Postdoc positions within the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, like many other jobs, have taken a hit with the latest budget news. The option to extend USDA postdocs past their two-year appointments is no longer available—at least for now. So, as I draw near the end of my second year, I have begun browsing potential job opportunities.
Last week I attended a career fair held during the annual American Society of Plant Biologists meeting where there was one company that I found very interesting. (In my previous job hunts, I had ruled out working for industry, believing that my personality was not a good mesh with that line of work. However, after attending the 2011 Postdoc Conference and hearing many talks based on industry work, I realized that I have certain skills which may work very well in industry. In my mind I had “closed the door” on the private sector too early, so I decided to “reopen that door.”)
So there I was at this career fair, discussing job opportunities with a senior recruiter for a well-established company. In the middle of our conversation, the recruiter asked for my curriculum vitae (c.v.). I hesitated. Everything that I had been taught up to this point was that companies prefer 1 to 2 page resumes that showcase the non-science skill sets (science skill sets are assumed based on the advanced degree), and that c.v.’s were only for government and academia jobs.
“Do you want my resume or c.v.?” I casually asked as I opened my binder that contained a copy of each. He repeated “c.v.”. I handed him a copy and left glad that I had come prepared with both documents.
So what’s the deal? When is a resume more appropriate than a c.v. and vice versa? This is what I have deduced which may or may not be correct. If I am applying for a research position within a company (the job ad may have a technical title like “plant molecular biologist” then a c.v. may be more relevant. My exact lab skill sets are likely to be more highly valued than my non-lab skills, and the c.v. can relay that information well.
When applying for a manager or analytical position within a company, a 1 to 2 page resume seems most appropriate. The hiring teams for these types of positions assume that you have a grasp of scientific techniques—otherwise you would not have an advanced degree—so highlighting scholarly publications and specific lab skills may not be necessary. These groups want to see qualities that can set you apart from other applicants– like oral and written communication skills as well as the ability to work in a team with others from different disciplines.
After all of this, my advice is to have both a c.v. and a resume prepared when job hunting at a career fair and, if you have the opportunity, ask before submitting either document. It’s better to know which of your skills to showcase instead of highlighting the attributes that may not be so important for the job opening. Having both my c.v. and resume printed and ready to hand out worked well for the career fair. I ended up scoring a phone interview with the company after submitting my c.v. … ….We’ll see how that goes.