Currently, in my CV, the first section is the About me section. It goes like this (I'll reserve the format of the text):

Broad knowledge, is why my friends are proud of me.
Never stops asking questions, is what my advisor values in me.

I wonder if writing like this gives makes me look bad. Will the recruiters see me as a confident person, get a better picture of me (which is the impression I want to convey), or will they see me as just arrogant, lacking self-esteem and paranoid?

Next sections are Education, Research Experience and Activities. They are about one page and a half long.

What do you think? Please be frank. Thank you so much.

Thanks to the many people who answered my question, I get that I should save it for the SOP. However, there are some occasions where I'm only asked to send my CV and not a cover letter with it. Should I still keep the "About me" section as a mini SOP in such cases? If it sounds like "platitudes, clichés, and self-compliments" (thanks for being frank, I do need it), how about this idea I just came up with?

I chose science because I want to know everything. I chose physics because I think it is the buttress of other disciplines.

I can make it better later.

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    Whatever happens with this first section, do have your native english friends proofread your entire resume before you submit it to anyone! Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 17:46
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    Broad knowledge, is why my friends are proud of me. — Unfortunately, nobody cares about your friends and what makes them proud. Stick to specific, tangible highlights about your skills and interests and why you make a great candidate.
    – Mad Jack
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 18:41
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    Also, generally, I feel like you are trying to put the cart before the horse. "Looking arrogant" isn't something to worry about in a CV (when you get an interview, then you can worry about the best level of confidence). A CV is for presenting the facts of your past life in a clear manner. Besides qualifications, what employers probably look for in CVs is just that they "not be weird". It sounds like what you are trying to do is weird, and you've failed the very challenging task of making it weird in a good way. I'm not an employer, though, so take this with a grain of salt.
    – Superbest
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 21:28
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    What your advisor thinks of you should be presented in a letter of recommendation from your advisor. See Appendix B of this article for an example of a cover letter. Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 23:27
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    @CountIblis: wow, the example is right to the point. I'm speechless.
    – Ooker
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 4:43

7 Answers 7


1) This is nonstandard, so people are likely to view you as odd, or at the very least unfamiliar with academic norms.

2) On a CV, you should prioritize specific, tangible achievements over things that literally anyone could say about themselves. You say you have broad knowledge, but will anyone believe you? It doesn't do anything to differentiate you from people who could also claim to have broad knowledge. Save that for your letters of reference.

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    @Ooker: "I want to know everything" is the hallmark of a scientific n00b. Any real scientist knows that advancing the frontier of human knowledge is an uphill, incremental battle. It may be okay to say this in high school, but if you're applying to graduate programs you're expected to know better. Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 18:41
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    @Ooker: Saying your ambition is to know everything portrays you as someone who hasn't done a lot of actual science and doesn't really know what he's getting into. Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 19:15
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    Yes, I'm just a graduate student. But if this makes the CV be unprofessional, I'll strip this out. Thank you for your help.
    – Ooker
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 19:18
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    @Ooker: It's kind of pretentious to quote famous scientists in your CV, and you're not allowed to talk like that unless you are a famous scientist, in which case you can do whatever you want. Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 17:36
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    @Ooker: Yeah, generally. Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 17:48

My sense is that broad platitudes, clichés, and self-compliments like the ones you've included are not going to be particularly helpful. I would skip them.

Stick to the basics. There are many websites and templates online that will help give you a sense for what is appropriate and expected. In general, the risk of trying to be creative, especially when you don't have a good sense of your audience or what is expecting, will probably outweigh the potential benefits. If the problem is that your CV is short and weak, there are other questions like this one that might be of some help.

Most importantly, make sure that you have your CV carefully proofread by a native speaker. Both of your two examples sentences are written in poor English. If you put those sentences at the top of your CV, you're going to be sending a message that you probably would rather not.

