The public health resume, CV and more, with Career Coach Alison McAlear

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In this episode, Sujani sits down with Alison McAlear to talk all things CVs and resumes. These documents are tools we all need in our careers, whether it’s related to the public health field or not. Alison explains the differences and similarities between CVs and resumes and gives us some helpful tips on how to create successful documents specific to public health jobs.

Grab a pen and some paper and let’s learn together

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • What the differences and similarities between CVs and resumes are and when to use one vs. the other.
  • How CVs and resumes can vary at different stages of your career.
  • What the main sections of a resume typically.
  • How to choose and format which experiences you include, especially for students looking to bulk up their resumes and CVs.
  • The importance of tailoring a resume to a specific job and what this could look like.
  • What general formatting is recommended for students.
  • What specific things public health professionals should keep in mind when preparing their resumes and CVs.

Today’s Guest:

Alison McAlear is Assistant Director of Career Coaching and Education for the Office of Career and Professional Development at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Alison coaches alumni and students through career exploration and the job search process, and she develops educational programs to help her clients build professional competencies to support their individual career goals. Before coming to Harvard Chan, Alison worked in corporate recruiting and employee training and development, and spent over eight years dedicated to graduate program admissions and recruiting at Boston-area universities. She has a BA in English Literature from Smith College and a MS in Communications from Simmons University.

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Episode Transcript

Alison 0:00
Ultimately, it’s your document, and you get to make decisions about it. But from the public health perspective, curating is the best possible way to approach highlighting your skills. So making decisions about those thematic experience sections. Because as we know, the world of public health, it’s massive. It’s huge. I mean, you could study public health and you can literally go to work in any industry.

Sujani 0:32
Welcome to PH SPOTlight, a community for you to build your public health career with. Join Us Weekly right here. And I’ll be here too, your host Sujani Siva from PH SPOT.

Hey, everyone, thank you for joining me today on another episode of PH SPOTlight, a space for you and me and everyone else in public health to share our stories and inspire each other. My name is Sujani Siva, the host of PH SPOTlight, and I’m here to help you build your public health career. And welcome to our mini series titled, New Year New You job hunt edition. This is the third episode of this mini series.

And on today’s episode, I’m speaking with Alison McAlear, who is the Assistant Director in the Office of Career and Professional Development at Harvard Chan School of Public Health. Alison focuses on career coaching and education for students and alumni at the school. And her expertise lies in guiding candidates through the job search process and developing career programming that helps students and alumni build professional competencies to support their individual career goals. So before coming to Harvard Chan, Alison worked in corporate recruiting and employee training and development. And she spent over eight years in graduate admissions in the Boston Area University. And so we invited Alison to speak to our listeners about CVs and resumes. Because you know, it’s a tool that we use to apply to jobs. And there’s just so much advice out there about it. And so we thought we could unpack all of it on the podcast here together. So here we go.

Hi, Alison, welcome to the PH SPOT podcast. And thank you for joining us today.

Alison 2:21
Thank you, I’m very excited to be here. Happy to participate.

Sujani 2:25
I was just telling you right before we hit record and no pressure, I think this topic is going to be a very popular one. We’ve done one previously on resumes and CVs, specifically focusing on public health professionals. So it is a topic that we get a lot of questions on. So I’m excited to dive into it, given that you kind of do this for your full time job.

Alison 2:47
That’s right. It’s also one of the most important topics for our students who come to see me for career coaching. I think it’s probably the number one type of coaching meeting that we have throughout the school year. So I am very happy to talk about this something and it’s near and dear to my heart.

Sujani 3:04
I’m excited too, because I’m sure I’m going to learn a ton. I’ve been, you know, in the workspace for about just under 10 years, but I’m sure I’m learning, I’m gonna learn a ton as well. So personally going to benefit from this conversation.

Alison 3:17
I think some of the topical information should be accessible to folks at all different career stages. So.

Sujani 3:25
All right, so I thought it’d be great to kind of dive into this one question that you know, some people have off the top of their head when they’re like getting ready to get into the work field is, what is the difference between a CV and a resume, and like if I am someone who’s looking into applying to a job right out of either its undergrad or my master’s program, and I’m deciding on which one to prepare, what advice would you give them? What is the difference between the two? And then who should focus on which one?

