Creating a CV and Resume for Applied Sociology Jobs

Colleagues here is your belated third instalment in our January 2019 feature on Careers in Applied Sociology. Thankfully, you’ll still get your fourth instalment in a couple of days! The first post painted the issues sociology graduates experience in finding applied work. The second post gave tips on how to look for work. Today we’re going to look at how to write our CVs and resumes.

Sociology graduates often base their CVs and resumes on examples from academia, possibly because some academics make theirs publicly available and this is the model graduates follow. Academic examples are not a useful model for most applied sociology jobs (publications near the front, for example). Many candidates will send out the same CV/ resume to many places and wonder why they don’t get a call back. Creating a targeted CV or resume fit for purpose will help you get ahead of the pile!

What recruiters look for

First, you should understand how recruiters review CVs and resumes. Many workplaces will either out-source the long-listing process (refining the list of candidates who will be considered) using external recruitment agencies or their Human Resources departments. These intermediaries are unlikely to be part of the recruitement panel. They are not necessarily going to understand the key requirements for the role and they are not going to be experts in the field to which you’re applying. Instead, their role is to filter which CVs, resumes and applications are sent to the recruitment panel for review. Be aware that if you don’t follow instructions (sending a resume instead of CV for example, or sending a longer resume than outlined), you will probably be rejected without another thought. The rationale for this is that if you can’t follow simple instructions about how to submit your CV/ resume, you are not going to make a good employee.

Let’s say you’re applying for a job in Australia, where I live and work, and English is not your first language, or you’ve never had to write a resume or CV for an applied job. It’s not fair that you get discounted at this early stage, so ask your friends, family, colleagues, or another professional to help you out. But the people in your social network may not know the requirements for applied sociology jobs. So go to your graduate school at your university, your local council (who often run employment workshops) or head to your local employment agency to help you proofread and structure your CV and resume.

Either way, at this early stage, your CV or resume are crucial, because, overwhelmingly, recruiters will only scan your CV or resume, rather than spending too much time reading it in-depth (again, that’s the job of the recruitment panel). So if you find you’re not getting many interviews, this might be a sign that you might need to reformat your CV and resume.

Recruiters will spend only seconds glancing over your headings, so it’s important that you include the details listed in the job advertisement in your CV or resume. You might think that recruiters should be able to see the relevance of your podcast to the research assistant job you applied for (afterall, you talk about research in the podcast!), but if it’s not obvious, you need to spell this out.

Second, undertand that the difference between a CV and a resume are the length and breadth of detail. We’ll take a look at each and then cover some of the detail you might consider further below.

The following guide is for recent graduates up to postgraduate levels making the jump from academia to the applied sociology workforce. In future, I aim to cover similar themes for more experienced applied sociologists looking for senior roles. The examples I give suit the Australian labour force and may need other considerations for different cultural contexts. This is not meant to be a comprehensive ‘how to,’ but rather a starting point. Seeking feedback on your own CV and resume from professional services (your university, local library, council or employment agency) will give you more tailored feedback on your unique career needs.

Looking after yourself

A note about my career for further context: I taught and worked as a research assistant throughout my postgraduate degree. This meant I had a good range of publications, media and workplace experience to include in my CV. Some of you who are graduating with a Bachelor’s might not have this experience, but I’ve given some tips about how you might take the skills you learned in essays and group work for your CV.

Now in a senior role, I’ve hired applied sociologists and other social scientists into applied jobs in government and not for profit roles. The advice I provide is informed by a couple of decades’ of experience as an applied sociologist, manager and recruiter.

Applying for jobs is tough. Many of you often message me (and sometimes very aggressively, I might add) that you’ve tried and tried and can’t get the job of your dreams. Job hunting is really hard. Some of you are living in precarious economies where jobs are scarse or competition is fierce. It can be demoralising and demotivating. Looking for a job is often the equivalent of a part-time job in itself in terms of the time and skills you will need to invest.

Back in 2005, as an early career researcher and freshly minted postgraduate student, I often felt like giving up, especially when I was still invested in finding a job as an academic. But if you spend the time to get your CV and resume right, and seek feedback from more experienced people in your network to at least proofread your CV or resume, then you will find that the doors will start opening up.

Many graduates find it tough to find a job that is linked to their sociology degree, as we’ve already detailed. It can take many weeks or a few months to find a satifying job. It took me three months to make the jump from my final research assistant contract to being offered my first applied sociology role in government. By the time I went through all the screening and extensive documentation, it was closer to six months. Life was tough and I was impoverished, worn-out and scared about my future much of that time. Some people (like me) can’t afford to wait around forever for the ideal job, so do what makes sense for your lifestyle and financial responsibilities. This might mean getting your foot in the door at a lower level than you might like, without accepting exploitation of course, or side-stepping in your career so you build up some experience for at least one year.

Open yourself up to listening to constructive feedback. If you don’t hear a call back, give the recruiters a phone call, asking how you can improve your application. Along the way in my career, this has been one of the best ways I’ve honed my CV and applications, as I moved to different industries. Yes, rejection hurts! But if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong, you can’t improve. Be polite, humble and don’t react negatively to feedback. Most applicants do not call for feedback, so take the opportunity for guidance. You absolutely should do this if you got an interview but did not progress further!

Remember that no one will invest in giving you a chance out of the kindness of their hearts, despite your immense potential. Unfortunately it will be up to you to convince employers you’re the best person for the job. So stay positive and learn how to ‘market’ your skills as an applied sociologist (using the tips in this series will help!).

