October 26, 2023

The majority of graduate students across the UW are preparing for non-academic careers, while some are aiming for postdoctoral fellowships or professorships at higher education institutions. Regardless of where you are in your graduate school trajectory, understanding the basics of drafting a resume will be helpful as you begin to explore a range of potential career paths. Below are just a few strategies that we have curated.

Resume versus CV. In the United States, the words “resume” and “curriculum vitae (CV)” are not synonymous. These are unique documents – a resume is simply not a mini-CV. A resume is a 1 – 2 page, concise document created for applying to a specific job in industry, non-profit, public sector or non-faculty positions in higher ed. Resumes are tailored to the specific job to which you’re applying. An employer should be able to quickly scan an applicant’s resume for relevant skills, work history and certifications. Recruiters and hiring managers spend an average ~15 seconds initially reviewing a resume – your job is to get them to dig deeper to learn more about you! A CV is a comprehensive overview of one’s academic qualifications, research, publications, teaching and awards; a CV is required when applying to postdoctoral or faculty positions or research grants. Individuals who are working towards, or have earned, a Ph.D. will have all the necessary components of a CV. However, if you are not applying for a fellowship, academic position, or a grant, be sure to submit a resume.

The resume draft. If you are starting a new resume draft or updating an old one, you can always start with a simple template. You can find several free templates here. To convert your CV to a resume, check out this video from the University of Pennsylvania. The UW Seattle Career & Internship Center recommends the following resume format:
  • One page (2 pages for individuals with extensive professional experience)
  • 10 – 12 size serif font
  • Page margins between ¾ and 1 inch
  • Use white space on your resume, so it doesn’t look crammed with too much text
The general sections of a resume include contact information, summary of qualifications/professional objective (especially if you’re just beginning or changing careers), work experience, skills and education. Below are examples from across disciplines.
The CV draft. CV format varies by field. We encourage you to talk with your mentors and obtain relevant examples. As stated above, the CV is a complete recording of all of your educational training, your publications, your presentations, your patents, a list of your trainees, a list of the courses you taught, etc. There is no limit to the length of a CV, as the longer your career, the more specific items you’ll add. Importantly, we encourage you to regularly update your CV so you don’t forget to add anything!
  • CV format, general guidelines from the UW Career & Internship Center
  • CV format for faculty in the UW School of Medicine
Showcasing your skills. In your resume, include only the skills and experiences that are relevant to each job you are applying to. These skills can be technical and transferable skills (also hard and soft skills). You can highlight relevant skills in the summary of qualifications, work experience and the aptly-named skills sections. Also, use action verbs when describing your job, practicum, or internship experiences. Finally, it is helpful to network with professionals whose careers pique your interest. During informational interviews, you can ask questions about what made their resumes stand out to their employers. In the process of doing informational interviews with professionals, you can also increase your network and possibly learn about future career opportunities. More resources:
Tailor each version. Whether you are working on the work history or skills section of your resume, be sure to tailor each draft for every job you’ll be applying to – and qualified for (read these tips to know whether or not you’re qualified to apply for a new job). Read each job description and make note of the keywords and phrases being used – sometimes these words are used repeatedly in the job listing. In your work experience or skills section, use the same phrases from the job description that match your work experience and skills.

Additional resources:
  • Schedule an appointment to talk about your resume or CV with a career coach at your UW BothellSeattle, or Tacoma career center. Or check out your career center’s website to see when specific workshops are being offered.
  • LinkedIn Learning for content on resumes and more (free to all UW students)
  • Free career resources for graduate students – UW Seattle Career & Internship Center.
  • Resume Writing Basics Workshop, Oct. 30 – UW Seattle
We hope you find these tips helpful and let us know what has worked for you.


UW Graduate School