Alison 3:55
That is the most important question to start with, because it will decide how you’re going to curate your documents. I’m going to start with CV, so the CV or curriculum vitae, which means course of one’s life in Latin. It’s ultimately a record of all your professional and academic work and achievements. So for example, in the world of academia, it would be the full history of your academic credentials. My opinion is that everyone should have a CV, considering it kind of the- the living breathing document that you update each time you go into a new role or take on a new responsibility or something like that. But we should all have one because it’s ultimately the document that you will copy and paste from to create your resume. So the resume is a snapshot or a curated view of your knowledge skills, training, and experience as they relate to a specific job or organization or industry. So your curriculum vitae is expected in industries like academia, government, especially in federal government jobs, NGOs often are looking for a CV. And for those folks who may be applying for physician roles in clinical settings. So these are the common spaces where a CV is expected. For all other spaces, like just industry, jobs, consulting jobs, a resume is perfectly acceptable and what would be expected.

Sujani 5:41

Alison 5:41
So I think the main point here is understanding the job you’re applying for, and what the industry expectations are for the application documents. And that will help you understand if you should be submitting a CV versus a resume.

Sujani 5:57
Okay. And so is your advice typically, when you are coaching students, at your institution to start with the CV first, and then based on where they’re applying to, then they could prepare a resume, if that’s what they’re asking for? Or if it’s a CV, that they can just send whatever they’ve worked on?

Alison 6:17
Yes, that’s my recommendation, I think it’s a really good idea to have a CV, like I said, that sort of ongoing document you’re adding to as you’re moving forward in your career, and then using that to construct a customized resume for a specific job.

Sujani 6:33
Obviously, the CV is going to be pages and pages long, depending on how many years you’ve been in the field.

Alison 6:39

Sujani 6:39
Anything else related to length that we should know about? Especially with like, resume?

Alison 6:44
Absolutely. So like you said, the CV can really be any number of pages, but my recommendation is to be conservative. So you know, make the best use of the space. So for example, if it can fit into six pages through conservative formatting, then go with six pages and do not have like a 12 page CV. Nobody wants to see that. And from the resume perspective, really one to two pages is sufficient. And in some organizations like consulting firms, their expectation, they only want to see one page, they’re not interested in seeing two pages. So it’s a very good exercise to try to have a one page resume overall, with a resume, it’s an exercise in your ability to convey complex information simply and concisely, without losing meaning. Right. So if you think of like an executive summary, for example, you’re basically boiling it down to its essence without underselling yourself. So resume should be one to two pages, CV can be any length. And this goes for whether you’re early in your career, or later in your career. Some students have conducted so much research that it would not be to their benefit to cut all of that out if they’re applying for research jobs. So it really depends, again, on the type of role in the industry you’re applying for.

Sujani 8:17
And I think you bring up a good point, you know, when you’re preparing your resume, it’s not about sending the same resume to every single job, right, you want to make sure it’s tailored to that specific job. And that’s where your CV comes in handy, because you can look at the whole scope of everything you’ve done, and then pull out the experiences or maybe courses, things that really relate to that position and tell that concise story in that one page format.

Alison 8:44
That’s absolutely correct. And it’s actually one of the most common mistakes is not tailoring your resume for different jobs or industries. You know, in some cases, you can get away with having the same resume, like within industries. So if you’re applying just strictly to biotech companies, then you might be able to use the same, the same resume in that case. But if you’re applying across industries, and the qualifications are likely to vary enough between the jobs, then you really should be highlighting different things based on what’s in the job description.

Sujani 9:23
I often give people the advice, and I’m curious to hear whether you would approve of this advice is like batching your application. So if I’m looking at not for profit organizations, and I’m looking at a research position, I would create a resume just for that type of work in that industry, and then try to apply to all of the positions that interests me with that one resume. And then moving on to I don’t know, maybe a policy analyst role in the government sector and you know, focusing my application with that resume because you know, when you’re batching it, you’re using your time a lot more efficiently.

Alison 9:56
I really liked that idea and I absolutely appreciate it. Because a big part of this when you’re applying for jobs you’re going through the job search is really making good decisions about how you’re going to spend your time and energy because it does take a lot of time and energy. So I like the idea of batching. However, I will say this. Another common mistake that’s made in by not tailoring is not including key words, directly from the job description in your documents. This has become one of the most important and sort of new aspects of the job search process and the application process. Because most organizations are using what we call application tracking systems or ATSs, and ultimately, it’s an AI system. And it’s most often the first entity that will be reviewing your resume.

Sujani 10:57

Alison 10:58
And all it can do is pick out those key words. So I’d say if you’re batching, as long as there is commonality, in the keywords you’re using across the job postings, then I think you’re safe.

Sujani 11:12
You brought up a question I want to talk about much later in the episode. But I feel like maybe we can just talk about it now. It’s this, you know, human versus computer screening of a resume. I don’t know if you have insider information or stats on which organizations are looking more at the computer screening versus which ones are looking at human screening?

