Résumés Demystified: Tips for Humanities PhDs

Written by
Jonathan Schmidt-Swartz and Emily Tobey

Jan 26, 2021

Jan 26, 2021 • by Jonathan Schmidt-Swartz and Emily Tobey

In a recent post, we covered the difference between a curriculum vitae (CV) and a résumé and offered basic guidelines on what employers are looking for in the latter. Here, we follow up with a deeper dive into some of the more fundamental details you need to consider when crafting an effective résumé.
When Is a Résumé Necessary?
If you plan to apply for either a teaching job or a position at a museum, library, scholarly society, research institute, or other organization where hiring-committee members may have a scholarly background like your own—then your academic CV may suffice. However, if your research area is outside the committee members’ expertise, or if you are applying for positions for which a PhD is not a requirement, then you will probably want to use a résumé. For almost all pathways beyond the academy, a résumé will be required. 

What’s the Point of a Résumé?

A résumé is meant to highlight your experience related to the position for which you are applying, while focusing less on publications, scholarly achievements, and conference presentations covered in your CV. Depending on the job, you will want to go into less detail on the specifics of your research and teaching topics, highlighting instead the transferable and relevant skills you developed through this work. Essentially, a résumé is a tool to market yourself and demonstrate how you are a perfect candidate for the job.
What Should My Résumé Look Like?

•    At 1 to 2 pages, a résumé is typically shorter than a CV. Stick to a common, easy to read font like Times New Roman or Arial.
•    Font size should be between 10 and 12 point and kept consistent throughout the document. 
•    Margins should be equal all the way around the page and should be at least half an inch in size. 
•    Make sure to have clear headings; use bold style, underlining, and italics to draw the eye of your reader to important or impressive information, but use them judiciously. The less you use them, the more they will stand out on the page.
•    Use bullet points to improve the readability of your résumé.
•    And finally, be sure you (and someone else!) check for typos or spelling errors.

What Should My Résumé Include?

The following sections are typically found on résumés (this document can serve as a useful visual guide):

Contact Information
•    Basic: name (first name, middle initial, last name), address, phone number, e-mail, website.

•    Presented in reverse chronological order. List organizations, locations, date, title, description of accomplishments. This section can be further divided into subsections such as professional, volunteer, academic projects, research.

•    Also presented in reverse chronological order. List the school, location, date of graduation or expected date of graduation, degree granted and major and minor. Optional: GPA and dissertation.

•    Be sure to include skills that are relevant to the job, such as proficiency in languages, software, assessment tools, or website design.

•    Options for other sections will vary based on the job. Some examples include licensure, certifications, or certificate; professional affiliations; honors and awards; publications; service; and presentations. 

Editing Is Key!

After you’ve put your résumé together, try to set it aside for a few hours or even days so that you can look at it more objectively. When revisiting it, engage the document critically:

•    Ask yourself if it is easy to read. 
•    Double-check that your résumé explicitly addresses each skill and qualification from the job description. 
•    Don’t expect the hiring committee to read between the lines to connect your experiences to its minimum qualifications. Revise, if necessary, to make the connection clear. The hiring committee will not spend time trying to identify the qualities it is looking for from your experiences—they need to be evident at a glance. 

Some Final Considerations 

•    If, like most job seekers, you are applying for multiple jobs, you may want to consider crafting a “master résumé,” which includes all your experiences, and then select the most relevant ones for each position. 
•    When tailoring your résumé for each job, use keywords from the job description to demonstrate the match. 
•    If you apply for a job with too many applicants for a human to possibly sort through in a timely way, the company may resort to using an applicant tracking system—software to aid in the hiring process used to collect and rank job applications—to sort qualified applicants based on algorithms that search for specific keywords in résumés. Thus, the skills you choose to highlight should always be based on their relevance to the position. 
•    It is important to keep in mind that although you may have obtained your skills through researching and teaching, if you are moving beyond academia you will need to demonstrate how the skills you gained while a graduate student are transferable to other contexts and will be an asset to your future employer.