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I am a computer science student from India. I noticed that most of the résumés and thesis papers etc. I see are written in LaTeX.

If I write my résumé in Word (say) rather than LaTeX, will it have a negative affect when I apply to graduate schools in the U.S.?

If not, then should I even learn LaTeX for my future academic prospects?

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    I certainly recommend learning LaTeX at some point. I don't know the answer to your first question, but why not start learning LaTeX while you have the chance? You can google "latex resume template" to get started. – Anonymous Apr 23 '15 at 2:14
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    If you just submit the PDF, how would anyone even know? – Austin Henley Apr 23 '15 at 2:42
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    @AustinHenley the default Word document appearance and the default LaTeX appearance are quite distinctive. It's true that you can tweak settings in both so that only the trained eye will notice, but it's hard not to notice a defaultish Word document. – Kallus Apr 23 '15 at 3:23
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    I think the content is more important than the appearance by orders of magnitude for a résumé. – user9646 Apr 23 '15 at 9:39
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    @NajibIdrissi if you really believe that, then crayon is just about as good as latex or word – emory Apr 23 '15 at 13:16

12 Answers 12

21

In a math-heavy area the ability to use LaTeX certainly matters, yet it's just another skill. In other words, if your resume says that you are familiar with LaTeX, then you don't need to prove it by typesetting your document in it.

However, for two candidates that are equivalent but for LaTeX familiarity, in a math-heavy area I would certainly pick the one with the skill. Working with the other on a paper will probably be a nuisance at first, wasting valuable time. Moreover, how in the world he/she survived with no familiarity of LaTeX until now? It's a bit like being a programmer and not using a version control.

Edit:

Just to make it clear (your friends do use LaTeX, so I'm assuming math-heavy field):

  1. If it is a big burden, then don't sweat it, the possible advantage will be small, other factors will matter much more.
  2. Nice resume from Word is better that an ugly resume from LaTeX (in particular if it screams "I can't use LaTeX").
  3. Having a nice resume in LaTeX won't hurt, so if it is not a big issue, why not? You could ask your friends to help you (it shouldn't take more than ~2h).

I hope this helps :-)

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    Anyone who is capable of doing graduate work in a math-heavy area is capable of learning LaTeX. And perhaps they don't already know it because they've not had any need to write large, math-heavy documents as an undergrad: that seems like a pretty normal situation, to me. – David Richerby Apr 23 '15 at 9:41
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    @DavidZ Not unusual at all in my experience. Even if one has to write up one or two undergrad projects, getting by with Word often outweights the cost of learning TeX. – Kimball Apr 23 '15 at 11:24
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    Cont. There surely are other factors, but I strongly disagree with "No. Almost no one cares." And even if people say that it doesn't matter, just as with good looks, it takes conscious effort to enforce that policy on oneself. It's just too easy to take it subconsciously into account. Even if we were to agree that it should not matter, it does matter today. – dtldarek Apr 23 '15 at 12:23
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    "It's a bit like being a programmer and not using a version control." This is extremely common in undergrad. Generally the situations where it is really needed tend not to occur. – Lawtonfogle Apr 23 '15 at 14:25
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    @dtldarek I don't think many students are running their own servers. Setting up versioning control doesn't help when it is on the same spot as your hard disk. For most college use, just copying files over to a backup drive provides better availability. Combined with most projects being short term individuals (and rarely going beyond a small team in size), there just isn't as much need. In the same was, there isn't as much need for LaTeX for most undergrads except those already involved in research, and that is a far better selling point than their use of LaTeX. – Lawtonfogle Apr 23 '15 at 17:38
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No. Almost no one cares. You should learn LaTeX if you intend to work mathematics and will need to write up your work. It's much simpler to typeset formulas in LaTeX than MS Word, and it's also free.

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    Note that for basic formulas, Word 2007 or later lets you use syntax nearly identical to LaTeX. – enderland Apr 23 '15 at 12:00
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    And to expand on this, when creating larger documents (e.g. research papers, book chapters, dissertations, etc) it makes a lot of things easier (formatting, citations, etc) -- not just typesetting formulas. – Joe Apr 23 '15 at 13:43
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    This is more of a comment than an answer. – Aaron Hall Apr 23 '15 at 17:51
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    @AaronHall: This is definetely an answer, albeit a short one. Comments and answers differ in content, not in length. You may criticise or downvote it for lacking substantiation or being short or similar, if you feel that way, but that does not change that this definetely belongs in the answer domain. – Wrzlprmft Apr 23 '15 at 20:24
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    @enderland Syntax perhaps. Output no. – JeffE Apr 24 '15 at 11:45
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To play devils advocate, let me answer yes. Of course LaTeX knowledge doesn't imply any other kind of skill, but the two do seem to correlate in mathematical fields, because almost all serious research is typeset in LaTeX.