Alison 11:32
Sure, absolutely. So there’s a couple things to think about first, and this goes back to the the CV versus the resume, we talked about, like how they’re different. But one of the ways that they’re similar, is that as you’re developing either of these types of documents, you should be keeping in mind who the audience is for the document. From my perspective, I say there are always two audiences to keep in mind, whether you’re using a resume or CV and no matter what industry you’re applying to. The first reader or audience will be the ATS system, so that’s an AI bot. That is explicitly scanning for key information, along with the AI bot is the HR or recruiter professional with the organization. Now, they are similarly scanning the document, obviously applying some additional-

Sujani 12:39

Alison 12:39

Human skill and competencies. But ultimately, when you think about it, often the HR person or the recruiter, they’re not the technical expert for the job, but they know enough about it. And they’ve often been part of the job description development process, so they know what to look for. But again, it’s key words, key phrases and information they’re scanning for. This first audience is making a decision about whether your resume or CV goes into the yes pile or the no pile. That’s why it’s so important for you to be using the key terminology. And from what we know today, at least 90% of companies are using applicant tracking systems to manage and filter their applications on both large scale companies and small scale companies. So you can no longer avoid using keywords in your documents. So the second reader or audience is the hiring manager or the hiring team or committee. And they tend to be the technical experts, right? They’re going to take much more time with your application documents, because they’re thinking much more deeply about, you know, does this person have the technical ability? Do they have the human skills we’re looking for aka soft skills? And how might they fit into our team? So CV resume, always consider those two readers, those two audiences when you’re developing your documents.

Sujani 14:15
That’s a good way of looking at it. And so I think I kind of quickly mentioned it when I was asking one of the earlier questions. There’s different sections on both. And you also mentioned, you know, in that second reader group, they’re looking for some of the human skills aka soft skills. Are there sections that we would find in a resume or CV or vice versa that wouldn’t be in one versus the other?

Alison 14:45
Yes, absolutely. So I would say the most common and obvious sections that you would see on both sides. So first of all, the name and contact information should always be the very first thing on the documents and your name should be the largest font size on the entire document, your contact information, believe it or not people really, people do all kinds of weird things with the contact information. But the most basic and necessary information to have is the email address for which you will be applying to different roles or communicating about them, your mobile phone number, the location wherever you are in the world, and you know, a full address is no longer necessary. So you could just do city, state, or country, your LinkedIn URL. And that’s really the baseline, there’s a few other things you could add in there. But we can talk about that in a bit. So first and foremost, the sections name and contact information, education, experience, and skills. Education typically comes first on the document, of course, after the name, if you’re in school, so if you’re a current student, if you’re actually actively pursuing a program, a degree of some kind, then education comes first. If you’re no longer in school, then you move it towards the end of the document. And then experience, this is where you can get really creative with how you’re curating the document for specific readers. There can be all different types of experience sections, so we can talk about that in a little more detail in a second. And then skills by skills, I really mean languages, you know, if you’re, if you speak other languages, that’s really important to include. And then technical skills like your computer proficiencies. And I get asked this a lot by students, you know, they’re like, do we really need to include Microsoft Office in my skill section? And the answer to that is, what does it say in the job description?

Sujani 16:56

Alison 16:56
If the job description calls out specific computer skills, and if you have any of those skills, then they should show up on your resume, even if it’s as simple as Microsoft Office. But it’s a good practice to have it on there. Because believe it or not, that information is also being scanned for. So don’t lose an opportunity, not that you would necessarily lose it over Microsoft. But you might as well have it on there if you if it’s something that you work with.

Sujani 17:29

Alison 17:30
So those are the common sections across both document types. And then other sections to consider on either document, or awards and honors, publications, presentations, certifications, licenses, professional affiliations, things like that. And on a CV, they will expect to see all of those things. Whereas on a resume, you would only include those things as they are relevant to the role you’re applying for. If you think that it’s something that could be of interest to the reader.

Sujani 18:08
So coursework, do you recommend students add that to either their resume or their CV? Or is that something you say, nope, leave that off?

Alison 18:17
Yes, absolutely. So one way to think about this. So this is especially important for students who have maybe limited or no direct paid work experience or internship experience, including your coursework can be a really a great way to basically tell the reader, hey, this is what I’m doing right now, in my program. These are the skills, the knowledge and additional training that I’m getting, currently. I would say also beyond coursework, you should be including like academic project work, again, especially if you have limited work experience. And beyond that extracurriculars, volunteering, community service, athletics, I recommend everybody have a leadership section in their resume or CV, which a lot of great information can be conveyed in that section, a lot of the sort of human skills that may not be as apparent more technical projects or technical work.

Sujani 19:21
And then the summary of skills. So you’re saying if you’re still in school, keep your education at the top followed by experience, and then do you suggest a summary of skill goes at the very bottom?

