Your CV: the first window

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No matter what you are applying for, jobs, volunteers, grad schools, scholarships, etc., usually you are asked to provide the recruiters/committee members with an up-to-date CV. If you are not a professor with hundreds of publications, you usually limit your CV to a few pages maximum. No just the page limit, it is essential to present a version of you that you want people to see and to acknowledge. Here, I would like to share with you my CV-writing trudge since my first year of university.

Having no idea what a good CV looks like, my first draft of CV was designed according to ‘my taste’: Some fancy fonts, colorful lines, weird dents and tabs, and somehow the formatting was inconsistent between sections. Microsoft Word was not as powerful as today, but that was not a good excuse for me to show people a CV like this. Miraculously, I got my first job with this – I guess the professor was too busy to get picky on the CV of a 18-year-old girl who applied to a position of feeding insects and washing test tubes.

Then it was the time to submit a CV for another part-time job during the summer, and I was lucky enough to have a wonderful friend who has experience in polishing CVs. I have also went to CaPS to ask for help. From what I have gone through, it is important to make some CV veterans to read your CV. It doesn’t mean to kill your creativity, and you can still have your personal favorite in the frame of a clear, simplified, and well-organized CV style. (If you are applying to something related to Design/Theater/Illustrative Art, then be creative, and craziness is appreciated!)

Thus, the next question would be: what are the components of a good CV? First of the first, identify what kind of work you are going to do. The job description can be too detailed or too vague, but it is always the premier resource that you should scrutinize. Recruiters can ask for a lot, but if the job is not super specific and requires expertise of a certain equipment/software/ theory, you can always find something you have done that falls into one bullet point in the description. It is just like marketing – targeting the needs of the ‘clients’. Highlighting all these in the CV at appropriate sections will make recruiters recognize you as a good candidate faster.

To fit languages/education/awards/working experience/publications/volunteers/hobbies into 1-2 pages can be harder than you imagine, so I would suggest you to pick 4 to 5 most important sections that can boost up your chances. For example, if you are a mathematician and applying to a position requires only your expertise in Maths, unless relevant, writing 5 volunteers you have done does not help at all. It is impossible to show all facets of you in such limited space, and you want the recruiters to WOW at the first sight. Thus, it is practical to not only choose the most important sections in your CV, but also to arrange them in a way that the most important one is at the top.

The formatting of the CV usually follows the rules here (for Word users): Times New Roman/Arial, 10-11 pts, consistency in the numbering/bullet points/separation lines/titles. One trick is to use Table function wisely. By hiding the borders, you can easily arrange different components in a systematic way, and the formatting usually does not get screwed and not repairable when you change to another computer.

There are still so many points that I want to share, but it would be the length of a small booklet. CaPS have numerous resources to get you prepared, so please have a look, and don’t hesitate to drop by (as I did a few years ago).

More info: https://www.mcgill.ca/caps/students/prepare/cv

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