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Making the Best Use of Your CV

By Corporate Relations and Business Strategy Staff

While an effective, up-to-date curriculum vitae (CV) is clearly required when beginning a job search or transitioning into new areas of practice, keeping your CV current also enables you to monitor your career development and evaluate your progress toward professional goals.

The CV is our profession’s version of the business world’s resume. It provides a summary of your academic and employment history and professional activities and organizes them into a few easy-to-navigate categories. Employers will typically ask for a copy of your CV when you apply for a job and will often get to know you on paper before you even have an opportunity to meet them in person. Therefore, creating an effective CV is an important part of the job interview process.

This article outlines how you can continue to develop an effective CV over the course of your career and tailor it to specific professional opportunities.

The Course of Your Life

In Latin, “curriculum vitae” means “the course of your life.” This translation provides guidance, as your CV should outline the complete history of your professional life, including your education, training, work experience and other professional activities.

It is best to create a “running” CV that includes a comprehensive list of all your professional activities. Keeping a “running” CV will also help you track your areas of strength, as well as point out areas in need of development. For example, you may realize that you have strongly developed your clinical skills in therapy and assessment, but have not been very active in professional organizations or published anything in a few years. Periodically comparing your “running” CV to your mission statement is an excellent way to assess your progress toward career goals and make course corrections to help you stay on track.

When applying for a job, however, it is important to market yourself to the particular employer via the information included and highlighted in your CV. You can accomplish this by editing your “running” CV to create a specific, “targeted” CV that is tailored to a particular position. Below are some examples of various types of positions and the areas you might want to highlight when creating a “targeted” CV.

Outpatient Therapist in a Group Practice

  • Individual, couples and group therapy with various populations 

  • Psychological assessment, including diagnostic, personality and intellectual functioning 

  • Supervisory experience 

  • Case management 

  • Treatment planning 

  • Areas of business expertise (e.g., marketing, networking, quality improvement, familiarity with community resources)

Business Consultant or Executive Coach with a Consulting Firm

  • Coaching, therapy, or career counseling and development with clients that have similar characteristics to the population the firm serves 

  • Experience and education related to organizational culture and diversity issues 

  • Organizational and executive assessment and consultation 

  • Public speaking and presentations 

  • Experience working with groups or teams 

  • Familiarity with business processes 

  • Strengths-based work related to enhancing individual and organizational performance

College Counseling Center

  • Therapy (time-limited and long-term) with adolescents and young adults 

  • Supervisory experience 

  • Academic and career counseling 

  • IQ and achievement testing 

  • Public speaking, community presentations and teaching experience 

  • Treatment of issues including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, relationship issues, stress and change management and experience working with multicultural clients 

  • Diagnostic skills and treatment planning

Inpatient Hospital

  • Diagnostic skills 

  • Psychological assessment and case formulation 

  • Treatment planning 

  • Group therapy 

  • Inpatient experience 

  • Training or experience related to chronic and serious mental illness 

  • Experience working as part of a multidisciplinary treatment team

Health Care Administrator

  • Supervisory or management experience 

  • Education and/or experience in business 

  • Computer skills 

  • Program development and evaluation 

  • Budget and financial responsibilities 

  • Experience interfacing with health care systems, payers and funding sources 

  • Successful negotiation of complex political environments 

  • Service on boards or committees

Format

The most important aspects in terms of formatting your CV are to convey a professional image and to make the CV user-friendly. The structure and formatting of your CV should easily guide the reader through your background, experience and strengths and paint a clear picture of who you are professionally. Listed below are the general areas you should include in a CV that is targeted for a practice-based position.

General Content Areas

  • Personal data and contact information. Name, address, telephone, fax, e-mail, website, licenses and certifications held.

  • Educational history (going back to your undergraduate education). Degree, major, educational institution and location, date of graduation, special concentrations or relevant academic honors.

  • Honors and awards. Most relevant and prestigious only. 

  • Professional positions. if you have an extensive and diverse work history, consider breaking this section into subcategories (e.g., clinical experience, research experience, teaching experience). 

  • Professional activities. Volunteer leadership positions held, committees served on and community involvement related to your professional work.

  • Affiliations. List your memberships in professional associations, such as APA, your state, provincial, or territorial psychological association, divisions, and other relevant organizations. 

  • Presentations

  • Publications

Other Formatting Considerations

  • Put the month and year in the top right-hand corner of the CV. 

  • The information in each section should appear in chronological order, beginning with your current or most recent position. 

  • All headings should be in boldface type. 

  • Use black ink and an easy-to-read, 12-point font, such as Times New Roman or Arial. 

  • Print your CV on high-grade resume paper. 

  • Use a consistent format throughout your CV. 

  • Keep two or three updated references (usually former employers, supervisors or colleagues who are familiar with your work) on your “running” CV. In many cases, when you are putting together a “targeted” CV, you can omit these references and include the statement, “References available upon request.” Be sure that your references know they are on your list and touch base with them before submitting their names along with a job application.

Tone

Your CV should be concise, accurate and positive in tone. For each clinical position you describe, list the title of the position, the employer, the employer’s location, the dates you held the position, and your job duties and responsibilities. If a position was not full time or you worked closely with a notable supervisor, you may want to include this information as well. In describing your duties, succinctly highlight your experiences, particularly those that are relevant to the job you are seeking. Don’t be modest when describing your experience and accomplishments, but be careful not to exaggerate or be misleading.

Adding and Deleting Content

Remember less is sometimes more. Omit sections that do not apply to you (e.g., presentations, publications, or teaching experience if you do not have any). Also, coursework, grade point average, basic research skills and computer proficiencies should generally be omitted from a CV, as a basic level of competency in these areas is assumed with your doctoral degree. Although graduate students and early career psychologists should highlight the breadth and depth of experience they have accumulated, more established practitioners should generally omit items such as practicum rotations and other experiences gained during their education and training.

However, when applying for a job that requires highly specialized skills (e.g., research design and data analysis requiring experience with advanced statistical packages, conducting neuropsychological assessments, or using biofeedback equipment), including a section that lists specific skills and proficiencies can be beneficial.

The Cover Letter

After constructing a “targeted” CV for a particular position, use that information to craft a cover letter that highlights the knowledge, skills and abilities most relevant to your targeted position. A cover letter is an effective way to grab the reader’s attention. In addition to providing a brief introduction, it allows you to comment on works in progress that may not be appropriate for the CV, but would be relevant to your position (e.g., a program you are currently developing or a research study or article in progress).

A Fresh Set of Eyes

As a final step before submitting your cover letter and CV to a prospective employer, be sure to edit your materials carefully and thoroughly. Allow yourself enough time to work on a draft and then come back to it a day or two later. It is also helpful to have a trusted colleague, friend or family member review your work for spelling, grammar and general phrasing. 

 

Date created: 2005