Alison 19:32
That’s a great question. I have mixed feelings about the summary statement. And I do want to say one caveat that you should know and any- anyone listening to this, anyone you talk to about your resume or CV is going to give you a different opinion. And some people feel strongly about some things whereas others don’t find them as concerning. So I think we all especially those of us who we work in this space, we have our own pet peeves about things. And I can tell you a whole listen to us if that’s helpful. But so for the summary, I would say, a summary is a great thing to include, if you will not be writing a cover letter for the application.

Sujani 20:19

Alison 20:20
And also, if you are pivoting into a new job type or a new industry, this summary statement can be a great opportunity for you to basically tell the reader, why you’re applying and why- why you would be a great fit for the job. And that is important if then they look at the rest of your resume. And they’re like, wait a minute, how does this translate to this job they’re applying for? Because maybe it’s in a totally different sectors space. So using the resume to convey some of the transferable skills that show up in the qualifications on the job description. So I think those are good uses of a summary statement. Otherwise, I personally don’t think it’s a necessary thing to include. If you weren’t going to include it, then the order of it on the page would be name and contact information, summary statement, some people like to call it an executive profile. And then if you’re in school, education, if not, then experience would come next.

Sujani 21:31
And then just going back to experiences, and you said, we can get creative with that. And I think it’s a section that too many students think that it can only be bulked up with paid work. And it’s kind of sad, because you know, I get tons of emails from our PH SPOT community members, and the one that comes to mind, somebody wrote to me and said, I have no experience, I’ve only done this, this, this, this, this, and it was like amazing public health work. But they were they were just not seeing it in that light, because it was a volunteer work, or it was an internship or it was paid. But it wasn’t titled a Public Health role, quote, unquote.

Alison 22:09

Sujani 22:10
So yeah, can we talk about that experience section?

Alison 22:13
I appreciate that I hear the same thing from students all the time, or they’re, they’re looking at a set of qualifications on a job description. And they’re not really understanding how their skills, translate, or transfer, or align. And I think that’s, you know, it’s just, it happens to all of us, you do the work. And sometimes when you’re in the middle of the thing, you can’t really see it for what it is. So the experience section, you can curate this in any way that you want. I’m going to sort of focus on the resume piece for this. And we can talk a little bit about the CV but so because you’re creating this snapshot of you know, the history of your work and academics, you’re making very sort of concise decisions about what you’re going to share, because you only have a page, right? So if it’s a public health job, and you don’t have any titles, or experience, that’s- that would clearly show that it’s public health, then you need to focus on the qualifications and competencies that are listed in the job description. And you can construct your experience sections in that way. So in general, if we see work experience or professional experience, for example, as the section titles, generally, that’s assumed that those are paid positions, or an internship where you may have, you know, gained credit for it or something. But ultimately, it’s a position where you are applying specific skills that you were trained for to a job. So work experience, professional experience, those are the most general experience categories. But so if it’s a public health position, and you want to say, look, this is the public health experience I have, then you’re making a thematic section, which means it can include anything, whether it’s paid, whether it’s volunteer, whether it’s academic project work, whether it’s a board or a committee that you sat on, anything like that. So that’s one reason I love using themes over being really explicit and saying this is work experience, or, you know, this is research experience. Having a research section obviously is important if it’s a research job. But considering the themes that you could use, I think is a really good way to identify what that experience section could be. So another good example of how to best utilize the experience section. This goes back to that, you know, those folks who maybe have less work, experience less direct work experience. That leadership section is a really excellent way to highlight skills. So like you were saying about talking with a student who maybe doesn’t realize exactly how much great experience they have. A lot of our students are overachievers, of course. And you know, when I look at their resumes, I’m like, oh, my goodness, how did they even find time to get any schoolwork done, because they were leading student organizations and committees and doing all this volunteer work. And all of these extracurricular activities. It’s real work. It’s- They’re organizing, they’re coordinating, they’re managing teams, they’re fundraising, they’re meeting with sponsors, and stakeholders, and doing all this perfectly translatable work, you know, to the types of jobs that they’re interested in. But it’s so often gets looked over. And that’s the reason I said a leadership experience section, I think it’s something that should be on every document. And depending on what stage of career you’re in. So if you’re just coming out of undergrad, you’re in your master’s program, then some of those extracurriculars are the perfect way to highlight that. But if you’re mid or senior career, maybe you’re doing board work, you know, maybe you’re participating in a foundation or something like that. And that is exactly the experience you want to highlight for, you know, whatever the next level position is that you’re looking to go into. So I think you can get really creative with it. And again, use themes, as opposed to explicitly saying this is work experience. This is research experience.

Sujani 26:41
Yeah, no, that’s, that’s a great tip. And I think I go back to like students, again, who want to put coursework or projects on there. And do you suggest that perhaps they don’t need to have a section that says coursework, but find elements of the coursework that could fit under, say, my public health experience or my leadership experience?