  • Thank you so much for being frank. I have updated my question, what's your opinion?
    – Ooker
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 18:34
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    @Ooker: My answer was a general one and my feelings on the matter still stand. I say skip the personal statement. This website is not a free resumé consulting service but a place for asking general questions.
    – mako
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 18:54
  • I get that. Also, I do aware if I become a Help Vampire
    – Ooker
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 19:04
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    I'd say it even more strongly. Not only is narrative language like the OPs not helpful, it is actually harmful because it makes the OP look like he or she isn't tuned in to disciplinary norms.
    – user10636
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 16:41

In a résumé, you want to list facts and what you achieved.

I do not think anybody cares about what your friends think of you.

Those sentences look extremely cheesy because of their structure, in addition to being grammatically wrong. If you write that, you WILL scare whoever reads your CV. They are also useless as they do not mean anything specific and are not verifiable, they do not contain any HR-drone buzzwords either.

I would skip the About Me section, you can list any meaningful hobbies you have under Activities or whatever that means.

If you want to, you can add a "Profile" section at the top, but just do a brief sum up of your professional profile.

Remember that you can write about yourself and how your characteristics would make you a good fit in the cover letter.

  • Thanks for your answer. I have updated my question, can you come back and see? Also, I want to ask this question: do I scare you?
    – Ooker
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 18:33
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    If you can't submit a cover letter and are applying for an academic position, include a top section where you briefly describe your achievements and specialties before listing the other stuff, in that sense it's more like a real CV sensu stricto. You don't scare me but someone who writes "I want to know everything" sounds immature to me, no offsense intended. Everyone specializes in something in his life. I would stick to facts and achievements. Go on the personal websites of the professors in your university and look at the short CVs they put there to see what I mean.
    – Formagella
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 13:03

This answer will be somewhat U.S. centric. In the U.S., almost everyone except academics makes something they call a "résumé". But people applying for academic jobs make something else that they call a "vita" (a curriculum vitae). There is a significant distinction between the two documents, so if you speak with people in the U.S. you have to be clear which one you mean. And, if someone asks for a vita, you need to get a sense of what they are looking for.

Quoting briefly from Wikipedia's article "curriculum vitae":

"In the United Kingdom, most Commonwealth countries, and Ireland, a C.V. is short (usually a maximum of two sides of A4 paper), and therefore contains only a summary of the job seeker's employment history, qualifications, education, and some personal information. ... In the United States a C.V. is used in academic circles and medical careers as a "replacement" for a résumé and is far more comprehensive; the term résumé (a French word which literally means "summary") is used for most recruitment campaigns. "

A U.S. academic vita is essentially just an objective list of the things you have done in your career. For example, here are vitas for Terence Tao (math) and Julia C. Lee (physics). There is no direct "sell", and the vita is not customized much (if at all) for specific applications. It's just a summary of your life. Sometimes, well-established people make a "summary" vita, which is just a shorter vita that omits less important information. There is very little "personal opinion", and very little to no commentary. "Just the facts."

  • I think there is no big different between US and the rest of the world
    – Ooker
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 12:55
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    @ooker - In fact there are significant differences, esp. in what information is considered relevant and how much tolerance there is of subjective information. Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 11:20

You should not have just one CV, but you should tailor your CV based on the recipient. The distinction Veblen makes in his answer between resume and vitae is useful to bear in mind (although I do not make this distinction in what follows), and it is also important to bear in mind that expectations about what should appear in a CV vary between countries and industries. For example, CVs in Germany tend to be very long (e.g., I have just edited a German CV that is nine dense pages long), exhaustively documenting every post held, with every committee you served on at each post, every professional society attended, every journal for whom you have refereed, etc; and furthermore there is a strong expectation in Germany that the CV contains only objective information. In the UK, by contrast, CVs are expected to be short, most typically two pages, and it is quite acceptable to list only your most significant places of employment, and to add subjective information, such as what you consider to be your biggest achievement during the period you held a post.

