Rob Jenkins

Associate Professor at Georgia State University Perimeter College

The Community College Application: CV or Résumé?

Full full cv

Image: Curriculum Vitae, by Flickr user Desi (Creative Commons)

Whenever I speak with graduate students interested in the faculty job market at community colleges, one of the key questions they ask me is whether to send a CV or a résumé. Some job ads for two-year colleges ask for a résumé, leaving doctoral students uncertain whether it’s OK to go ahead and send a CV instead, or both documents.

Before I answer that question, let me answer a more obvious one: What exactly is the difference between a CV and a résumé?

A Curriculum Vitae, as most academics know, is exactly what the name suggests: a comprehensive and exhaustive list of everything you’ve done in your (academic) life — institutions attended, degrees attained, courses taught, articles published, presentations given. A résumé is a much shorter, far less specific summary of your professional accomplishments to date.

Whereas a CV, for example, might include all of your publications and conference presentations in list form (almost like bibliographical entries), a résumé will probably say something like, “Published several articles in scholarly journals” or “Gave presentations at three national conferences.” Note the active verbs that begin each statement, a characteristic of résumé language. For those unfamiliar with active verbs (read: “academics”) hundreds of sample résumés are available online. And the same is true for CV’s, too.

So back to the main question: If a job listing asks specifically for a résumé rather than a CV, what should you send?

These days, when applying for any academic job, regardless of the rank, you should probably send a CV. There’s a very good chance the ad says “résumé” because it was written by someone in HR, who is not an academic and thus might not understand the difference. Or perhaps that person is simply using what he or she views as boilerplate job-ad language. But the members of the search committee are faculty members and they are most likely expecting CV’s — or at the very least will not be put off by them.

There was a time when most community-college job listings did specify a résumé, which was sort of the “industry standard” back then. Nowadays, my impression is that most ads (or at least more and more) are asking for CV’s, perhaps because two-year colleges are more actively recruiting Ph.D.’s, for whom the longer document is the norm.

In any case, I don’t believe you can go wrong by sending a CV, which contains more information and marks you as a serious academic. If you’re worried about it, just take your CV and change “Curriculum Vitae” at the top to “Résumé.” That will likely satisfy any anal-retentive HR-types (not to imply that all HR people are so) while at the same time conveying the full extent of your qualifications to the search committee. There is absolutely no need to send both documents.

One final note: You probably have a standard CV that you’re sending out with all your applications. But if you’re applying for a community-college job, be sure to tailor your CV accordingly. That means, among other things, moving details about your teaching closer to the top and details about your research further down. For further suggestions on how to write a community-college friendly CV, see this post from a couple years ago.

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