CV and Resume Writing

Throughout your Pitt career and beyond, you will want to keep an up-to-date Curriculum Vitae (CV) or Resume: an organized listing of your employment, volunteer and extracurricular activties as well as skills you build in your experiences.  While the Resume is typically shorter than a CV, you want to keep a detailed record since you can always slim it for a particular application format.

Curriculum Vitae (CV) or Resume:

A CV or Resume is an organized listing of your qualifications and experiences to show what you can do and what you know, presented in a succinct and structured format. (Here we use the terms interchangably and will refer to them as CV.)

The CV is often read quickly by people evaluating you for a lab position, job, school admission or funding.  Yours must be neat and readable with the most important information for the reader upfront and easily accessible.  You will need to reorganize it to change emphasis for different types of applications. 

CVs have many uses:

  • For you- it organizes your career information in one place -so keep updating a running list of your experiences. 
  • For employers/admissions committees/reviewers it's a short document to be glanced at to quickly evaluate YOU
    • Should they hire you?  Give you the scholarship?  Accept you into their program?
    • For a first job in a field it will be used to determine your starting salary
    • Later in your career it will be used for contract renewals and promotions

Organize the CV for your audience:

Consider who will be reading your application and what they are looking for. What do they want in a researcher/employee/student? Why are they offering fellowships?  What is their "mindset" when reading your application?  How many applications are they probably reviewing and how much time do they have to spend on this?

Start here to build your CV:

First, brainstorm all of your experiences, outside of the classroom and even inside, beginning with high school.  List anything that might possibly be relevant. Cast a wide net and include any honors and scholarships.

Organize your information into categories.

Choose useful, descriptive, job-specific headings for your categories. (ex. Research Experiences, Teaching Experiences, Leadership Experiences)

Order the categories in order of importance for this position. And brag- put honors and scholarships up top if relevant. Focus on your audience for this particular application and on readability for these readers. 

Within each category:

  • Begin with most recent events in the category
  • Include specifics (people, places, dates) to connect to your audience and give yourself credibility
  • Describe your role using power action verbs (download list below) and succinct language.
  • Document skills you have developed.  Skills from lab courses count if you feel like you developed them well enough to repeat them without much new training.  Let people know what you can do!

Format with a simple, approachable style that makes you want to pick up the CV and read it first in the stack.  Use "white space" well and don't cram in your information.  Look for examples in the Biosc Advising Office and online.

Check that important information is easy to get.

PROOFREAD!  We cannot emphasize this enough.

Ask for advice.  Show it to friends, family, classmates.  Bring it by the Biosci Advising Office.  Let people know the qualifications of the position so they can evaulate it with that in mind.  Ask them to be critical.  Pitt's Career Center will also help.


For more tips on CV/resume writing and power verb examples Click here!

Check out examples- good and bad- in the Biosc Advising Office.