I'm going to email a potential supervisor for a PhD opportunity in aerospace engineering (astrodynamics curriculum) for introducing myself and getting more information about the PhD. I would like attaching my CV to the email, but I have some doubts about its formatting. After some online research, I'm realizing that I need to do some cleaning and remove some graphics from it. By looking at the attached photos, you can notice that the following graphical elements are present:

  • sections icons,
  • company/university/school/publications/academic projects logos,
  • software/certificates logos.

[EDIT] Some clarifications:

  • "The QR code on the top right" can be used to get an updated version of my CV without me having to send it every time (I removed the link before posting the question).
  • "The QR code for saving contact info" can be used to save my contact info on the smartphone by few taps.
  • "Areas of interest": Should I replace with "research interests"? I want to use some keywords to show my favourite academic topics.



My questions are:

  1. May I insert theses (B.Sc. but mainly M.Sc.) supervisors or references section (or both)?
  2. What about graphical elements? May I maintain something or remove it at all?
  3. Do you have other tips?

[EDIT] P.s. The opportunity is at a Spanish university, but I could also request information about a UK PhD call.

  • 1
    Lose all high school items. Commented Aug 21, 2023 at 23:51
  • 3
    Instead of just listing skills, create a section of project experiences showing how you used those skills. It's much more compelling. Commented Aug 21, 2023 at 23:52

3 Answers 3


Alright, as Buffy has said this will necessarily involve a significant degree of opinion.

Background: I'm a mathematician working at a German university and have worked for 1.5 years in an engineering job in a German automotive company (where I was involved in a number of job interviews).

The following might depend both on the culture of the field and on the culture of the country. But is it likely applicable in STEM fields throughout Germany and probably in a number of other countries in Europe.

Summary. I've seen this kind of CV format multiple times both in academia and in industry. Sorry for being so blunt, but I find the entire format utterly annoying.

Drawbacks of the format. I hope you won't feel offended if I my language is somewhat pointed in the following comments. It is not my intention to be rude, but rather to give you an impression of the reaction that such a CV my lead to, at least for some people. (And again, this will likely be very culture-dependent; if you apply in a country which is culturally very different from Germany, it's probably best to completely ignore my answer.)

  • The two-dimensional format (i.e., having information on the left and on the right) is quite messy. It's completely unclear (at least to me) which information goes to the left and which goes to the right. This makes it much more difficult to navigate the CV and quickly find things.

    I'd strongly suggest to simply write things from the top to the bottom.

  • The graphics and symbols. They don't make it easier to navigate the CV, in particular because their meaning is not 100% clear at first sight. So they add clutter without adding value. Everything that adds clutter but doesn't add value should be removed.

  • Too many colours (again, the clutter vs. value thing). I you want to use colour for aesthetic reasons - why not. Then I'd suggest to use one color in addition to black. Nothing more.

  • What's the purpose of the QR code on the top right? From looking at the CV I can't even say what is going to happen if I'll scan it.

  • What's the purpose of the "QR code for saving contact info" on the left? You're applying for a PhD position. Who is going to use this QR code in which situation and to which purpose? Again, adds clutter instead of value - and causes the slightly annoying feeling that somebody strongly wants to use a "modern" gadget, without considering the value of that gadget for the specific situation.

  • "Areas of interest" - what are you going to put there? I mean, you just got your degree. Any specialization you might have will probably clearly show in your transcript of record. If you want to somehow stress or explain your interest, it might be better to do it in plain text - maybe in the cover letter (or whatever text you are required or allowed to submit).

  • A list of buzzwords to describe your "Softskills and strengths"? Don't. Just don't.

  • "About me". This is my personal favourite. I've seen such a brief paragraph where people try to put a "catch phrase" or something similar in a number of CVs. Not a single time has such a paragraph contained anything that I found useful. If it has ever drawn my attention, then only to the fact that the applicant doesn't understand yet that this is a bad idea.

  • "Aerospace engineer" in line three of the header. You're applying for a PhD position in aerospace engineering. Whoever reads this application will assume that you have a related background and will look up the details in the education section. Having the word "aerospace engineer" in the title doesn't add value (but, you guess it, clutter).

  • "Hobbies and interests". Well, I don't know. It might be a nice list to put there if it contains something extraordinary (might still not be important, but might for instance make a good start for a bit of small talk at the beginning of an interview or something). I'd recommend against putting things such as "reading" or "watching movies" there. Everybody reads and watches movies (except for those who don't).