Make the time to keep your spirits positive and to look after your wellbeing. I gave myself little goals and rewards to keep motivated. One longer application per week (including statements against selection criteria), plus two to three shorter applications (requiring only a cover letter) each day. A walk each afternoon. A treat on the weekends (tough to do on a tiny budget, but it could just be catching up with a friend for a cup of tea and a laugh). Find yourself a cheersquad, whether it’s fellow graduates, friends or family. Ask them to send you encouragement or gifs or whatever helps you smile as a reward at the end of the day. Look after your mental health and wellbeing, and know that, as with anything, putting in the effort early (a good CV and resume, in this case) will pay off in the long run.

Now let’s take a look at some tips to get you started and some examples from my early career that might help spark some ideas for your own job hunt.

Writing your CV

Curriculum Vitæ, or ‘CV’ (meaning ‘course of life’ in Latin), is a longer, detailed document of your work and educational history as well as other qualifications and experience. It will include achievements, volunteering and other relevant employment history.

  • Keep a ‘master’ copy of your CV that lists everything you’ve done. This can be as long as you need it to be, but keep it organised with useful headings
  • It is a static document that will form the basis of your resume
  • The details should be listed chronologically, using relevant headings to group work experience and related skills
  • eep it updated, reviewing at least every six months
  • As a good rule of thumb, keep up to ten years of experience in your CV and start shedding earlier details as you progress in your career
  • If a job application requires you send a CV, then edit a version of your ‘master’ to include only relevant details to the job. Usually a CV you submit to employers should be five to six pages maximum as they are unlikely to read much more. Less is more if you want to make a good impression.

Over time, you will lose some details from your CV in favour of new skills and experience. While most of the headings of my current CV today are similar to the headings I show in my sample CV and resume below, much of the content has changed. All of my customer service roles are no longer in my CV as I’m now in a senior research and policy role, but I’m damn proud of this work history and it absolutely helped me get my first job as a policy researcher in 2005! This was because I was able to spell out how my management and leadership in these roles translated to the job I applied for (budgeting, managing team members, conflict resolution).

What to include

The first page of your CV should have the basics (your name, home address, contact details) and then get straight to the point – your employment history. If you’ve held a couple of jobs, list your job title, employer, duties and career highlights (did you win an award? Did you help write a report? Did you co-author or assist in a grant?).

  • Chronological order. If you’re a new graduate you may wish to list your employers from most recent to past, but then focus on your skills relevant to the position.
  • Clear headings. The fewer words the better will make your CV easy to scan. For example:
  • Research skills: interviewing, literature reviews, statistics, report writing;
  • Administrative and technical skills: procificient in Word, advanced in PowerPoint;
  • Communication: delivered two conference papers about X & Y; blogger on social issues at;
  • Teamwork: contributed data analysis using Excel on project about Z.

Put your publications list at the end. Employers are not going to be interested in your publications list; but they will be interested in how you can use your research skills. So if you’ve published lots, give only a flavour of your best work, which can include journal articles, conference papers and blog posts. Don’t list everything unless the role is for research. Just pick up to five samples and be sure to choose those that cover themes relevant to the job you’re applying.

Keep it short

  • Most recruiters will only scan the first two pages. The first couple of pages have to hold their attention. Read the instructions carefully; if it says two pages for a CV, then only give two pages or recruiters may not bother reading your work history. For early career sociologists (within 10 to 15 since graduating), most of the roles especially soon after graduation are going to be junior, so there’s no need to pad out your CV. Two to three pages is typically fine.
  • Find examples of CVs from applied sociologists in the sector you want to work in and think about the headings and detail they include. For those that don’t have these contacts, I’ve recreated the CV I used when I first was looking for work outside academia in 2005 to give you a guide. I was an early career researcher who completed my PhD the previous year. I had lecturing and research assistant experience, as well as having worked in ‘non-speacialist’ customer service jobs for much longer.

Sample CV

You can download a PDF version of this sample CV here.*

Writing your resume

A resume is a conscise summary, no more than two pages, highlighting your career and achievements with examples only relevant to the specific job to which you’re applying.

  • Resumes don’t have to list every job or qualification you have, they should be adapted to the job position, using headings that mirror the job advertisement.
  • Resumes make you stand out from the crowd and should be easy to scan. Use bullet points, headings and bold text to immediately signal how you are qualified for the specific job you want.

Tailor your resume to the role

  • Create a custom resume to fit the job. Your chances of being shortlisted for an interview will increase with you making multiple versions of your CV or resume to suit the role you’re applying. While this is more work it will pay off.
  • For social research or marketing companies: focus on the types of methods you’ve been trained in and list these in a succint way, under qualitative and quantitative headings or bullet point list.
  • For policy or not-for-profits: focus on the projects you’ve undertaken using plain language, not academic jargon. For example: ‘Third-year essay analysed income inequality among vulnerable communities.’ Rather than: ‘Sociology of class disparity.’

Sample resume

You can download a PDF version of this sample resume here. *

Next time we cover job applications!


*NB. Apart from some minor formatting tweaks, this CV and resume is an exact replica of my early career CV from 2005. I’ve removed identifying details from my CV and resume and changed a couple of names identifying my hometown, school and early career workplaces to protect my privacy. I added a modified version of my social media section to these sample documents from my current CV (I wasn’t on social media in 2005!), to provide an example of how to include this, as other students have asked me in the past how I represent these skills on my CV.

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