CV Formatting Essentials

CV Image 2There are many different styles and approaches to completion of a CV. The advice provided here represents the viewpoint of one individual/one office; other opinions may be valid, especially your advisors and your discpline. MSU PhD Career Services can not gurantee utizlizing any specific format guarantees placement in any workplace or program. The final determination of what information to include or omit is your responsibility. In addition, it is your responsibility to ensure the content provided within these documents is an accurate representation of your skills, experiences and abilities. 

In general, the main thing to consider when developing your CV is readability.  It is important because reviewers will likely read 100s of CVs for applications. Therefore you want to make this as easy and painless as possible.  The following are just a few tips we think will help you get started.

  • To start, make sure to use 12 point font (or no smaller then 10) and one inch margins (or no smaller then 8)
  • The following are some common sections found in a CV:
      • Education
      • Summary
      • Research
      • Publications
      • Presentations
      • Professional or Work Experience
      • Community or Academic Service
      • Honors & Awards
  • When describing your experience a CV generally uses a paragraph structure, compared to a resume which is typically formatted using bullet points.
  • The emphasis for a CV is on academic accomplishment, research inquiry, methods or techniques used, and analytical approaches.
  • Briefly highlight your dissertation or thesis in the Education section. When describing your dissertation or thesis in a CV, you typically include the title within the Education section included just under the degree. The details of the work will be include later within the Research Experience section. For those in the Humanities, you will add a Dissertation section with a brief synopsis of your research. See Humanities CV sample.
  • A CV could include names of collaborators and your PI, research outcomes or future areas of inquiry. Skills and abilities are also included in a CV. Those skills particular to graduate students and postdocs include the ability to analyze data, conduct archival research, test hypothesis, and reason logically.
  • Include a reference section.  A Reference section is typically included when applying for a faculty or postdoc position. Follow the instructions. If the position description calls for three references, provide them with three. Be sure to include the name, department, email, address and phone number. Referees for academic appointments generally send the reference letter directly to the institution, so you will want them to know exactly how to contact your references in case the letter does not arrive.
  • Include a footer starting on the second page with your name and "page 2 of X".