provide examples of when you have showcased these well, and connect it back to your value to the potential role

Next-to-last paragraph
  • Explain why you are interested in working for this employer

  • Indicate the organization’s values, culture, or areas of prospective growth, and describe how these are similar and/or relevant to you, your previous accomplishments, and interests.

Closing paragraph
  • Mention your interest in an interview or discussion about opportunities

  • Provide information on your availability and how the employer may contact you

  • When appropriate, take a more proactive approach by arranging to call the employer

Curricula Vitae

Think of the curriculum vitae (CV) as an “academic resume”: it is a document intended to highlight education and accomplishments in order to persuade someone to offer you an opportunity ( a place in a graduate program, funding, a role as a professor or post-doc, etc.)The term, Latin in origin, means “the course of one’s life or career.”

A CV is typically used when applying to graduate or professional programs, and for research-related funding opportunities or academic postings (post-docs, tenure-track employments, etc.). In some  parts of the world (for example, Quebec and Europe), "CV" is used more generally to mean the document one uses when applying to any type of opportunity. In that case, the distinction between "academic CV" and "non-academic CV" might be quite important.

How is a CV different from a resume?

Curriculum Vitae Resume
Audience Academics in your field of study Employers hiring you for a specific position
Length Highly flexible 1–2 pages
Focus Represents your academic achievements and your scholarly potential Represents skills, job-related experience, accomplishments, and volunteer efforts
High Priority Content List of publications, presentations, teaching experience, education, honours, and grants Skills and experiences related to the job you’re seeking
Low Priority Content

Activities unrelated to academic discipline, teaching, or research

Technical details unrelated to the field in which you are applying
List of references Include Don’t include
Goal Present a full history of your academic credentials, including teaching, researching, awards, and services Present a brief snapshot of your skills and experiences that communicates your ability to perform the job you’re seeking

Guidelines for CVs

The following categories reflect common CV sections; however, there can be significant variations in the structure  and sequencing of the CV in different disciplines. 

It is important to seek advice from mentors in your academic discipline in regards to their recommendations for structuring your CV.

If you are preparing your CV for a specific opportunity, you will also likely need to consider the following in order to customize it:

  1. The geographic location of the institution where you are applying
  2. The focus of the role (primarily teaching, primarily research, or a combination)
  3. Your own particular strengths and accomplishments
Contact information

List name, address, email, and phone number

Education

List degree, school, dates, city, province/country in reverse chronological order. You may include the name of your advisor and thesis title in this section, or include a separate section about your thesis.

Thesis/Dissertation

Include the title of your thesis/dissertation and the name of your advisor. In some fields, it is expected to include the names of additional committee members and/or a short summary of the thesis.

Research Interests

This section is typically used to show your compatibility with a particular role and should be tailored to align with the position you are applying to. Not all fields include it on the CV.

Scholarships, awards, honours, achievements

List these items including: name, grantor (for example, NSERC, NIH etc.), date, and project title if appropriate. In some fields, you may wish to include the dollar amount. As you advance in your scholarly career, you may remove some older awards; so, someone at the PhD level should only include an undergraduate award if it was very prestigious. You may also wish to create subsections in this category to distinguish, for example, "Fellowships" separately from "Awards."

Publications

Include publications you’ve authored or co-authored. Provide title, authors, dates, and publisher using the citation style appropriate to your discipline. If you have different types of publication, you may wish to use subheadings to organize this section: for example, "Book Chapters" "Articles" "Monographs" etc.

It may be strategic to include sections for "Forthcoming" or "In-Progress" publications. Consult with your advisor to determine if it is appropriate to do so.

Presentations

In some fields, you may combine presentations with your "Publications" section, but in many cases, this should be a separate section. Include the title of the presentation, the name of the organization, the location of the meeting or conference, and the date. List the presentations in reverse chronological order (most recent first).

You may use subheadings to distinguish different types of presentation: "Conference Presentation," "Invited Talk" "Public Lecture" etc.

Teaching experience

If the position you are applying to will involve a strong focus teaching responsibilities, you may wish to include this section quite early in your CV. Use subheadings to distinguish between different types of teaching experience: "Teaching Assistant," "Instructor," etc. List the title of the course and the institution and the department where it was taught; including the course number (eg. CHEM 399) is optional.