See Scott Aaronson's 10 tips for detecting if a claimed mathematical breakthrough is wrong (in particular, see #1): http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=304

  • Did Perelman use latex to compose his proof? – Salvador Dali Apr 23 '15 at 20:51
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    Do you have any actual evidence or experience that typesetting a resume in LaTeX increases its effectiveness in getting a grad school place? Scott Aaronson's article has nothing at all to say about how you should format your resume. – David Richerby Apr 23 '15 at 22:38
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    @DavidRicherby one of my professors once (more-or-less jokingly) remarked "if you typeset your thesis in anything other than LaTeX I will fail you without looking at it" and "if you do not use LaTeX nobody will take you seriously". It is fair to say that to such a professor you would make a bad first impression if your resume is not in LaTeX. Certainly, nobody will care about your resume being in LaTeX, but some people might care about it being in Word. – Tom van der Zanden Apr 24 '15 at 7:41
  • @TomvanderZanden I said "evidence", not "anecdote". – David Richerby Apr 24 '15 at 7:52
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    @SalvadorDali: Yes, he did: arxiv.org/abs/math/0303109 – Volker Apr 24 '15 at 9:20
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I think it does not matter so much but the only thing is that it looks more classy than Word documents. Also, you avoid the possibility of file extension issues as your compiled file is already a PDF. If you use Word, possibly, you should convert your file to PDF.

Not really to answer to your question but you can use LyX or find an already made LaTeX template and do it easily.

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    I don't care much what application you use for your CV, but if you send me anything other than a PDF I will be slightly annoyed, which is not great for you. When my web site says to send PDF to apply and you send a .docx instead, that's even worse. – Michael Hoffman Apr 23 '15 at 18:11
  • Quite sure that I will not send you my CV, don't worry :-) – optimal control Apr 26 '15 at 14:41
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Bill Barth says that no one cares. And this is true – it doesn't matter what program you use. But I should elaborate that presentation does still matter – you should take care in preparing the document.

Simply using the default layout of any typesetting program is generally a bad idea. The formatting is probably not ideal for the purpose, and I have no great love for Calibri and Computer Modern. Sloppy, default formatting may give a bad impression.

Just take the time to carefully design your document layout, and if you want to look a little more distinctive, pick a sensible font such as Palatino or Latin Modern Sans.

If you put a little care into presenting your CV, it should be virtually impossible (without looking at the PDF metadata) to tell which program you used for typesetting. The unique features of LaTeX like microtype are not something that people will notice or care about when reading a CV. The moderncv package for LaTeX provides some good CV templates, and I suspect there are plenty available for Word as well that look just as good.

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    This is the right answer. I think that when I see an academic document written in something other than TeX, I get extremely annoyed---but that's chiefly because when I can tell that it was written in Word, it's generally because the author's put little effort into styling the document (i.e., being nice to the reader). Default vs default, TeX looks better than word; so when I see a well-styled document, I know that the author either (a) cares about the styling (hence my well-being), or (b) knows TeX, and has at least some technical curiosity. – kyle Apr 25 '15 at 22:18
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I use LaTeX to typeset my resume and my business card. I have typeset it once, and I can go back and modify the content, and as long as I like the overall shape of the document, and I don't have any spelling errors, I know my document is completely free of formatting consistency problems.

Any small change will be immediately applied to all of the appropriate content.

It also allows me to comment out sections and make comments in the source of the document that I use to tell years-older me why I did what I did.

To me, as a LaTeX user, meeting another such user immediately puts them at a higher level than a non-user. To contrast with Barth's answer, with a flat-out, "No." I would say it's a positive signal consistent with the idea that you can make an investment in learning something, even if not directly related to your discipline, with clear long-run payoffs, and ceteris paribus, I'd rather work with you than someone else with otherwise identical attributes.

