Nuts & Bolts

Selling your skills

With Deb Koen Careers consultant

Some countries draw a distinction between a CV (curriculum vitae) and a résumé, others deploy the descriptions interchangeably. But whether or not you view a CV as a complete summary of your scientific career and a résumé as a shorter, more targeted job application, it is clear that when seeking a new post you need to use the appropriate approach.

If you're applying for an academic position or a fellowship, stick with a traditional chronological format. Start with your name and contact information, then list your education, honours, publications, presentations, work history, research interests, professional affiliations and references with contact information. Aim for completeness — include all relevant work experience such as teaching, research, residencies and fellowships. Don't worry about length; this document can run as long as you need.

By contrast, about the only thing an application for an industrial position has in common with such a document is that it should also start with your name and contact information. Instead of focusing on education and publications, emphasize your practical experience, and tailor your experiences to the employer's needs. For example, if you are applying for a job at a drug-discovery firm that focuses on protein structures and you're from academia, say how many structures you have helped to solve. Education is the next most important category, but you may not want to have separate entries for each rung you've climbed at the same institution. You need to keep it short — 1 to 2 pages. Attaching a separate list of publications, or providing one if asked, helps.

Regardless of the format, strive to create a document that is organized, easy to read and pleasing to the eye. Most importantly, get started now and keep it up-to-date for whenever the need arises.

For more information and samples of résumés and CVs see Put Your Science to Work by Peter Fiske, Cyberspace Resume Kit by Mary Nemnich and Fred Jandt, and (put ‘sample curriculum vitae’ in the search engine).

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  1. Deb Koen is vice-president of Career Development Services and a columnist for The Wall Street Journal's

    • Deb Koen

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Koen, D. Nuts & Bolts. Nature 427, 570 (2004).

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