The Joint Mathematics Meetings feature many interesting talks and panel discussions. JMM 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland was no exception. One of the panel discussions I attended was “What experiences matter on your resumé?” This panel featured a mix of representatives from industry and academia (including both teaching-focused liberal arts colleges and larger research universities). Here are the top six tips I learned to make your CV/resumé stand out from the crowd.
1. Make sure your CV gets seen
In order to be considered for a job, your CV first has to make it through the screening process. A person (or even an automaton) will look briefly at your CV to see if it meets the minimum requirements for the job. In order to make sure your application makes it on to the next step, tailor your CV to the job announcement. If the job requires programming skills, make sure you mention the programming languages with which you are comfortable. Normally, you don’t need to include your graduate GPA, but if a job announcement indicates a minimum required GPA, make sure yours is on there!
2. Highlight your leadership experience
Universities and companies want employees who will take charge and get things done. Highlighting your leadership potential and experience shows that you have one more thing employers are looking for (even if they don’t state it outright in the job announcement). Did you take charge of organizing a seminar at your university? Were you the captain of a sports team? Did you serve in a leadership position for a volunteer organization? All of these examples show a future employer that you will be a valuable leader for their company or university.
3. Highlight your ability to work as part of a team
Whether you are going into industry or academia, it is unlikely that you will be working in isolation. Thus, it is important to show that you are able to “play well with others.” You can highlight the teamwork skills you used in an official capacity (such as part of a collaborative research project or working with other instructors teaching the same course) or in a more recreational setting (such as being part of a sports team or musical ensemble).
4. Show evidence that you can be flexible
Many companies and universities don’t know exactly where they will be/what they will be doing three to five years down the road, so it is important that their employees can adapt to the changing environment. You can show that you can be flexible in a variety of ways. You can highlight your double major or minor, list the various areas in which you have done research (especially if they overlap with a specialty outside of math), and even include some of your other activities (such as music or drama). These other aspects of your interests give your CV character and allow potential employers to get to know you a bit better.
5. Give details when describing your teaching experience
Teaching experience is a vital part of your CV, especially if you are entering academia (though it doesn’t hurt for industry, since it is another example of your leadership potential). You should include as much detail as possible about your teaching experience. For example, were you the primary instructor or did you have a supporting role as a TA or recitation leader? What courses have you taught? When giving this information, make sure you state the title of the courses you taught, not just their number (since there is no standard numbering convention among colleges and universities). Don’t forget to include any teaching awards you received!
6. Find a balance between the length and thoroughness for your CV
When writing your CV, you must often strike a balance between thoroughness and length. It is important to describe your employment history and accomplishments in enough detail so that they are meaningful, but not so long that reading your CV is a daunting task. A good rule of thumb is that a CV for an academic position is traditionally more comprehensive whereas a resumé for industry tends to be more concise. In fact, you should have multiple resumés, each tailored to the institution (industry, research university, teaching-centered university, etc.) to which you are applying.