Alison 27:01
Yes, exactly. That’s a great way to put it. So I recommend that if you’re in school, if you’re current student or a recent graduate, I would include a list of what you could call relevant courses, select courses, and I would put that in your education section under that specific school listing. So you’re just kind of listing out, okay, these are the topic areas that I studied. You don’t have to use specific course names, nobody’s gonna care about that. But the topic areas are really helpful. And then you could have an academic research, plus projects, or just academic project work section.

Sujani 27:44

Alison 27:45
If you want it to, again, it’s- it’s really like you decide what the right title is to encompass the theme. But yeah, I would recommend adding an academic project as though it was a job entry. And so when you think about how they look on a resume, if it’s a job entry, it’s like, the employers name and location, the dates that you were there. And then your title, like that’s the common information and followed by bullets.

Sujani 28:12

Alison 28:12
So you would use the same type of formatting to describe your academic project work, it might be the department, or it could even be the course. And then the school where you did the work. You don’t necessarily need to have a title. But if you could call yourself researcher, you could call yourself team member, you can kind of be creative with that as well. You include the dates that you worked on the project, and I would say, the month, month to month is important. You don’t want to just put semester, because too much can be assumed by that.

Sujani 28:45

Alison 28:45
And then you give us short descriptor about, okay, what is this project, and then the bullets are in depth descriptions of the tasks that you perform specifically, and any outcomes or results. So I’ll just mention it briefly. But when you’re writing bullets, there’s a special format that you should use to help you convey, you know, the essence and scope of your work. And in our little worlds, we call them PAR statements, P-A-R, and the P being projects, the A being action, and the R being result. And so as much as possible, demonstrating Project-Action-Results within your bullets, that’s the way you want to go.

Sujani 29:34
One more question I’d have around that PAR statement is would you recommend the start with verbs or would you recommend them starting with like, I did this versus we did this?

Alison 29:47
Yeah, this comes up a lot. Yeah. It’s- it’s interesting to see the differences of you know, from CVs and resumes that show up as we’re getting ready to do editing and reviewing with students. And one thing I will say is everything I’m describing, as far as CV and resume, this is very much the US style. So I just want to make that clear, we work with a lot of international students. And the requirements and expectations can be very different in different countries. So it’s important to say that, and I will say, what I’ve learned over the years is that the CV is actually it tends to be the more typical document that’s submitted outside the US. So well, I’ll just leave that on the table.

Sujani 30:37
That’s a good point to also mention yet.

Alison 30:40
Yeah, so you want to avoid using AI language, these are not paragraphs, they are not full sentences. And again, if we go back to the idea of this is a very concise, trim down version. And it is a challenge. What is really difficult about these documents is that you’re trying to convey a lot of information in a very short space. And, you know, sometimes the projects are massive. And so how do we decide what to include and what not to include? So, yes, first of all, avoid first person, don’t write sentences, don’t write paragraphs. That’s why we recommend bullets. Because you can be short and succinct, you can also cut out lots of extra language. So it’s perfectly okay to get rid of the small filler words wherever you can. So like ‘A’ or ‘The’, ultimately, as long as the meaning of the statement remains clear, then trim out all the excess. And here’s an example for you, “Managed a startup with a team of six people”, versus “Managed six person startup”. So that’s sort of the shift that you want to make is, remember, it’s not necessarily real sentence, you can cut it down, as long as the meaning is conveyed. That’s the goal. So start every bullet with an action verb. If you are currently in this role, then you use present tense, which would be manage, convey, illustrate, oversee, versus using past tense if you are no longer engaged in that specific work. But start every bullet with an action verb, strong action verb, you want to avoid verbs that are too broad, and leave too much to the imagination. So one example that we see all the time is worked on research, you know, in XYZ lab.

Sujani 33:01

Alison 33:02
And it’s like, well, what does that mean?

Sujani 33:05
Like, what did you do?

Alison 33:07
Yes, you can make some assumptions, you’re like, okay, it was research. But even that is a very broad statement. So you want to be really specific, if you open with a broad statement, like, worked on research in XYZ lab, then I want to see a colon. And I want to see a list of your actual tasks, which might include collected and analyzed data, pulled together data visualization for a manuscript, you know, published, whatever, that kind of thing. So really clear direct action verbs that help to describe the work, but also the dynamics of the work and are not too broad. And then the PAR statement thing, this is tricky as well, again, it’s all about being concise. But if you ask yourself, okay, what is the project? Who was involved? What was the end goal, and if you can just create a short statement about that to get you’re basically giving the reader some context, you’re like, this is the background information, this is what was going on. And then your actions are specifically the things you did, your role, your responsibilities, your contributions to whatever the project was, and then the results, results can be all sorts of things. I mean, they can be as straightforward as like a deliverable, you know, I did all this data analysis work and I pulled it together and I submitted a report or it could be, we always say you want to quantify things as much as possible, try to get numbers any in there anywhere you can. So it could be saved the company, you know, 25% on, etc.

