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CV identity crisis

Delivering a bioscience careers workshop in Lyon (France) this week brought it home to me the variation in curriculum vitae (or resumé) formats and styles which exist across different countries. In France, for example, it’s common for your CV to be just one page in length with no embellishment of your employment or educational experiences. However, there were postgraduates in the audience who did possess a two-pager and this seems to be becoming more usual these days. The relatively recent introduction of the Europass CV, a standardised on-line CV format which includes additional sections for activities associated with employment and education, as well as asking about personal skills, has compounded the idea of a more substantial CV.
“CV or not CV, that is the question”

The very name ‘curriculum vitae’ comes under scrutiny when you ask what is the difference between a CV and a resumé? Ordinarily, I would say “not much”. However I found some advice on this website about the differences between Canadian CVs and resumés, which describes the resumé as a 1-2 page document and the CV to be anything up to 20 pages (for academic and other professional jobs). I would say the latter is more commonly known as a personal /professional portfolio which includes all relevant positions held and charting key achievements during a person’s career history. If you have lots of extra information to include such as a list of publications, presentations delivered at conferences and other supporting information I usually advise people to place them into an appendix following the main 2-page CV and then refer to them on page 1. In this way you don’t break up the flow of the CV and can add as many pages as you like.

Another difference in CV conventions between countries which we identified was the inclusion (or not) of a photograph on the front of your CV. Again, for many of the postgrads in Lyon this was the norm. I think, with respect to equal opportunities and other rules of employment, demand for the inclusion of a photo on CVs or application forms has been reducing over the years to avoid possible discrimination towards people’s appearance.

Including your hobbies and interests is another debatable point which was raised in the workshop by the French postgrads, who generally would not include them in their CV. As a rule, I would say that, if this information enhances your profile (e.g. active and team-orientated pursuits such as sports or something related to the job), it has the advantage of giving the employer a more personal view of you and focusses on your individuality. However, be careful and do your homework since in certain countries outside interests would be seen as being rather suspicious – why do I need to know what you do in your spare time??
Finally, with the advent of social media, we discussed in the workshop all the opportunities available to us nowadays to extend the capability of our CVs . For example, your personal details can include links to your personal Facebook, Twitter account, Blog or personal profile (e.g. Linkedin) where you can illustrate more fully what you do, even showing photos of your experiments, communication activities, teaching etc.  However, regardless of the country, you’ll need to ensure it’s professional and accessible and brings your career to life in terms of your work, skills interests and personality. So if you haven’t done so already, get yourself a CV identity!

PS: This is just a brief blog about CVs – more detailed information will be posted up soon about how to write an effective CV for bioscience researchers.

Organisers: Thierry Defrance & Benedict Durand (4th, 5th from left);
Careers workshop deliverers: Sarah Blackford (2nd from left), Peter Lumsden (2nd from right).
Et alia: Left to right: Charlie Scutt, Nicolas Brouilly, Alexa Sadier, Latifa Bouguessa and Nisrine Falah.
Photo:Joëlle Pornin

PPS: Many thanks to BMIC, Lyon for organising such a great 2 days for the bioscience postgraduate students including our careers workshop on Day 2.

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CV advice and examples

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