Writing Resume & CV

Resumes and CVs

A resume is a marketing tool and may be one of the most important documents you write in your professional life. A resume is the sum and substance of your work history and education and indicates a particular career direction. It should demonstrate credibility and be interesting. Because your resume is like a personal advertisement, it should convince a potential employer that you are an outstanding candidate for the job and that you will contribute to the organization.

The difference between a resume and curriculum vitae (CV) is that a CV displays your academic credentials and accomplishments in greater detail than does a resume. A CV is appropriate for positions in academia, research, or government. It includes information about papers, publications, presentations, and memberships that would not appear on a resume. Both CVs and resumes are often presented in reverse chronological order.

Resumes or CVs are useful documents for both you and potential employers. You use them as tools to obtain interviews and to provide a snapshot of your credentials and experiences. Employers use them as a screening device and to facilitate finding the best candidates for a job. Most employers will make an initial assessment of your resume in 20-30 seconds.

As you prepare your resume or CV, it is helpful to clarify your career goals, define your portfolio of skills, and consider which of your skills and experiences you want to emphasize to a potential employer. It may help to review descriptions of jobs that interest you to identify the words used to describe required skills. Also, anticipate what the employer will look for in a resume.

Your resume or CV should include:

Your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address. Be sure to provide both permanent and current address, and the telephone number if appropriate.

Career objective
A concise statement indicating your career goals is recommended if you have specific career desires. Otherwise, include your objective in your cover letter to a specific employer or for a specific job.

Summary of skills/professional expertise
A concise statement highlighting your strongest skills and areas of professional expertise can be an advantage to you, especially if you have a mix of experiences in your career history.

One rule of thumb is that unless you are more than five years out of school, your education section should precede your experience section. List the names of the institutions you attended with the most recent listed first. List the degree received plus your major area of study. Include special programs from your university, such as junior year abroad, a six-month internship, etc. Indicate either the degree name (Doctor of Science, Master of Science, Master of Public Health) or the degree initials (ScD., SM, MPH ). Indicate the area of specialization or concentration after the degree title. Include the thesis topic in italics if it relates to your professional goals.

Honors and awards
List any awards or distinctions you received, such as dean's list, cum laude, or Phi Beta Kappa. Include a brief explanation of honors or awards that are not self-explanatory, particularly for international students. It is not necessary to include your grade point average unless requested by an employer. This section can be included within the Education section or listed separately.

Professional experience
In a resume, work experience should be listed in reverse chronological order with your most recent experience listed first. Internships and volunteer experience can be considered in this section if they relate to your professional goals, or you can create a section called "Additional or Related Experience," or "Community Service." In a CV, work and education may be listed in chronological order.

When describing work experience, summarize your accomplishments rather than listing job tasks. Organize work accomplishments into clusters of related tasks. Clusters of these skills and their respective action verbs might include:

Management and Leadership Skills

Trained Managed
Taught Negotiated
Supervised Operated
Contracted Recruited
Administered Centralized
Organized Coordinated
Recognized Reduced
Oversaw Increased

Research and Analytical Skills

Analyzed Researched
Collected (data) Developed
Wrote Invented
Conducted (surveys) Evaluated
Edited Presented (results)
Interpreted Appraised
Investigated Published
Documented Solved

Problem-Solving and Program Development Skills

Designed Improved
Implemented Established
Prepared Forecast
Created Developed
Expanded Launched
Devised Tripled

There are other clusters that may occur to you. Try to think of the kinds of activities that would comprise that skill cluster. This allows your position description to "hold together" rather than to be composed of a string of verbs that may seem unrelated. If you need more ideas, try this list of action verbs.

Make sure that dates are clearly delineated. You can choose to write dates during semesters as Summer '05, Fall '05. You can also just write the year, such as 2003-2005, when your experience has spanned several years.

Additional or related work experience
You may want to include this section if the experiences add to your range of qualifications and show evidence of skills valued by the organization.

List those publications that relate directly to your career goal. Employers most interested in publications will be teaching hospitals, research organizations, consulting, and international organizations. It is usually recommended to create a separate list and indicate on your resume that publications are available upon request.

Computer skills
It is advisable to provide information about your computer skill, and especially those relating to scientific and/or statistical software.

If you are fluent or conversant in several languages, list the languages you speak and/or write as follows: "Fluent in French, proficient in Japanese, knowledgeable in Spanish." Think carefully about your level of proficiency. Do not overrate your skills as you may be asked to demonstrate your language ability during an interview.

One or two lines about your outside interests, hobbies, or travels can sometimes add interesting information to the interview and may spark conversation.

Licensures and certifications
If you have a license in a specific field like medicine, indicate it in this section.

Professional affiliations
List memberships in professional societies relevant to your career goals.


List significant student and community activites.

You can write "References Available upon Request" if you have space. Employers will ask directly for references, so prepare a separate list with names, titles, addresses, and telephone numbers and emails. Give careful consideration to your choice of references, as some will be more appropriate to an employer than others.

Generally, avoid information about your marital status, children, or age.

Layout and printing
As you prepare the final draft of your resume/cv, keep in mind that it should be written concisely, clearly, and free of error. If you are unsure about what to include or not include on your resume, make an appointment with the Career Services Office. Use boldface type, underlining, italics, and capital letters to bring attention to important headings and information on your resume. However, be sure that these features enhance rather than detract from information. Mixing too many typestyles can clutter your resume. Remember to add line spaces when necessary to make your resume easier to read.

When writing a scannable resume/CV, use white paper, 12-point fonts, scanner friendly fonts (Arial, Times, or Courier), use words that describe your experience in a concise and accurate manner, and use more than one page if necessary. Don't use colored or dark paper, italics, underlining, shadows or reverse type, bullets, lines borders, boxes or graphics. Always proofread your final draft carefully many times to avoid typos or misspelled words or other errors. Ask the CSO to review the final draft. Use good bond paper in off-white, ivory, or light gray and have your resume laser printed.

Putting your resume/CV on-line
Once you are satisfied with your resume/CV you should consider putting it in one of the HSPH CSO's electronic resume books. These books can be found at www.eRecruiting.com Employers are very interested in viewing resumes/CVs on line when hiring. This will also give a larger number of employers the opportunity to view your resume/CV easily and often.

Additional information, including a CV template, is available on the HSPH Career Services Office website. There are a number of examples of resumes/cv's on the internet.

Copyright 2004, President and Fellows of Harvard College