Woman taking down notes in a diary

January 26, 2023, by pcxha8

How Many CVs Do I Need?

By Hiba Azim, Postgraduate Researcher

Are you about to graduate and not quite sure what to do next? Can’t decide between applying for a PhD or a graduate scheme? Why not both! It’s completely normal to not want to put all your eggs in one basket. But don’t make the grave mistake of applying to all your roles with the same CV. What does ‘tailoring your CV’ really mean?

In this blog, I’ll take you through my own CV(s) to show you how I tackled this.

‘Tailor your CV to the job description’

If I have one set of degree(s), work experience and hobbies, why do I need more than one CV? Well, I like to think of it as putting your recruiter hat on. What are the skills, qualifications, and behaviours of the perfect candidate? My ideal PhD candidate has some research experience in the subject area, experience in data analysis and shows the ability to learn new things quickly and effectively. On the other hand, my ideal graduate scheme candidate should have some work experience demonstrating their ability to work effectively in teams, bring curiosity and creativity to the role as well as skills to match the job description. For example, data analysis, problem-solving and numerical skills for a technical role and communication (written and oral), leadership and collaboration in non-technical roles.

I was in my final year of my MChem degree and was finishing up my research-based industrial placement. I couldn’t decide between applying for PhDs or STEM-based graduate schemes, so I thought, why not do both. Have a look at the difference between the way I describe my industrial placement on the two CVs:

My PhD CV key points:

1. Leading a project focused on the development and characterisation of effective anti-wear additives to improve engine efficiency, control emissions and define structure-activity-relationships.

2. Currently developing a method to facilitate the assessment of soot dispersancy ability of new candidates.

3. Trained on a number of tribological rigs and analytical methods to investigate mechanisms of wear in lubricated metal contacts.

4. Regular written and oral scientific communication through reports and site-wide presentations.

Key techniques used: Tribological rigs; Mini-traction-machine (MTM), High frequency reciprocating rig (HFRR), Elastohydrodynamic lubrication rig (EHL), Profilometry, NMR spectroscopy, Gel permeation chromatography (GPC), Drop-shape analyser (DSA), Phase analysis light scattering (PALS), UV-Vis.

The detail is important for PhD applications as it showcases your prior knowledge and experimental techniques. Each of the bullet points corresponds to activities that I have done which I would also be expected to complete during a PhD – ‘leading a project’, ‘method development’ and ‘analytical methods’.

My graduate scheme CV key points:

1. Developing and characterising effective anti-wear additives to improve engine efficiency. Trained on a number of tribological rigs and analytical methods to investigate mechanisms of wear in lubricated metal contacts.

In comparison, the graduate scheme description is much more succinct. For any graduate/entry-level role you can expect a significant amount of training to help you excel and as such, the specific details are often unnecessary. In this instance you need to highlight your experiences in terms of the way they have skilled you in preparation for your new role – no matter how unrelated you may think it is to the graduate scheme. As my industrial placement was a research-based one, and the topic was unrelated to the graduate scheme I was applying for, I kept the description short and related to skills that were applicable to industry, such as experience in hand-on experimental work and data analysis.

‘What about employment history?’

I’ve held a series of part-time jobs alongside my degree however, a long list of irrelevant employment history can give it a clunky and disorganised look. Instead, pick out specific jobs which are relevant. For a graduate scheme a variety of professional environments and skillsets can be a very attractive quality illustrating your ability to adapt and collaborate. On the other hand, for a PhD application you may want to focus on listing roles which are relevant to PhD related skills such as report writing, public speaking, programming, etc.

‘You need to understand what makes an ideal candidate and then showcase how you have those qualities.’

This is the crux of writing a good CV. For every single application you write you should be tweaking your original CV to make sure it aligns with the role you are applying for. This could mean describing an experience slightly differently, highlighting different hobbies or interests which are relevant or choosing to include or exclude certain sections – i.e. a ‘publications’ section is perfect for a PhD application but not so relevant for a non-research based graduate scheme.

If you struggle to put on your recruiter hat, why not book a CV appointment through MyCareer.

If you’re a postgraduate researcher, the Careers team have a dedicated website to help with your career planning or you can book an appointment with the PGR senior careers advisers. 

Posted in CVs and Cover LettersPhD StudentsPostgraduate Taught Students