Sujani 34:54

Alison 34:54
Or it could be an impact. And this is the stuff that really gets people you If you’ve worked on a project, and you can say, you know, this project, ultimately it impacted, you know, this group of people or this population in this positive way. So, it can be a personal results like or deliverable, it could be a learning that key learning that you took away, or it could be a real outcome impact achievement accomplishment. So as long as you’re sharing some kind of end product, or end result,.

Sujani 35:30
And I think that yeah, that result piece probably gets people and it doesn’t have to be something too complicated. The example I like to give, which I remember putting on my resume kind of early on was working on administering a questionnaire survey and then being quite proud of the participation rate being like as high as 70, or 80%. And I remember putting that percentage in my resume. And you know, things like that. People want to know how you did that. Because I do remember one of my first interviews, the manager said, okay, can we look at that third bullet on your resume? And I didn’t even remember what it was. And she said, okay, we’re gonna be doing a lot of resume or a lot of questionnaires. Can you tell us how you went about getting such a high participation rate? So yeah, it could be things like that as well.

Alison 36:16
Yeah, that’s an excellent example. And I would just say that what that made me think of is, oftentimes what happens when people are describing their work is, they are too humble. Or they undersell themselves. And not on purpose, it’s more often because they don’t really, they haven’t really thought about how much they’ve actually contributed to a project. So I like to just remind folks that the resume and the cover letter, these are marketing and branding documents, this is a space for you to get up on your soapbox and shout out loud about your achievements and accomplishments, and all this incredible work that you’ve done and how hard you’ve worked.

Sujani 37:00

Alison 37:01
It’s not a space to be humble at all. And again, this is very US culture centric. But it’s so important to share the full scope of your work, again, with the reader, because you want them to understand all aspects of it and not just get a tiny flavor of it, you need them to see the full 360 view of it. So they really understand what went into it, you know, and what skills etc, that you used. You don’t want to sell yourself short.

Sujani 37:34
Absolutely. And I’m going to make a generalization and say that people in public health and public health in general, were super humble about everything. Yeah.

Alison 37:43
It’s true. It’s very true. So yes, this is a space for bragging and aggressively shouting out your accomplishments.

Sujani 37:54
If you’re looking for permission to do that, here’s your permission. Right, right.

Alison 37:57
That’s exactly right. Yeah, take ownership. I mean, especially public health workers are incredible. They do incredible things. They change the world. And they have big impacts every day. So I really want to see that shine and be highlighted in your resumes.

Sujani 38:12
Exactly. I wanted to ask about two quick things. Before we moved on to another question. At the very beginning, you kind of talked about you know, your name and your address. You also mentioned your LinkedIn profile. So I think for me, that’s the first time I’m hearing and I don’t know why. But can you talk about Yeah, the importance of putting your LinkedIn URL and I hear from many students who don’t have a LinkedIn profile yet. And I, I know we have an episode all about LinkedIn profiles, but maybe you can touch on its importance on a resume.

Alison 38:49
Absolutely. So I mean, I think LinkedIn should be giving me money, because I praise their name on a daily basis with our students. It’s one of the most incredible, most useful, and powerful job, and networking tools. And I literally use it every day. I mean, of course, it’s part of my job. But I’m astounded at the information that I can discover, and the insights I can discover from it. So there’s a lot of reasons why people might not have or want to have a LinkedIn profile. And I often hear people say, Well, I don’t need another social media account. And I would agree with that. But this is not a social media account. It is a professional networking account that has one of the most powerful job search engines out there. People all over the world are using it. It’s one of the best ways to connect or do cold outreach, to connect with people to network around jobs. And the fact is that you are 80% more likely to move on to the interview phase. If either before after submitting your application documents, you have made a contact on the inside of an organization. So we can’t step back from networking and LinkedIn is a great space for you to do it. So that’s my soapbox speech. So one of the things that’s great about LinkedIn is this is especially for those people who are crafting these curated resumes. I’m just gonna use consulting as an example, because it’s the you know, the common like, we only want one page. And you know, for our overachievers out there, they’re like, oh, how do I boil down this information. And I say, make sure everything’s on LinkedIn. It doesn’t have to be like the full detail, like all the bullets, etc, that you would have in a resume or CV. But make sure all your work entries, your volunteer stuff, like you can even link out to like a publication website or stuff like that. But basically use LinkedIn as a catch all for, you know, your sort of digital CV. And then when you’re cutting down your resume to one page, you use language like select research experience, or, you know, select coursework or relevant work experience or relevant public health or global health experience, whatever it is. And by using that language, select or relevant, you’re basically telling the reader that you have curated the document for them. And if your LinkedIn URL is included in your contact information, it’s basically an invitation for them to go check it out and see anything else that you’ve cut out of your document. So that’s one of the reasons I love it. But also, just so you know, literally, I think it’s like 80%, 75 to 80% of HR, recruiters, and hiring managers, or someone from the hiring team is absolutely 100% looking at your profile

Sujani 42:04
Yeah, I do it all the time.