Since you are writing to other academics who will typically have a good understanding of what is involved in post-secondary teaching, it is often not necessary to include bullet points describing the nature of your responsibilities (eg. "Delivered lectures, graded exams etc." Consult others in your field to determine if you need to describe your teaching responsibilities or simply list the courses.

Research Experience

In some fields it is common to include a section describing the projects you have worked on, often with the use of bullet points. This may include your work as a research associate or research assistant. Depending on your field and the position you are targeting, this section may appear considerably earlier in the CV. If you have experience with research outside of a university setting, consult with your mentor to determine if it should be located here or in a separate setting.

Work Experience

This section is optional, and should only be used to highlight work that is relevant to your academic discipline. Some fields have a close relationship with industry, and highlighting industry experience in this section can be very useful. You may also use this section to highlight how you are practitioner as well as a scholar.

List your experience in reverse chronological format. Includes job title, employer, dates, city/country, and possibly a brief statement or series of statements about your accomplishments in the role.

Skills, Techniques, Languages etc.

Depending on your field and the nature of your research, it may be useful to include a point form list of the skills and techniques that are relevant to your research interests. This section is most common in STEM and social science fields, but many humanists will want to list  skills related to digital projects and their fluency in relevant languages (indicate written, read, spoken.)

Additional Training

This section is optional but it can be a convenient place to list seminars, summer schools and relevant professional development opportunities (for example, a pedagogical training workshop).

Memberships

Membership in related scholarly and/or professional associations attests to your career commitment and professionalization. List the memberships with the dates.

 Service

Include  any service to the university or discipline in this section, such as participation in committees, organizing conferences, reviewing for journals, participating in graduate student associations. You may use subheadings to create categories if necessary. You do not typically need to describe the activity (ie no bullet points).

Community Involvement/Outreach

This section is optional; it may be included if you have community activities relevant to your scholarly interests (eg, public talks at museums, volunteering with science education programs in local schools.)

References

List the names and titles of three references. Include their email and phone contacts.

Highlighting Graduate Student Experience

Highlighting your thesis/dissertation

The following video follows on from Resumes 101. It is specifically designed for students who want to showcase their research and academic experiences in ways that capture the attention of employers within and beyond the academy.

The following example focuses specifically on how your experience undertaking a thesis or dissertation project can be used to highlight key competencies that employers are looking for when hiring for academic positions.

Highlighting an academic project

This tutorial follows on from Resumes 101. It is specifically designed for students who want to showcase their research and academic experiences in ways that capture the attention of employers within and beyond the academy. The video focuses on how your experience undertaking an academic project can be used to highlight key competencies that employers are looking for.

Highlighting community based experiential learning

This tutorial follows on from Resumes 101. It is specifically designed for students who want to showcase their research and academic experiences in ways that capture the attention of employers within and beyond the academy.

This example provides guidance on how you can showcase your experiences gained through experiential learning projects.

CareersOnline

Career events

Drop-in career coaching

Whether you want to chat about how your discipline connects to your career exploration journey, how to pick the right involvement and experiential opportunities to match your learning goals or what makes a resume stand out, drop-in advising is available.


Undergraduate Coaching with the Career Peer Coaches (Resume, Cover Letter, CV, and Interview Prep)

30 minute coaching sessions with the Career Peer Coaches make it easy to get support with your resume, cover letter and interview preparation. They'll help you learn strategies to succeed at landing your next job! 

Location: The Centre for Student Involvement & Careers

Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri: 11:00PM - 5:30PM

Wed: 12:30PM - 2:00PM

Hours are subject to change based on coaches' availability. Check with the CSI&C for the most up to date schedule. 

Important: Sessions are 30 minutes in duration. You are welcome to drop by or call the Centre for Student Involvement & Careers on the day of your preferred visit to secure an available time for the same day only. If you arrive late for a secured session, your session may be forfeited to another student. 

Undergraduate Engineering Drop-in Coaching (all topics)

Monday: 11:00AM - 1:00PM
Location:  Fred Kaiser Room 1100D
*A sign-up sheet will be made available at 9:00 am on the day-of and will be posted on the door of Room 1120D

Graduate Drop-in Coaching (all topics) — Masters and PhD

Please note that graduate drop-in is cancelled on Friday, October 25, and Friday November 1.

Friday: 10:00AM -12:00PM
Location: Check in at the CSIC front desk when you arrive

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