How Do You Make a “Short” CV?

Today’s post is a simple one, responding to many queries:  How do you make a “short CV”?

A short, or two-page, CV is often required for grant applications and the like.  The point here is to sketch the main highlights of your record without excessive or repetitious detail.

You must make a number of adjustments to your full-length CV in terms of content and formatting.  Do NOT try to game the system by going to a 10 point font and .5” margins.  The margins must remain 1 inch (OK, maybe .75″), and the font  11 at minimum (and whether or not you can get away with 11 depends on which font you use, since 11 in Garamond is one thing, and 11 in Bookman Old Style is something entirely different).

Your name and address at the top will of course remain.  For those of you who use the words “curriculum vitae” above or below your name:  this is a time when you can consider removing them.  The date, for those who include it, can also be removed.

Remove most extra white space on the page.  Leave a single blank line above each new heading and subheading, but otherwise, remove most blank lines.

Next, be sure that each heading contains only major highlights.  Under Education, you’ll list just your 3 major degrees (BA, MA, PH.D.) with no extra training or schooling thrown in.  Under Academic Appointments, list only the major appointments, and only for the last decade.  Under Publications, if you have many, limit to high status publications (books, refereed journal articles, book chapters), and remove things like book reviews or (except for particular fields) conference proceedings.   Under Grants, list the large and important ones only.  Conferences need not extend back further than about 5-8 years.  Follow each heading in which you have done such editing with the word “(selected).”

Keep publication subheadings to the extent that you can, at least to distinguish books vs. articles and chapters.

Focus on hard outcomes, not ongoing projects.  “Research” should be included only if it is specific grant-funded lab or field research; otherwise, research must be represented on the CV entirely by your lists of publications and grants.

The headings that are critical for the short CV are:

  • Education
  • Professional Appointments
  • Publications
  • Grants
  • Awards and Honors
  • Conferences
  • Invited Talks
  • Languages (if these are relevant to your scholarly identity; if not, skip)

Headings to almost certainly jettison include:

  • Research Interests
  • Teaching Interests
  • Dissertation summary
  • Service
  • Outreach
  • Non-Academic Work
  • Related Professional Skills
  • References

Headings that should be considered carefully depending on the grant:

  • Teaching Experience
  • Professional Affiliations

Short CVs typically are requested as part of research-oriented fellowship applications, and the role of teaching in these fellowships varies.  Some fellowships include a major teaching element; some include very little.  The specific fellowship requirements will dictate whether or not to include any mention of teaching on the short CV.  As with all other headings, it will likely be truncated—a brief list of courses by title, rather than a term-by-term record of specific teaching assignments.

You will have to fiddle with your formatting and spacing to achieve a good outcome in the short CV.  Again, it must always be in visible/legible font, with reasonable margins. Abundant white space, however, that you would want to keep in the full-length CV, can be removed.   It is understood that all or most headings will be “selected.”  Prioritize your highest status achievements, and the more recent ones.  Beware of any excess verbiage, and any elements that deviate from the strictly academic/scholarly.

If I’ve missed anything, please ask in the comments.

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How Do You Make a “Short” CV? — 17 Comments

  1. Well, actually, I would advise to check what the grant agency wants on this short CV and what their format is (some agencies even specify font size, margins, etc. and provide a word template). For example, just yesterday I submitted a proposal that required a 2-page CV, but *without* a list of my publications. There was a separate section in the proposal for publications, which didn’t have a page limit. So it varies and one should first check the specific agency rules for what is required.

  2. I am applying for a CFP that requires a short CV as well; I’m a graduate student, so my CV is already only two pages long. Do you think it still needs to be pared down, or am I overthinking this?

  3. Thank you Karen, this is very timely for me. I am now supposed to write a one-page cv to be sent together with a paper proposal (for a conference) which is tricky. For education, I only included the institution where I got PhD, included current appointment, then selected publications which are thematically relevant to the conf. topic, conference activity from last two years, and awards and grants. I wonder whether I should keep the awards / grants category at all – maybe I should just add more conference activity, or include all publications? I guess I am not sure what is the purpose of the cv in this case, I have never included cv when submitting an abstract for a conference.

  4. Contrary to the 2 child rearing scenarios you paint (race/gender post), I paused for 8 years to have kids (3) after my first degree. In that time I did a couple year long projects related to my current studies and I was a director on 2 boards. Now I’m doing my phd at Oxford with the whole fam in tow (now in Africa). I seem to score good marks on my scholarship applications for grades, refs and proposal but I suffer for the lack of reviewed publications (1) and conferences, etc. on my CV. Any tips on how to present myself or the gap?

  5. Hello Karen,
    I am applying for Masters (civil engineering) in Canadian Universities like McGill, Unv of Calgary. Since these universities are research oriented and require a student to write a letter of prof, I have made a 1 page CV to be sent attached in the mails to prof.
    1. I have included references. Do you think even in my case it will jettison chances of getting positive responses?
    2. I dont have any publications, conferences, relevant awards & honours to add except relevant work ex. Do you still think I can be considered by profs?
    Venkatesh M D

  6. Hi Karen,

    Thank you for the wonderful suggestions. I plan to apply for MS in Petroleum Engineering for Fall 2014. I have about five years work experience with an Oil Major. When it comes to shortening of CV I have a typical problem. Personally, I am a super vibrant person who has done everything possible in five years. Diverse work experience, publications, awards, scholarships, conferences, invited lectures, initiatives etc and when it comes to shortening of the CV, I tend to get attached with all my work and hardly remove them. My CV is about five pages now. What do I do if I want to list them all? Moreover, all my work is recent work or I am afraid, are very important for graduate school consideration. What do you suggest?



    • Unless the MS program is very competitive, I would not worry too much.

      At the same time, I believe that the applicant should show that she is able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

  7. I have been advised for any generic resume to omit the dates of my degrees – it’s aging me, apparently.
    Should I omit the dates of my degrees on my academic cv? It’s been a long time since grad school.

  8. Thanks prof. Karen to publish it, it’s very helpful since i don’t have any experiences.
    I’am a fresh undergraduate school, so i don’t have any conferences, awards, or honours, i just have some publications, and its not for international one. But i have been working on related major to the professor, so is it possible to me to write cv? And if you have some advices to me, could you tell me what i have to do?
    Thanks for your time to consider it :).

  9. Dear Karen
    I appreciate the time you took Crete this guide. One small suggestion: I do think that diversity/equity work is an important category and also that we need to train departments and institutions to value service and outreach. The advice that they don’t count sends the wrong message.

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