All Careers | Resumes

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At this point in your career as a postdoctoral fellow or PhD candidate, you likely already have a curriculum vitae (CV). As you prepare to apply for positions outside of the academy, you will need to convert your CV into a resume. Where your CV is a full record of your academic accomplishments, a resume should only contain information that is of interest to your prospective employer.

You must create a specialized resume that is tailored to EACH job to which you are planning to apply. A generic resume template that you send out to multiple employers will quickly be transferred to the ‘no’ pile before it is even fully considered by the hiring manager. For more tips and tricks on tailoring your resume, see the detailed PDF.

Three Types of Resumes

There are three approaches you can take in constructing your resume:


Starts by listing your work history in reverse chronological order. Preferred by employers.

  • Excellent for applicants who have a strong and progressive work history relevant to the position.


Focuses on your skills and experience rather than your work history.

  • This type of resume is excellent for applicants who are changing careers or for those who have gaps in their work history.


Lists your skills and experience first, followed by your employment history.

  • This type of resume allows you to highlight the experience that fits the position AND includes the chronological work order employers prefer.

What goes into a resume?

  • It is important that your resume follows a consistent format that is visually appealing, easy to read, and provides a clear, concise story that explains why you are UNIQUELY qualified for the position you are applying for.
  • A resume is typically 1-3 pages in length. However, some professions have stricter rules. Refer to field-specific norms or visit the PDCO if you are unsure.

Resume Sections

  • Contact information/Header:
    • Name, followed by PhD (where relevant), address (home or work), e-mail address (make sure it is professional), and phone number.
  • Professional Summary/Career Highlights:
    • Quickly demonstrate match between position requirements and your qualifications by using key words from the job advertisement. For more information about how to craft this section, see the detailed PDF.
  • Education:
    • Depending on the job, this can be moved to the second page, especially if it is a position that doesn’t require a PhD.
    • List: university, location, degree obtained, and date of degree.
  • Experience:
    • Include position title, institution or name of employer, dates of employment.
    • 3-5 bullet points that explain your responsibilities using the STAR method:
      • Describe the Situation, your Task, your Action(s), and the Results.
    • Utilize keywords from job advertisement in constructing your bullet points. For more on the STAR method and structuring your bullet points, see the PDF.
    • You may wish to categorize your experience into different sections, such as: Professional Experience, Research, Teaching, Leadership, or Volunteer Experience.
  • Relevant Papers and Presentations:
    • Applicants should only include full references to academic papers and presentations when they are relevant for the position for which they are applying
  • Awards & Honors
  • Skills & Certifications
    • Only include skills and certifications not outlined in your Professional Summary
  • Foreign Languages

The DON’TS of Resumes

  • Avoid highly stylized resumes; resumes are sometimes scanned in via computers and stylized formatting can cause issues.
  • You are not required to include a photo, birthday, marital status, height or weight in US resumes.
  • Do not include an objective statement. The employer knows your ‘objective’ is to get the position you are applying for. Instead, use a Professional Summary to indicate your ‘fit’ for that position and highlight your major accomplishments.
  • Postdoctoral fellowships should not be listed in your ‘Education’ section but under Professional or Work Experience.

Additional Resources

NIH 'Guide to Resumes and Curriculum Vitae'
Harvard 'Resumes & Cover Letters for PhD Students'
UCSF 'Resumes for Industry scientist job applications'
'Job-search basics: how to convert a CV Into a resume'
'10 Things Smart PhDs Do NOT Put On Their Industry Résumés'
PDCO Career Clinic: Resumes & Cover Letters (October 2020)
5 Common Resume Mistakes and How to Fix Them (JHU PHutures)