But I personally value diversity in learning, whereas PhD programs prefer focus.

Overall, it would be a weak signal and I would not do it simply because you think it makes you look good. Rather, do it because of all the payoffs I mentioned above.

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    My math prof typesets all formulas using \begin{center}$...$\end{center}, and she's a renowned scientist in her field. Please do not judge people by technical and non-crucial skills. – yo' Apr 23 '15 at 14:27
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    A renowned scientist is also miles beyond someone in Word. Sounds like you're agreeing with me? – Aaron Hall Apr 23 '15 at 14:36
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    No, I don't really agree with you. I'm actually maybe lost in what you state. – yo' Apr 23 '15 at 15:01
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Avoid transmitting either of the following messages;

  • "This is my first LaTeX document ever"
  • "This is my first Word document ever"

... or the morally equivalent "This isn't my first (X) document ever, but I have not improved (much) since then".

Other than that, a matter of taste.

This may seem like a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the other answers here fail to address the very real possibility that if you suddenly switch to LaTeX, the outcome will be catastrophic not because of LaTeX, but because you need to learn it before you try to use it. The same holds for Word, and some people seem never to learn. Once you're past the "I almost managed to hurt myself with my typesetting software" stage, whatever you use is probably good enough. (There's "probably" because we cannot predict what sort of nut will be on the reading end. There will be people who care more than they should.)

2

I'm an Electrical Engineer that left academia for industry, and typeset my resume in LaTeX. Other than the ease of getting the formatting exactly as you want, there is another benefit: version control. I keep it in Git. All changes are committed no matter how minor. Since .tex files are ASCII, I can diff any two versions I choose. I also have different branches, for example, a grad school application version, and an industry job search version.

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    There's no such generalization that ".tex files are ASCII". I think most people today encode their .tex files with the UTF-8 format. – Sverre Apr 25 '15 at 15:46
  • @Sverre, I couldn't really care much less what the actual format it, as long as I can diff them. – Matt Young Apr 25 '15 at 15:48
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I think you should learn latex, regardless of how you intend to write your résumé. As mentioned in other answers, it makes writing math a lot easier, and a lot faster than anything else I've worked with. For academia, it also facilitates writing indexes, sources and basically everything that gravitates around your main narrative.

I would certainly recommend it.

  • Welcome to Academia SE, your answer is well-intended advice, but doesn't address OP's original question. Please consider expanding your post. – user3209815 Apr 24 '15 at 14:04
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    I feel like my answer addresses this part of OP's question: "If not, then should I even learn LaTeX for my future academic prospects?" – Afunakwa Apr 24 '15 at 19:40
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What's important for your CV is that it has an informative layout and that it's easy to read. On top of that, it certainly helps if it looks "nice", whatever that means.

What software you used to create a good-looking CV is entirely irrelevant. I've seen bad-looking CVs and documents written in LaTeX, and I've seen beautiful CVs and documents written in Word. Don't think for a second that an ugly or bland CV in LaTeX will help you in any way.

Focus on creating a good layout for your CV, and use whatever software you think is best suited for you to reach that goal.

As an example from real life, I don't think many people would be able to tell from a print-out of my CV that it was written in LaTeX and not in Word, and I don't think anyone cares either way.

1

In average, it does not matter if the content is well-formed and understandable. The latter, by far, is more important.

In opposition to the majority of the answers, I find resumes written in LaTeX to be bland. The applicant took a template, wrote the content and printed it out. Please note that I emphasized the "I".

It is strictly a matter of taste of the one who will be at the receiving end. Some people like the standardized, repetitive style (it is often simpler when you go though 1000 resumes) - others are attracted by the slightly more elaborate one which stands out in the heap.

How you present the resume does matter. Since you are just starting I would go for something close to a standard in your field and add some sight deviation so that it catches the eye of the reviewer.

0

If you're worried simply spend an hour or two playing with Lyx, or one of the other TeX editors. It won't take long to pick up the basics / create a TeX variant of the document.

I suggest starting with a GUI based editor, as I personally found it far easier to play in WYSIWYG mode, and then peek at the resulting markup than: RTFM, play in vi, compile and eventually use a Dvi Viewer of your choice to verify the results.

It's a shame TechWriter was never ported, as 20+ years back it was by far the best TeX based editor around.

protected by eykanal Apr 26 '15 at 1:32

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