In general, testimonials may be valuable in some applications, but they should be attributed, it should be clear why the testimonial is credible, and they are probably better in your cover letter than a CV, and if you do put them in your CV, I recommend that you have a testimonial section in your CV. They are more acceptable in the US than in Europe.

You ask about occasions where I'm only asked to send my CV and not a cover letter with it - this is a place where putting more and more subjective information into a CV may be useful. It is common for recruiters to want just your CV: be aware that the standard of ethics in the recruiting business is not high and you should not be too dependent on their services.

If in doubt, contact the human resources department of the institution to whom you apply before sending anything. Doing so demonstrates initiative, often will yield useful tips on an unofficial basis, might give you insight into what and how many applications there are for the post, and may help you avoid what the intitution regards as mistakes in a CV.

It is possible to provide supplementary information about your career if you have a page on a website, and provide the URL to this page at the top of your CV. It's common to link to Linked In pages, although bespoke pages offer more flexibility for you to tailor your presentation, include more subjective information, and probably will have higher information density and attractiveness than these networking websites can offer. I do not recommend putting exhaustive information about your career online: this material can be abused.

  • I wish I could give you more than one upvote
    – Ooker
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 1:44

To me, it seems you are trying to include in your CV the content that belongs to your cover letter.

As previous answers highlighted, a CV is mainly to present actual past achievements. This should be a document that looks as objective, removed of feelings and subjective opinions as possible.

That's why the cover letter is a natural complement to the CV: this is where you present your achievements and yourself in a more human aspect: you describe not only your achievements, but also why and how you did them, how do you work in a team, etc. However, you still have to be, or at least sound like, as factual and professional as possible: the interviewer is not your pal, he/she doesn't want to know what your friends think of you, but how you will handle your work and how you will fit in the professional setting.

This is not to say that you cannot put a bit of subjective info in your CV, for example some people put at the head of the first page (just below the name and contact details) a short description of their academic education and their short-term and long-term goals (eg, "I have a PhD from the Amazing University, and I intend to work in the field of subquantic fields for panoptic pathologies." -- this is total gibberish, but you see the point).

So the bottom line is that if you want to give some insight about you, you should provide a cover letter, do not add this info inside your CV.

  • Isn't cover letter the place to show more about your research, not yourself?
    – Ooker
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 11:04
  • Actually both, but more about you and your prospects than just detailing all your researchs, that's the place of your CV (where you can include the abstracts of your most important works as appendices if you want to detail your work).
    – gaborous
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 12:34

When I read a CV, I'm looking for why I should hire you. In particular, I'm looking for two things - how useful you're going to be in the first 90 days (how relevant is your experience right now!) and how easy you will learn things for the next 3 years (how broad is your experience, implying you can learn things as this field changes). I'm in computer programming, but I've found this holds for most fields.

I don't care about what your friends say about you. I care about what you have done. So, skills, experience, then education/other (in that order).

Remember - this is a sales pitch. You are marketing and selling yourself. Anyone who tells you a CV is anything else is wrong.

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    Since this website is Academia.SE, this question is presumably about an academic CV for an academic position (otherwise it would be off-topic here). Academic CVs have a very different format from standard CVs.
    – ff524
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 3:53
  • @ff524: yeah, but they are CVs after all. I think Rob Kinyon has given me some useful tips
    – Ooker
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 3:55
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    @ff524 - I did miss that this is Academia, but the point about a sales pitch is still valid. What's valuable, though, will differ. 90 day viability is less important, I'd imagine. :)
    – Rob Kinyon
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 3:57
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    Actually, academic CVs are typically not as sales-pitch-y as non-academic CVs. They are usually a very formulaic listing of all the academic things the candidate has done, with no editorializing or embellishment (see this random example of one of our users). The "sell" is reserved for other parts of the application.
    – ff524
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 4:01
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    In particular, academic CVs almost never list "skills", and always list publications and similar academic accomplishments (which you omit to mention). @ff524 is right that there is no explicit sell. Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 6:46

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