A couple of years back I did some research at a company in a field (Computational chemistry) that I am no longer interested in pursuing (To be blunt: I discovered that I dislike computational chemistry, and lack a certain numerical intuition needed to interpret the results). As I have this and a number of computer science classes on my CV several jobs I have applied for have added computational chemistry to my duties, which leaves me in the unpleasant position of explaining that I'd rather not do that type of research. (See edit below for an explanation of the process)

I'd rather not take that experience off my CV, as it explains why my undergraduate degree is taking so long (I was working for a semester instead of taking classes), and my supervisor did offer me a good reference letter, since I was a good worker, despite the fact I didn't get great results. Also, to be frank, I'm an undergrad and would like to list it to stand out from the crowd a bit: Relevant work experience is much rarer then good marks.

Is there a way I can include that position on my CV, but specify that I'd rather not peruse that field of research? Perhaps as a footnote or a comment intside that description of the job that 'This is a field of research I am no longer interested in perusing'?

EDIT: An explanation of how applying for summer jobs tends to work in my experience: I'm an undergraduate chemistry major applying to be a research assistant over the summer. The general process for this is you find a professor doing the type of research you want, and email them your coverletter and CV. If they like you then they either hire you, or apply for a grant to get funding to hire you. Formal or informal interviews can take place at any time during this process, depending on how the professor likes to operate. Formal job descriptions are usually only placed on the grant after the student applies, it isn't listed on the profs website beforehand. Therefore I've applied to several synthetic chemistry groups then been either told I'll be expected to do some modelling as part of my job, or asked if I would be willing to do such research: The second option isn't so bad, but the first is rather awarded to explain, doubly so if I'm not told of this until after the grant is already awarded.

  • Could you explain a bit more to what kind of job you've applied to? Jobs in industry? (I'm asking because the CV you would send for a job in Industry or in Academy are different). Also, what do you mean by "add [...] to my duties"? Don't you apply for positions that specifically describe the duties involved?
    – user102
    Feb 23, 2012 at 20:54
  • @CharlesMorisset I wasn't aware that CVs were ever used for industry, I thought they were academia specific. Part II: No, I apply for the position and when they are crafting the job description they add computational chemistry.
    – Canageek
    Feb 23, 2012 at 20:59
  • Indeed, I always get confused between CV and résumé in English (interestingly enough, although it's a French word, we don't use "résumé" in French in this context, and we use CV for both academia and industry).
    – user102
    Feb 23, 2012 at 21:07

3 Answers 3


Usually, in an academic CV, you can distinguish between "Research Activities", which consist of all the research you've done in the past, and "Research Interest", which consist of all the research you want to do in the future. So, someone who would include a topic that you don't list in your research activities without asking you first would be a bit rude.

However, in order to avoid this kind of cases, and not to be too explicit (that is, not saying "I don't to work on Computational Chemistry"), you can try, in your cover letter or your research interests to put a sentence like "Although I have a good background in Computational Chemistry, my research interests rather lie in ..." or "My background in Computational Chemistry taught me to [...], and I'm now interested in broadening/focusing my interest on [...]". That's a bit more subtle, but I guess the message should pass.

  • 1
    Isn't it better to get accepted first and negotiate what not to do second? Or just decline if they admitted you for your non-existent interest in something, only?
    – user18072
    Oct 20, 2014 at 3:15

Typically, the way you would state that sort of preference is by noticeably not including it in the list of interests. Given your experience with the technique, not including it on a cover letter, or in your "Objectives" statement on your CV, should be enough to prompt someone to ask about it during the interview process. If it does not come up during discussion, you will definitely want to proactively mention it at some point during your interview.

That being said, the best way is to not apply to labs which do that sort of work, and focus your search on areas that do interest you.

  • I was trying to do that: However there are a lot of labs that don't do it as a primary aim, but use it in compliment to their main work, often without mentioning it on their website.
    – Canageek
    Feb 23, 2012 at 21:04
  • @canageek - That is very true, and it's primarily because of that fact that you'll want to make sure that your interests are conveyed.
    – eykanal
    Feb 23, 2012 at 21:11
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    @Canageek - Also, note that the needs of the lab may dictate that you do that sort of work despite your lack of interest. This is particularly true in your case, as you have experience, which is often a sought-after commodity.
    – eykanal
    Feb 23, 2012 at 21:12

It doesn't sound like you want to make that explicit on your CV. You could certainly include something in your cover letter though that mentions that you'd prefer not to do work in that area.

  • The problem with that is I'd rather not include such details for groups I don't now do computational work, as it sounds negative, which I was always taught is something you never do in cover letters, etc. The problem is two synthetic groups that don't mention comp. chem. on their websites have gone 'You have experience in this area, so I added that to my funding application to hire you'
    – Canageek
    Feb 23, 2012 at 20:50
  • Also what do you mean it doesn't sound like I want to make it explicit on my CV? I do, I just want to say "I went to company X, and did this work. It isn't a field of research I wish to peruse anymore'
    – Canageek
    Feb 23, 2012 at 20:51
  • 2
    I don't think you should put "I don't want to do that anymore" on your CV and you want to keep the position on there for the experience. If you don't want to mention it in the cover letter either then you'll have to let them know in some other way. Feb 23, 2012 at 21:00

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