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I am currently tailoring my CV for Ph.D. applications (STEM). I am applying to various schools in USA and Europe, and most of them are competitive.

Given that I will have a Master's as well as >5 years of research experience in my field, I would like to list most of what I have done/been awarded -- all of which is academically relevant, including roughly a dozen publications -- and am trying to fit everything into my CV/application profile.

Some schools specifically recommend that the CV be around 2 pages long, others make no mention. Some schools have specific fields for listing awards/publications/etc, others don't. However, the shortest I've managed is 4-5 a pages long without crowding the pages with information. Should I keep trying to make it 2 pages long? How long is too long?

12

You should list all relevant experience in your C.V. and application. Two pages is a rough guideline for the typical master's or Ph.D. candidate coming directly out of a university with limited research experience. This does not describe your situation. So if you need more than two pages, it's certainly appropriate to go over that limit. Where I would try to save some space is in the presentations and posters section—perhaps you could list invited talks instead of all your talks.

  • 2
    Especially the last sentence: highlight those activities where academia chose you, specifically, to bring something to the table. – bishop Oct 2 '17 at 1:15
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Imagine a professor on an admissions committee, with many times as many applications to review as open places in the PhD program. Given a four or five page CV, there is a risk they will skim rather than carefully considering every line. They may not notice the most important items, because they are buried in less important material.

It may be a better strategy to edit down to the things that are most likely to make them select you. You should list all your publications - that may account for half a page. Beyond that, select the most impressive awards, not necessarily everything. Select the most important and relevant achievements.

  • Right. After my Master's degree and working, I stopped including most information from my undergrad, for instance. In addition to listing the degree (obviously), I only included 2 impressive awards and one work experience from those years, not everything. – Dawn Oct 2 '17 at 2:27
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    As a professor who has been many times on admissions committee, I disagree. Most applications are dismissed in matters of seconds; the applications near the top receive lot of scrutiny. Do list everything that bolsters your case. I'd just advise placing the most impressive things near the top, to help making the initial cut. – Boris Bukh Oct 3 '17 at 17:10
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It's hard to tell you because it also depend of the culture.

I know that in France, if you are a junior, we like a one page CV. If you have 10 years of experience, you can increase to two or three..

One or two could be the best. It's not about how long it is, it's about how relevant your experience is.

  • Are you sure about 2-3 pages for someone with 10 years experience? Is that with a separate publication list? – Tobias Kildetoft Oct 2 '17 at 8:41
  • @TobiasKildetoft Imho, Valentin's answer is especially true in the french industry, where CV do not exceed 1 page as junior, and 2 as senior. "Academic CV" have quite different requirements/expectations. Yet in France, bridges between academia and the industry are not as close as they are in other countries - hence the lack of general familiarity regarding academic CV. – ebosi Oct 2 '17 at 10:03
  • @TobiasKildetoft here a CV from a high experienced professor : perso.univ-lille3.fr/~pcanivez/static7/cv Here another one : perso.univ-lille3.fr/~sdeiulio – Valentin Silvestre Oct 2 '17 at 11:14
  • But there's others people : perso.univ-lille3.fr/~sdabo/CVactuel_2014.pdf This one is about 18 pages. These 3 CV are all good. – Valentin Silvestre Oct 2 '17 at 11:15
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A CV is the highlights of what your done from which the other side extrapolates your average performance, so the more good quality work you can put in the CV the better. I would thus recommend no more than 2 pages, personally preferring one page. No one reads all the details anyway.

Check every line in the CV for the question, how does this show I'm uniquely qualified for the position?

For a PhD I'd be looking at persistence in the face of adversity, ability to power through difficult problems, ability to problem solve and innovate.

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