Advice & News

August 23, 2023

You Don’t Have to Write Your Resume/CV Alone

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Writing a resume or CV and cover letter is by nature a solo endeavor. It's something we each have to do, reflecting deeply on our educational training, work history, and talents to package ourselves as 'the best candidate.' That's not to say that we don't take advantage of peer review, but the lion's share of the work is on us to write and design each draft of our resumes and cover letters. Yet, potential bullet points abound in our daily interactions on campus, so if you're feeling like a blank page is staring back at you, don't lose hope. In many ways, your peers, students, and supervisors can help "write" your resume -- if you start listening and mining these sources for prime resume/CV material.

Performance Reviews

Performance reviews are a great starting point for writing or revising your resume because they give you a big picture of your professional achievements over the past year. Good evaluations ask employees (and their supervisors) to evaluate their strengths, identify areas of improvement, and list accomplishments and goals. What was notable to your managers and peers to mention in your review is also likely to impress hiring managers. Using the job description, mine your performance review for key points that can support your candidacy, then weave them into your resume or frame your cover letter around a compelling success story.

Consulting your performance review can also take some of the pressure off resume-writing since you can reuse your own language and ideas from it, as well as those of your supervisor -- and your colleagues if you had a 360 review.

Formal and Informal Feedback from Peers, Supervisors, and Mentors

As a society, we're pretty good at brushing off compliments. Often our own worst critics, it can be difficult to uncover our strong points and record them. Yet, resumes and CVs demand it.

If you're struggling to position yourself as a compelling candidate, take a step back and think about your recent interactions with your peers. Maybe a colleague in your department commented on your ability to forge strong relationships with students or your colleagues are coming to you for advice on a tool. Those are recognitions of a job well done. If you start looking for interactions like these, you might be surprised by how much they can inform your candidacy and spark ideas for improving your resume.

Mentors and colleagues in professional associations can also be great sources to support you in identifying your talents and areas in which you need to grow.

Student Reviews (for Faculty)

Student reviews have a controversial reputation. At their worst, they can be biased, unfair, and off-topic, so don't wear your heart on your sleeve when reading them. However, when done correctly by students, they can help faculty members adjust their courses and their teaching tools and methods to optimize student learning and success. These reviews can also provide data on what you do well, which you can turn into bullet points on your CV to help sell you as a candidate.

What positive themes are you seeing at the end of a semester? What themes are you seeing consistently year after year? Take the time to analyze the trends and determine how the feedback you get can support your candidacy. Additionally, though no one relishes criticism, if there are themes that indicate a true weak point in your teaching (which impacts your candidacy), this is a great opportunity to make note of that and strategize ways to address the problem.

Job Advertisements

Tailoring your resume and cover letter for each position will give you the best chance for success. Mining it for keywords and skills that match your experience are ways to help you in your writing process, but not all job postings are created equally, so if the one you're applying for isn't sparking inspiration, you might consider reviewing similar open positions.

This wholistic look at job postings in your field can give you a "basic lay of the land: noting the jobs available, their requisite skills and backgrounds, the institutions hiring, and recognizing patterns," reads another HigherEdJobs article. Craft your resume with these trends in mind.

Be Bold: Ask for Feedback

If themes are not emerging for you from these resources, don't be afraid to start a conversation with colleagues.

In a Washington Post article, Russ Finkelstein describes a friend who realized "that the people around him could see the things he was doing wrong, much more easily than he could." By asking others for critical feedback, he was able to improve significantly at his sport.

Like the friend he describes, we all have blind spots. You likely have both strengths and weaknesses you are not even aware of, and sometimes all it takes is having someone point them out to you. Ask those you trust, and then listen with an open mind. You may get some great application material and discover gaps that you can fill in order to strengthen your candidacy.


Writing your job application materials doesn't have to be a solo endeavor. When you shift your attitude and start mining feedback from others, it becomes clearer who you are as a candidate and how to position your strengths.

Disclaimer: HigherEdJobs encourages free discourse and expression of issues while striving for accurate presentation to our audience. A guest opinion serves as an avenue to address and explore important topics, for authors to impart their expertise to our higher education audience and to challenge readers to consider points of view that could be outside of their comfort zone. The viewpoints, beliefs, or opinions expressed in the above piece are those of the author(s) and don't imply endorsement by HigherEdJobs.

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