What kind of work experience should I include in my CV? My GPA isn’t that great - should I mention it right in the beginning, or let the admissions committee go through my transcripts? Will volunteer work help? Every well crafted CV in the past has been through a similar set of questions, fraught with uncertainty about whether it will hold up against the critical glare of the admissions committee.
To help you answer some of these questions, we’ve put together a small guide on how to build a solid CV for your LLM application, based on insights from CollegeIt’s live session with Shardool Kulkarni, an LLM Candidate at Tel Aviv University, and Orit Gontmaher, the Admissions and Marketing Director of the Parasol Foundation International LLM program.
Why is the CV Important?
In order to build a convincing resumé, it is first important to establish the purpose it serves in evaluating your application. As such, the CV is a document which lets your experience speak for itself. It is objective, and cuts through the noise in other parts of the application.
To that effect, Orit indicates, “Your CV will offer a clean outline of your strengths so that we can determine whether or not you will be right for our program. Unlike a personal statement that is based on emotion and letters of recommendation that are based on information someone else writes about you, the CV allows us a source of information that is neutral…”.
Educational Qualifications, Grades, Awards and Scholarships
First and foremost, it is important to indicate your degree and the university you graduated from, which helps the evaluator ensure that you meet the base requirements for admission to the program. Secondly, both Orit and Shardool agree that your GPA should be included amongst your educational qualifications.
As Shardool emphasizes, “it’s definitely necessary to highlight what your GPA or percentage is in the CV itself because it’s irksome for the person evaluating your application to go and look at your transcript to see what your grades are, when you can set out the average in your CV.”
While your transcript will be thoroughly evaluated, including your average grade in the CV sets the right tone for the reviewer and makes their experience of reading your application much smoother. To that end, if your average meets the minimum program requirement, it’s probably a good idea to demonstrate that you meet the qualifying criteria by putting it in your CV.
In terms of how to put together your academic achievements such as gold medals and scholarships, Shardool advises, “the way I would structure it would be that I would include my education qualifications at the top, mention where I graduated from and what was my GPA, and below that I would perhaps consider including a separate section on awards and scholarships, especially if there are more than one or two because that would highlight that individual’s academic merit.”
When it comes to including work experience, the advice can differ depending on where you are in your career at the time of applying for the LLM. The two most common queries that applicants have are about the level of details to be included in the work-ex section, and if the work experience should be related to your choice of specialization in the LLM program.
For the latter query, Shardool says, “the fact that you had a full-time position and you excelled in it, if you have a recommendation letter to that effect, or the fact that you held down a job for a significant period of time - that speaks to your credentials as a professional. I personally don’t think you should redact your work experience simply because it’s not linked to your specialization.”
Whilst the relevance to your specialization is not necessarily a significant factor, it is important to avoid clutter in your work experience section, especially for applicants with several years of work experience. As such, Shardool advises to include around four or five experiences that are either the most prestigious, or the most relevant.
Another aspect to consider is how the professional experiences included in the CV work in tandem with the statement of purpose. Shardool advises asking yourself, “How am I representing that work experience in my SOP? For example, even though it might not strictly relate to the field I am applying to, if it was something that was pivotal in the kind of career choices that I have, then I would still include it [in the CV].”
Overall, Orit summarizes, “the length and quality of the work experience are not the main thing for us. [...] Full time job, part time job, internships, volunteering can show us that you have been proactive during your studies and you take your academic and professional development seriously. It also can be useful for you; you will know in the program which track you want to choose. But it’s not a must.”
While publications are not a prerequisite requirement for a strong application, having a section in your CV highlighting what you’ve written immediately adds brownie points to your application. Right off the bat, it conveys to the reader that you have initiative, the ability to commit your thoughts to paper, along with basic research skills.
In terms of presenting this in an organized manner, Shardool offers some pointers, “In my CV I put a big header saying ‘Publications’, and within that I divided it according to the kind of publication it was. So book chapters, journal articles, blogs, newspapers & periodicals. I divided it into four categories because that sets out the weight of each category.” He further elaborates that if you were to place 15 items without classifying them, your reader may not be able to distinguish peer-reviewed journal articles from blogs.
Even though different types of publications, as Shardool says, carry different weight, he would still “include blogs or newspaper articles or periodicals because it speaks to a person’s ability to write in different ways. The manner in which you would write for a peer-reviewed journal is very different from the way you would write for a public access blog.” Where possible, be sure to include hyperlinks, especially to blogs and newspaper articles.
Volunteer Work, Extracurricular Activities and Awards
Lastly, an important section in the CV for an LLM application is volunteer work. Often overlooked to give more emphasis on paid work experience, volunteer work can speak volumes about your personality, and your willingness to be involved in your community.
Orit elaborates, “Volunteer work shows us your interests, but also that you are willing to work hard for reasons other than financial gain. Definitely, you should mention volunteer work in your CV, list the volunteer activities that helped develop your leadership, organization, or other skills. [...] List these activities and provide the role and dates of involvement, and the details that show us how you participated in volunteer work.”
Shardool adds to this, “I would include centers or societies that are relevant to my specialization.” Especially if your job experiences are not completely linked to your specialization, including volunteer work where you may have held a leadership position in the area of specialization can further round out your application.
When it comes to hobbies and interests, Shardool advises creating a small hobbies and interests section where you can include one-line entries mentioning any state-level or national-level awards. However, Shardool adds a small caveat, “if it’s something that is more in the nature of a hobby where you may have had a stray accomplishment or two then I would perhaps not include it at all.”
Overall CV Best Practices
Ultimately, while your CV gives the reader a broad overview of your achievements, it also indicates your ability to organize those achievements in a readable and logical manner. As Orit insists, “the first impression really matters. The appropriate length, structure and format should be highly considered. The CV should be structured in an easy way, it should be well organized and look comfortable to the eyes.” To that end, both Orit and Shardool agree that your CV should not exceed more than two pages.
Further, Shardool offers pointers on what kind of format is best suited for the CV. He mentions, everything from the font style and size, to line spacing, should be consistent. He also advises to avoid using colors, and to reserve bold formats for headings.
Overall, what makes a CV truly stand out is its readability. The way you format your CV can either enhance or hide your accomplishments. As such, paying attention to format, having clear headings and subheadings, will ensure that your achievements are embellished throughout those two pages.
Lastly, be sure to emphasize experiences that have been important to your journey and have led you to this moment, where you are looking to pursue an LLM with the objective of advancing your career.
The last date to apply to Tel Aviv University's LLM program is 31 May 2022 - you can sign up for CollegeIt's Free Application Assistance program for applying to Tel Aviv University by sending an email to email@example.com.