A proposal for an improved curriculum vitae format

Let’s face it, the tired old standards of education, employment history, and achievements in each role really just aren’t that helpful during the hiring process. Sure, they’re necessary data points, but they’re by no means sufficient. You and your team are going to be spending a LOT of time with your new colleague, and you really want to be sure of making the right decision. I’d therefore like to propose a new section of the standard CV format that would give everyone involved in the hiring process much more useful information on every candidate.

My idea is best illustrated through the use of examples. If I was still in the lab I might include such items as “diligent about re-ordering common reagents and making new batches of common buffer stocks before they run out”, “willing to publicly call out people who don’t do this”, and “good musical taste”, but for an office-based job I would include the following:

  • good provider of shared snacks. Repertoire includes both healthy and more indulgent options (e.g. boxes of those teeny tiny oranges, chocolate, wasabi peas, chips. Especially chips. Especially Kettle chips. Especially the honey-Dijon kind. Mmmmmm, chips);
  • not at all shy about being the first person to open up snacks left in the shared snack zone by others. Especially if immediate supervisor brought in honey-Dijon Kettle chips again. It’s great that we share an addiction;
  • regularly, but not too frequently, emails amusing science, grant writing, and project management-related articles to the entire team (e.g. the clinical trial article Grant kindly brought to my attention last year);
  • emails emergency cute animal photos (usually cats, but occasionally orangs) to people who look stressed;
  • easy to talk into such things as being the floor’s fire warden;
  • completely oblivious to early-stage pregnancies, even when everyone else greets the official announcement with “I knew it!”, therefore extremely unlikely to start rumours on this front;
  • keeps desk messy enough to make others look good, but not messy enough to actually cause a health or earthquake hazard.

If asked for my greatest weakness in an interview, I would have to reply that I’m not much of a baker.

What would you put on your CV if you could?

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
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12 Responses to A proposal for an improved curriculum vitae format

  1. Bob O'H says:

    easy to talk into such things as being the floor’s fire warden;

    Would you hire anyone who put that on their CV, though? It would imply either extreme naivety or stupidity.

    I think I would have “Provider of great cookies, so hope I don’t get a divorce” in my section, along with the desk messiness one.

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      but if you hire someone new with such traits, you don’t have to be the fire warden yourself.

  2. KJHaxton says:

    Good question! I’d put:
    – occasional baker of cakes for meetings
    – fair to moderate tolerance for bullshit
    – low tolerance for unfairness and willing to get very cross about it (folds arms and glowers at the screen)
    – best selection of tea bags in desk drawer (8 kinds at last count)
    – prone to wearing scarves and shirts that don’t match

    Ah well, I’m not sure I’d find a new job on the basis of those 🙂

    • The tea bags are important and would get you to the top of the pile if I was in charge of hiring. I’m uncertain as to the significance of the mismatched scarves, though – is this to provide amusement for your colleagues, or does it serve some mysterious PI function that is unfathomable to mere mortals such as myself?

  3. I thought of some more selling points for myself:

    – prodigious lender of books
    – always happy to support fundraising bake sales, BBQs, and especially book sales

    Last week marked the first time EVAH that I left a used book sale with fewer books than I brought in. I then promptly left them in the pub on Friday night; one of the PIs picked them up and is holding onto them for me

  4. Steve Caplan says:

    How about: “Doesn’t make a mess in the restroom!”


  5. Pros:
    – rarely swears in public
    – has few friends, so unlikely to have loud, belly-laughing conversations on phone or in person
    – capable of speaking at length about (a) race cars, (b) cameras, or (c) bad science

    – occasionally swears in public
    – has few friends, so likely to have poor social interactions with co-workers
    – capable of speaking at length about (a) race cars, (b) cameras, or (c) bad science

    I’d also probably include “easily suckered into serving on irrelevant committees” into each category, too.

  6. bean-mom says:


    –Doesn’t bake, but if you have a potluck I’ll bring killer spring rolls (both crispy fried pork ones, and the vegetarian fresh rice-paper ones).

    –Doesn’t bake, but husband bakes. Occasionally, you may be a recipient of his talent.

    –Will cheerfully listen to other people’s dramas, but won’t cause any of my own. Not at work, anyway.

  7. Nina says:

    As I may have mentioned before, I’m pretty sure my cv point “Love baking (chocolate) cakes” earned me my PhD position, and it definitely often raised questions in interviews (“so, how often do you bake cake? What kind of chocolate do you use?”)

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