Resumes, CVs, Cover Letters

A resume is a brief, informative summary of your abilities, education, and experience. It should highlight your strongest assets and differentiate you from other candidates.

Used most frequently by Ph.D. students, a CV (curriculum vitae) is also a summary of your experience and abilities, but a CV will include more credentials relevant to academia and research, such as publications, presentations, and references.

Your cover letter is a way to introduce yourself to organizations in a narrative form that will accompany your resume. Use your cover letter to describe your qualifications as well as your interest in both the job and organization so the employer will want to interview you. Since the primary purpose of a resume and cover letter is to “market” you, always keep the organization’s preferences in mind.


Download the video transcript (pdf).

Nonacademic

Once you decide to start exploring opportunities outside academe, you may need to recreate your CV as a resume. A resume is typically one page, and never more than two, though the length and content depend greatly on the job you seek.

To get started, take a look at our two resume and cover letter guides:

Watch the “How to Write a Resume” tutorial—while designed to target Harvard undergraduates, it is appropriate for graduate students, too.

Next, check out the calendar for resume and cover letter workshops and drop-in resume reviews. Consider joining the Job Search Boot Camp. If you cannot attend our group programs, consider meeting with an adviser to get feedback on your application materials.

Academic

It is never too early to begin putting together your CV, whether you plan to use it for applying to teaching fellow positions on campus, research opportunities, postdoctoral fellowships, or academic jobs. Be sure to keep an archival version (for your eyes only) that documents all details of everything you've done. Then, selectively include the most important and relevant information when you tailor your CV for a specific opportunity.

To get started:

Next, check out our calendar for our CV and cover letter workshops and drop-in CV reviews. If you cannot attend group programs, consider meeting with an adviser to get feedback on your application materials. Read and consult samples in The Academic Job Search Handbook, available at OCS and online through the Harvard library system.

Note that OCS advisers are generalists, working with all 50+ GSAS departments. It is always a good idea to have your CV reviewed by someone in your department, ideally by a junior faculty member or postdoctoral fellow who has been on the job market within the last several years and is up to date on current trends in your discipline.