Alison 42:08
Exactly, exactly. Another reason to love it.

Sujani 42:13
All right. Thank you for that. And the other question I had was on location. Now we don’t really need a full address, you know, city, state, province. Has anything changed with the pandemic and a lot of organization open to remote work?

Alison 42:27
That’s a really great question. One clarification I want to make is whether you include an address or just a location, that’s more- more for resume CVS, often they’re looking for slightly more detailed contact information, but I would follow whatever the instructions are for the specific application. But like, if you look at an academic CV, often there’s a full address. But so that’s just an FYI. But that is really a great question. So many people are making decisions about the specific types of jobs are applying for based on whether or not they’re remote. I mean, this is an incredible shift. So there’s a few things there. I have been seeing lots of resumes without a location. And that is actually is perfectly acceptable. It can suggest a lot of things to the reader. I mean, let’s- let’s also say this, when you submit a resume through an application tracking system, you are also completing an application. So it’s like a you know, you complete the online application, you upload your resume, usually within that application, you’re disclosing your location anyways.

Sujani 43:43

Alison 43:44
Whether your locations on your resume or not, doesn’t really matter. I’m also seeing, you know, location, and then in parentheses open to remote work, or something like that. Yeah. So I’ve seen that a little bit. It’s- it hasn’t taken over completely yet. I mean, there’s, there’s still folks are still in the place where there’s summer, including full addresses and not but you know, this stuff is shifting, I think it’s more on the side of searching for specific jobs that allow for that remote work.

Sujani 44:16
Okay, that’s good to know. And I think kind of just to wrap things up here, I’m sure you know, people want me to keep asking you more questions, but got my eye on the clock and also your time. You know, I had this reflection earlier this I think, couple of weeks ago that I read a lot of articles on the topics related to succeeding in the job market. So resume CV interviews, the do’s and don’ts. I also then think that the authors or the organizations that are publishing these articles, they come from either like business or tech backgrounds, and so I’m always curious to know how applicable these tips and advice are for the public health field because, you know, I mean, like Forbes or the Muse, all of those organizations, they get contributors that don’t come from a public health background, writing these piece of advice, would you say that, you know, the advice there is pretty, pretty good to also use in the public health sector? Or would you say there’s like specific things that we should keep in mind as public health professionals?

Alison 45:21
Sure. I love that question. And I’m glad you mentioned. So Forbes and the Muse are two of my top resources that I share with students a lot. I think that the, the job the articles on like, career and job search related topics are excellent. So I would say those are both really good resources. And yeah, I would say that they are relevant, things are shifting, our ability to stay focused on information is, you know, out the window these days. You know, everything is a snippet, or bite sized piece of information. And I think that’s sort of where things are going. So I even think the CV is, is highly outdated, but it is still a requirement for certain job types. So I would say, if you are looking for work, outside of government, and the world of academia, then much of what you will find on these good and credible websites is legitimate. And I think if you read enough articles, you’ll find the patterns and commonality between what they’re saying. But one thing I want to emphasize is, like I said, before, you will get a different opinion from anyone, you asked about what your CV or resume should be like. Ultimately, it’s your document, and you get to make decisions about it. But from the public health perspective, curating is the best possible way to approach highlighting your skills. So making decisions about those thematic experience sections, because as we know, the world of public health, it’s massive. It’s huge. I mean, you, you could study public health, and you could literally go to work in any industry. So it’s being very clear about what is this industry. What is this organization? What is this job? What are they looking for? What are the qualifications, and taking the opportunity to really curate and customize for that specific space. And highlight all the variety of public health skills you have that apply directly to get you noticed.

Sujani 47:40
Yeah, yeah, you bring up a good point in the sense that if I’m applying to a, you know, a consulting firm, or some sort of private sector job, then obviously the people that are reviewing the resumes, their perspectives are going to be aligned to you know, what we see on Forbes, for example. So it would make sense for us to prepare our resumes, so that it speaks to that specific audience.

