Converting Your Sprawling CV into a Brief Resume
As you progress through the ranks in your career, your CV grows longer and longer. Publications, committees, administrative experience, associations, fellowships, and awards all accumulate onto an ever-growing behemoth of a document. This is as it should be.
On a campus quad, a tall CV stands like a towering obelisk, representing academic achievement and contribution to collective knowledge.
If, however, you plan to transition to an alternative academic (alt-ac) or non-academic job, it becomes necessary to chisel this monument into a finer relief. In other words, it’s time to translate your sprawling CV into a brief resume. Where to begin?
Tip 1: Review the Definitions of “CV” and “Resume”
When converting a CV into a resume, it’s helpful to understand some underlying parameters of the genres. A curriculum vitae, or CV, translates from Latin as “The Course of One’s Life” or “Life’s Work.”
The CV genre invites writers to encompass their entire academic life on paper. And encompass they do. I’ve seen CVs last anywhere from 2–36 pages.
The main categories that a CV covers may include Name and Contact Information, Education, Research Interests, Research Projects, Teaching Experience, Administrative Experience, Leadership/Committees, Presentations, Publications, Awards/Honors, Professional Affiliations, Grants, and References.
A résumé, on the other hand, translates from French as a “summary.” In that sense, the resume is a brief encapsulation of the professional’s relevant work experiences.
Typically, those with 1–10 years of experience present the resume in a 1 page format, while those with 10+ years of experience may occupy 2 pages.
The most recent experiences typically land first and accumulate the most space. The older experiences may have one or two bullets.
The primary categories in a resume are Name and Contact Information, Summary, Skills, Professional Experience, Awards, and Education/Certifications.
What do those cursory definitions tell us? When converting a CV into a resume, only select the most recent and relevant experiences that help make a case for why you are an excellent candidate for the role.
A hiring manager typically takes 6.25 seconds to review a resume, which means that the document needs to be easily perused. Hiring managers simply won’t sift through pages of committee assignments to find this relevant information. If your resume doesn’t quickly impress, it will land in the rejection pile.
Tip 2: Condense the Categories
When converting a lengthy CV into a 2-page resume, cutting is essential. The question is: What to cut? While there is not one right way to convert your CV into a resume, some CV categories may be riper candidates for culling than others.
Some of the first categories to exit the resume may be the Committees, Research Interests, Presentations, Grants, and Fellowships. References also make easy fodder for the chopping block since checking references typically comes later in the corporate hiring process, if at all.
Your teaching roles might be moved lower on the resume and listed in shorthand with an overview of years taught, course titles, and average evaluation scores all bunched into one job heading (Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, etc.). Then, any grants and presentations can be folded into an overarching job heading about your role as a professor.
Here’s a sample of how that condensed job experience might look:
English Department, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA, Charlottesville, VA 2010 – Present
Full Professor (2023–Present)
Associate Professor (2013–2020)
Assistant Professor (2010–2013)
- Led 2–5 undergraduate and graduate courses/semester on Modernism, Gender in Literature, and Transatlantic literature.
- Planned and implemented lessons and assignments for 20–30 undergraduate students/class, receiving an average of 4.85/5.00 on teacher evaluations.
- Applied a flipped-classroom model to engage student interest and participation.
- Orchestrated the department’s first internal graduate conference that attracted 76 presenters from across the US.
- Served proactively on search, recruitment, and core leadership committees, managing the recruitment of 200 graduate students and 10 new professors.
- Presented leading-edge research at 53 national conferences, including MLA.
- Received $1.2 million collaborative grant from NEH to conduct archival research.
- Published 3 widely assigned academic monographs and 23 articles in peer reviewed journals.
- Chaired 13 thesis and dissertation committees, facilitating the graduation of 6 PhDs.
You can see how this job candidate intermingled content from the presentations, teaching experience, committees, grants, and publications sections under a single job heading. Using this succinct format allows the candidate to cut entire sections from the CV to reach the 2-page limit.
Moreover, the candidate emphasizes the skills of leadership, planning, project management, and fundraising, which can be applied to other fields.
Tip 3: Customize the Content
Customization is key to demonstrating your aptitude for a particular role. You can use the job description of the position you are seeking as a rubric for determining whether and where to place a particular experience on the resume.
If the position you are seeking is research heavy, include your research projects at the top of the resume. If a position is grant heavy, list the dollar-value of the grants you received as one of the first bullets under a job header.
If you are moving from a teaching job to an administrative role outside the academy, you might foreground any administrative or professional experience.
Publications also require customization. Depending on the field you are entering, your publications may be relevant, and they may not be. Publications could be relevant for thought leadership positions, or positions in the publishing industry.
To reach the 2-page limit, you can start by shortening the publication titles from perfectly cited MLA, APA, or CMS formatting to a linked publication name. You can also categorize all publications together rather than separating books from peer reviewed journals and popular magazines.
Including some publications can demonstrate your thought leadership in the field. But if space is limited, you can present “Selected Publications” rather than the full list.
As a rule, tailor the resume to match the particular job that interests you.
Tip 4: Add a Summary Section to Your Resume
Career transitions can confuse hiring managers. Use a summary (not an objective) section to overtly identify the skills from your academic career that will transfer to the new position. Your high-level analysis, research, thought leadership, subject matter expertise, and writing skills will undoubtedly be useful as you stride into new sectors.
How specifically you describe your area of research depends, again, on the job. While specificity could be beneficial if your target employer is seeking a narrow research focus, if you’re moving into a broader research role, match the level of detail in the job description. Here’s one example of one such summary:
Expert-level social change leader with 15 years of research, teaching, and administrative experience in early childhood education. Transitioning to nonprofit Executive Director role based on strong record of executive leadership as departmental chair, primary research in youth development, and success at soliciting federal grant awards. Applying a mixed methodology to advance the mission of youth health equity.
In this summary, the candidate explicitly identifies the aspects of their career that apply to the new role, such as leadership, administrative experience, and grant solicitation. The summary also provides a nice synopsis of where the applicant falls in their career (15 years of experience).
TIP 5: Infuse the Resume with a Sense of Style
Besides length, another key difference between a CV and resume is formatting.
CVs tend to have minimal formatting with basic headers in black ink, neat borders differentiating the text, and a classic Times New Roman font. The uniform formatting of a CV is designed to draw attention not to your style but to your substance.
The resume, depending on your field, can have a bit more style because you may need to prove, through your formatting, that you are creative, bold, and original.
If you’re entering the marketing or publishing sector, you might distinguish yourself from the pack by using a pop of color in the headers or formatting the resume in an eye-catching way to lift your chances of gaining attention.
Keep in mind that applicant tracking systems (ATS) do have some preferred styles and fonts. Since 90% of large employers use ATS, it’s wise to use the fonts they prefer, such as Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial.
Need Some Assistance?
Converting your CV into a resume involves cutting and condensing your relevant accomplishments into a customized, summarized, and stylized presentation. Applying these tips can help any job candidate pare a lengthy bank of job accomplishments into a readable summary.
If you need further guidance on what content to keep, what to cut, and how to present the content in a quick and catchy format, enlist one of the Certified Professional Resume Writers at Red Pen Wench for help. Our staff includes PhDs with experience that straddle the academic and professional sectors. Our writers apply knowledge across both industries to craft customized career content that both attracts attention and accurately reflects your esteemed accomplishments.
-Dena Marks, PhD, CPRW, Head Resume Writer at Red Pen Wench