  • "Certificates": Do the Matlab certificates mentioned there refer to those online courses that MathWorks offers about every topic one could think of? Well, I've seen some experienced Matlab users cringe a bit about mentioning those in a CV, but it might depend a bit on the person who reads the CV. Anway, probably not a big deal in any direction.

  • In contrast to Buffy and to Jon Custer's comment, I find some of the information on page two quite useful. It's nice to know which programming languages you know (but I'd recommend to only put LaTeX there if you indeed have some serious experience with programming in LaTeX rather than just using it as a mark-up language; in the latter case it might be more appropriate to list it in the section "IT skills"). In fact, I'm currently mainly (though not exclusively) working on more theoretical topics in math, but if someone is interested in doing a PhD with me, I still find this information useful for various reasons.

    One issue is, of course, that the "skill level" as it is written in the CV is completely subjective. But it still contains some information, in particular as I can compare the levels that you put there for different languages and as I could discuss the matter with you in an interview (in case that I'd find it sufficiently relevant to discuss it).

  • Similarly for the "IT skills". Well, I personally wouldn't be interested in some of the software that you mentioned there, but this probably really depends on the field - and I can't tell about aerospace engineering, so I can't give particularly useful advice here.

    In any case, if you mention your level of skill on two different sections ("IT skills" and "Programming languages"), I'd strongly suggest to use the same layout to depict them.

What to do? In addition to the single points mentioned above, I have one general suggestion: throw away the template and use a different one with a simpler and clearer layout. In case that you use LaTeX for the CV: in math I've seen many people use the class "moderncv" which is well-aligned with keeping the format simple. There are certainly further nice classes, too.

  • Thanks for your detailed answer @Jochen Glueck, I really appreciated it. I updated my question and added some clarification regarding your questions.
    – g_don
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 9:52
  • For me, the whole second page stands out as things that can be put in two or three lines of a resume. It's not that the information is entirely unnecessary or inappropriate (though I'd lose some of it), but the space to information ratio is really quite low. Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 15:37

While this wanders into the realm of opinion, I can offer a few personal preferences.

I'd prefer something simple, not flashy. Graphics aren't the fundamental element of your field.

I'd take out anything that isn't backed up by external evidence; soft skills, for example. There is no verification, just a claim. Your second page is just a claim - easy to say, hard to verify.

Languages in which you are fluent might be important or not. More important for international students or if a particular language is essential in your field. Some places will require a test of language ability.

Some of the excluded stuff can go in a Statement of Purpose if required and if it backs up your career goals. Interests might go there, but probably not hobbies.

List degrees and awards

List publications and projects (probably separate lists)

List relevant work experience

Yes, saying who your supervisors were is fine, if not essential.

For the soft skills and other opinion-like things, let them come from letter writers, not yourself.

But, for me, simple. If it looks like an ad, I'll probably not be impressed.

  • Indeed, nothing on the second page would be important for me to hire them (actual job, not PhD application). Lots of wasted space there that would be better used to show actual job skills and relevant accomplishments.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 21, 2023 at 20:00
  • May I note that the comment "Languages in which you are fluent might be important or not" seems to be quite US-specific (or maybe, more generally, specific to English speaking countries)? In countries where most people's native language doesn't happen to be the worldwide lingua franca of business, science and technology, foreign languages do actually matter quite a lot (even in France nowadays, or so I've been told ;-) ). Commented Aug 21, 2023 at 22:57

You mentioned

... email a potential supervisor for a PhD ...

You can make do with a one pager

  • the QR code link on the left can make way for 'Programming Skill'
  • the Programming Skills will fused your current *programming languages and pointers of your IT skills (vss, numerical simulation, data analysis, office automation)
  • you can do away with soft skills and strengths
  • likewise, you can discard Certificates (inbtw, MATLAB is already showing prominently in your 'CV')
  • feel free to yank off High School Diploma. This can come in at the formal application stage.
  • Academic/Research Project: rather than listing out, I'll perhaps write each up in paragraphs showing my research competency and relevant accomplishments/outputs.

In my view, what you have currently, comes out as a CV for an entry-level position. It doesn't show much of your research capabilities and potential. Note that, opinions will vary from country to country.

I'm not a two-column CV person but that does not negate that others prefer or even adore them. Whichever way, showcase your research capabilities/abilities.

You can have two CV, one for this initial contact with potential supervisors (one pager) and second (2-pager) for the actual application along with statement of purpose

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .