UW Radiology

Curating your CV – Dr. Paul Kinahan

One of the uplifting aspects of being a member of a promotions committee is reviewing a clearly written CV (curriculum vitae, Latin for “course of life”) by a faculty member who is accomplished and on track for promotion. Such a CV makes it easy to be an advocate for the candidate’s promotion, and to be equipped with facts to back up my advocacy. Promotion is a major step in your career where your CV is the central review item. In addition, CVs are used as the basis for nominations for academic awards and other job opportunities.

Conversely, a poorly curated or incomplete CV is at best disappointing to review, and potentially harmful to the applicant’s prospects for promotion. A diligent promotions committee member will turn to secondary sources to build up a complete picture of the candidate’s accomplishments and trajectory. However, if the promotions committee member lacks the time or patience for this, the picture will be incomplete. In either case such a CV would start your review off on the wrong foot.

Despite the importance of maintaining a CV properly, many faculty treat their CV as low-priority or as an afterthought. In addition, many mentors, supervisors, and section heads let poorly curated or incomplete CVs pass through when they recommend a faculty member in their unit for promotion. Such CVs are always remarked on in review. This won’t necessarily lower your chances for promotion given the diligence of committee members, but if you’ve put considerable effort into your career and accomplishments, please carve out (or add) the 0.19% annual effort to be sure you are presenting the most accurate picture of your academic self.

There is much advice available on how to write your CV, and the UW School of Medicine provides a good starting template. I provide a few tips below as well. However, the main point of this article is to emphasize that it is in your best interests to continually ‘curate’ your CV.

Curate (the verb form, not the noun, although it may feel like that at times) is to “select, organize, and present using professional or expert knowledge.” In other words, keeping your CV up to date, accurate, and in a well-organized manner. Ways to achieve this are:

1.      Add information as it occurs. This includes local and national service, publications, conference presentations, abstracts, patents, book chapters, other media, grants, awards, appointments, courses taught, mentees, invited presentations, grant and paper reviewing, and ‘other’ relevant information (I’ll come back to this last point in the Tips below). This helps provide a complete picture of your academic career to date.

2.      When you add new information, check that you are adding it in a logical format that is consistent with rest of your CV. This helps the reviewer build an accurate picture of your academic career to date.

3.      When you add new information, also check that it is consistent with previously entered information. Correct or update existing information as needed. An example is a previous publication that was available online only and now has page numbers. Committee service may have ended, and the dates should be so noted. Additionally, mistakes occur and may persist for years if not weeded out. Removing these small errors or inconsistencies gives the reviewer a sense of confidence in their understanding of your academic career to date. All diligent reviewers (most are) notice these small errors or inconsistencies.

How often should you do this curation? After all, we need time to do our work, not just document it. At a minimum twice a year and I’d guesstimate 4 to 6 hours per year are a minimum requirement. Once a year is just not sufficient. For me, a review of my own CV is often triggered by the need to catch up after a conference with multiple presentations where I’m a co-author, or new peer-reviewed publications or grants. Since I write (too) many grant applications, I have to be sure my information is up to date and I use my CV as a source for this information.

Assistant Professors should review their CV several times in the year they are being considered for promotion. In addition they should ask for it to be carefully (not cursorily) reviewed by an experienced faculty member. This could be their section head and/or a member of the promotions committee. My experience working with mentees is that it takes at least two discussions to be sure all relevant contributions are included and 2-3 iterations of writing.

One last note is to re-iterate that a well-curated CV provides an easy to understand and accurate picture of your academic accomplishments to date, as well as your trajectory. This will be used for assessing your suitability for promotion, but also for consideration for awards and other job positions. You can also use it as a up-to-date resource for many times you have to provide information, such as grant applications, the annual ePAR form, and others.

I hope I’ve provided the motivation and some tools for curating your CV. Below I provide some Tips for Curating your CV. There is also a wealth of information available in online guides. If you use these resources keep in mind the context that there are variations between disciplines and countries. Within North American and most European academic radiology departments, however, the general format is very consistent.


Tips for Curating your CV

1.      Do not ask your administrative assistant to maintain your CV. The curation requires expert knowledge, and you are the expert. I also think it is unfair to ask your administrative assistant to maintain your CV, but others may differ on that point. In any event, UW Academic Human Resources states “You are responsible for ensuring that all details on the CV are current and accurate”

2.      Have an advisor, counselor, or mentor review and proofread your CV. This person should be someone in your field who understands the expectations of the job or academic positions in your field. They may be able to give you advice on specific content and formatting.

3.      An academic CV is not intended to describe you as a whole person, but rather to describe your qualifications and accomplishments as an academic. The assumption is that of course you lead an ordinary human life (with hobbies, friends, family, religious beliefs, or the lack thereof, etc.), but the people reading your CV are not trying to evaluate you as a human being and aren’t interested in reading about the rest of your life.

4.      Maintain your publication lists using bibliography software (I use Bookends on my Mac, but Endnote for PC and Mac has improved a lot the last decade). It is about the same amount of work to enter new information (and sometimes much faster) and makes it much easier to update your CV and keep everything in a consistent format.

5.      The UW School of Medicine template is the place to start with your CV. However, ALL academic contributions should be included in your CV. It is in your best interests after all. If there is no obvious place for ‘other’ information, you can be a bit creative on where to include it. If you do this, however, be sure to have this modification reviewed for appropriateness by one or more experienced faculty members before submitting your CV. In a related aspect, include non-academic accomplishments only if relevant to your academic qualifications.

6.      CVs should always be submitted as a PDF. I.e. not in an editable form like a Word document.

7.      Signatures should not be used on a CV. It sends the wrong message.

8.      CVs should be dated.

9.      CVs should not have a photo of you, or any graphical content.

10.  CVs should not contain any narrative verbiage. This is not a resume.

11.  Do not include references. If needed that would be a separate document.

BTW – if you are sending a document listing References, give their name and full title. Do not refer to references as “Dr. xxx,” or “Professor xxx.”. Give their full snail mail contact information along with telephone number and email address, even though we know nobody is going to use the snail mail address. Do not give narrative verbiage or explanation of these references (ie, “Ph.D. Committee member,” etc.). The only exception is a reference that may be identified as “Teaching Reference.”

12.  CVs should follow general rules of typography best practices:

  • Only use one font.
  • Use minimal emphasis (bolded, italics, underline, all caps) and NEVER two levels of emphasis (e.g. never format text to be both bolded and underlined).
  • Use only one space after a period.
  • Use a level of information density that enables rapid and accurate comprehension by the reader, i.e. concise, ordered, consistently formatted, and complete.
  • Use logical patterns that are consistently followed. I.e., whichever date ordering scheme is used, stick with it throughout.

13.  Do not use any of the following stylistic affectations. The goal is that your CV should adhere to the standard format.

  • No bullet points at all, ever, under any circumstances. This is not a resume.
  • No “box” or column formatting of any kind.
  • Do not use full/right justification any element
  • No “XXXX, cont’d” headings.
  • Do not title the document “Curriculum vitae”. There is no other document that can be confused with an academic CV if properly written.
  • Do not include personal information other than home address and (perhaps) contact information.
  • Do not include any undergraduate content, other than listing your BA degree under Education.
  • Do not include career goals. This is not a resume.