Alison 48:08
That’s right. And if you look at, I also recommend that anytime you’re preparing a resume, you should be spending some time on the organization’s website. And paying close attention to some would call it their marketing and branding language. But, you know, for those of us who have worked within organizations, a lot of times that information, that branding language, is the language used when the company talks about, you know, themselves internally, or externally as well. So thinking about it as how do they describe their work? Their people, their stakeholders, or clients? What are they saying is their mission and their value statements? And that’s a really great way for public health folks to connect to companies, whether they’re private sector or nonprofit, for example, what is the mission? And how do you- How does your public health background and training and how do you personally connect with that mission? And bringing some of that language into your application documents to demonstrate alignment is a really excellent way to sort of make yourself stand out and show that you would be a great fit for the position.

Sujani 49:22
No, that’s a really good way to look at it. I did have one quick question around formatting. And I really want to ask, you probably know the question, I’m going to ask, you know, typical bulleted resume versus the funky looking ones that we all see. And I’ve seen both the- both perspectives. Curious to hear your thoughts.

Alison 49:45
Sure. And I mean, this is really an important question, and it kind of harkens back to our discussion about those application tracking systems. So you know, gone are the days of the paper resume, you know, when I got out of undergrad, I remember buying my special fancy high grade paper and printing my resume and mailing it out and all that ridiculousness. So there’s literally no need for over designing and overcomplicating because the application tracking systems can’t handle all your fancy design. So best practices in this is the most simple formatting possible. Clean, easy to read, some white space on the page, stick with one font type. My favorite to this day is Times New Roman. And I don’t even personally like the style. But the reason I love it is because it gives you the most bang for your buck on the page. So a Times New Roman, size 10 font, is still very readable. And it will help you get to one page easier than anything else. So simple, simple font, use the same font size throughout with the exception of your name, which can be larger, minimize those margins, or use those margins to your full advantage. And really avoid design elements. A few lines are okay, but avoid using tables and avoid over designing because the application tracking system, it can mess up the system’s ability to scan a document properly if there’s too much going on. In additionally, nobody cares anymore. Unless you work in the design space. And this is coming from somebody I worked in HR, I was a recruiter, I worked with a beast of an application tracking system. And I’ll tell you, people would spend hours trying to create this perfect one page document. And when it came through the ATS system, what I saw on the other side was a hot mess. So just keep it simple. That’s my point. Simple formatting, simple bullets. You can use bold italics and a little bit of underlining. But leave it at that.

Sujani 52:11
You know you’ve been doing this a long time when you know which font it fits perfectly.

Alison 52:17
That’s right.

Sujani 52:19
Oh, thank you so much, Alison, I think you know, I don’t know about like anyone listening. But I would definitely grab a piece of paper and pen when I’m listening to this episode and jot down everything you’ve shared with us. And I think this episode is going to give people like a great place to start if you know they’re preparing their resume or CV for the first time for getting into the job market. So thank you so much.

Alison 52:42
You’re very welcome. It was an absolute pleasure. And I appreciate the invitation to be here. So thanks to everyone who’s listening.

Sujani 52:50
Hey, so I hope you found that episode informative because I sure did. And you know, just reflecting back on that conversation. The one thing that I really learned in two back from this was how to use a CV and a resume together, right. So it’s almost like the CV acts as your master list of everything you’ve done in your career. And then you build your resume for the job of interest the one that you’re applying to using components of the CV, almost like this, like modular, modular take on building your resume based off of your CV. So that’s my learning from this episode. And I hope you have a similar learning and something that you could apply during your job application process. And along this topic, I wanted to also let you know that if you are looking for more guidance in reducing the overwhelm and uncertainty and building your public health career, we can help you here PH SPOT through our six week hands on intensive training program that empowers early professionals, recent grads and students in public health, with the mindset skills and tools required to land a political job and advancing your career. So like I said, if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about building your dream public health career, then I invite you to check out this program at You can now join the waitlist and we’ll be notifying you when the next cohort opens up.

And so that’s a wrap for our third episode of The New Year New You job hunt mini series. And as usual, if you want to get the links and information mentioned in today’s episode, you can head over to And we will have everything there for you.

And until next time, thank you so much for tuning into PH SPOTlight, and for the invaluable work that you do for this world. And just a small request that if you can, you know tell your colleagues and friends and peers in public health about this podcast. It’ll help us share the message and the advice that we share on this podcast with more and more public health professionals, so thank you in advance for doing that and I will see you on the next episode.


About the Show

PH SPOTlight: Public health career stories, inspiration, and guidance from current-day public health heroes

On the show, Sujani sits down with public health heroes of our time to share career stories, inspiration, and guidance for building public health careers. From time to time, she also has conversations with friends of public health – individuals who are not public health professionals, but their advice and guidance are equally important.

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