Graduate Students

Graduate Student Job Search Tool Kit

Conducting a job search can be tricky, especially for those with very specialized training.

How do you find the right opportunities for your subject area and level? What are the job families and industries that you should consider? Career Design can provide tools and strategies specifically geared for Graduate Students and PhDs who are ready to launch their job search.

We can help you at any point in your experience at Northeastern – there are services and resources to help you:

Click here to find upcoming workshops and events.

Advanced Resume Tips

General Resume Information

Your professional resume should be targeted to fit the jobs for which you are applying. Use the following guidelines to help you create a professional, tailored resume.

  • The concept of a targeted resume implies that you must first have a job target. If you don’t know what you want to do, work with a counselor to narrow your focus. A generic resume that is too broad will not be as effective in selling you to potential employers.
  • Your resume is not a chronology of everything you have done! It is an advertisement of your skills and abilities to do a particular job. You do not need to include every job you have had since college. Make a decision to edit down or eliminate altogether any jobs that don’t match your target.
  • Utilize every section of your resume to highlight related skills and experiences. This can be especially useful if you did not do co-op or internships in your field, or if you have changed your career focus. Did you take any courses in your field of interest? Create a sub heading under your Education section called Related Coursework that showcases these. Did you do any projects or research as a student? A capstone project or other work that relates to your career interests could be described in a Related Projects or Research section.
  • When writing the Experience section of your resume, organize your jobs to maximize the related work you have done.Use a section called Relevant Experience to present those jobs related to your target in an organized and unified way, especially if they don’t naturally fall in chronological order. Also, if you participated in volunteer jobs or student leadership activities that relate to your career goals, you can describe your accomplishments in more detail with bullets rather than just listing them. Jobs in the Experience section do not necessarily have to be ones for which you were paid.
  • You can create another heading called Other or Additional Experience to include those jobs that don’t relate as well to your target but that you still want to keep on your resume.
  • Arrange your bullets to emphasize the most relevant job duties and responsibilities. For example, if you want a job as a writer, describe the writing related activities you did first, even if these were not your primary responsibilities on that job. You may have spent less than 10% of your time writing, but list these responsibilities first because that is what potential employers will be interested in. Put peripheral experiences last, if at all.
  • Your job bullets should not read like a job description. Do not simply copy from descriptions; rather, they should highlight concrete accomplishments and results. For example, did you save or make the company money? Save time or create a more efficient system? Did you solve a problem or initiate something that added value? How many people did you train? Catch the employer’s attention by showing how you added value to the organization’s bottom line.

What is a CV?

A curriculum vitae, or CV, is a resume used to apply for academic teaching or research positions. In countries outside the U.S., it is common to hear the term CV, a word to refer to what Americans call a resume. Each country has different expectations for what is required in a CV, so it is important to research the country specifically.

Like a resume, your CV will summarize your education, experience, and accomplishments targeted to a specific job. Academic CV’s differ from resumes in the additional material they include and their focus on research and teaching; international CVs often include more personal information and greater detail than American resumes. American CV’s focus on the “3 Pillars of the Academy: Research, Teaching, and Service.”

How to write an effective CV

Common CV categories

Contact Information

In addition to your name, address, email address, and telephone number, it is recommended that you include the institutional address and department on the CV to demonstrate your continued affiliation with the university. Include your name at the top of every page.


For graduate students and PhDs with less than two or three years of experience beyond your degree, your educational background comes next because it is your primary qualification. List your degrees in reverse chronological order.


The topic of your dissertation and the reputation of your advisors are credentials. Include a two to five line description of the work and the name of your advisor and the members of your thesis committee.


List your awards in reverse chronological order.

Publications, Presentations, and Folders

List your awards in reverse chronological order.

Professional Licenses or Certifications

Organizations where you are a member and offices or committee memberships if any.

Teaching Experience

You may wish to add some specific detail about your teaching experience, including:

  • Run sections and labs
  • Grade problem sets, papers, and exams
  • Give lectures to the whole class (what percent of all lectures)
  • Influence the content of the syllabus (what degree of input)

Research Interests

These should appear in reverse chronological order.

  • Works in Progress: Work currently underway but not ready to send out for publication.
  • Research Interests: Areas of interest and future research topics.

Professional Affiliations

Organizations where you are a member and offices or committee memberships if any.

Professional Training

Courses or seminars attended on topics such as pedagogy, quantitative methods, computer applications, or other areas related to your work.

Other Professional Experience

Include additional experience if it is somehow related to the desired position.

Professional Service

List committee assignments, appointed or elected academic positions and other service organizations or groups you participated in.


Use a separate page, and include all useful contact information: address, phone, fax, and email.

Online Resources

Target Your CV

Target your CV to each specific job by placing what is most relevant to the job you are applying for at the top. For example, recent graduates seeking a teaching position should put their teaching experience at the top. For each position, list tasks performed, outcomes, and achievements, emphasizing those requiring the highest level of skill. Begin each phrase with an action verb and avoid passive phrases like “responsibilities include.” Quantify your accomplishments when possible, e.g., “increased tutored student averages by one letter grade,” “lectured over 150 students weekly,” “maintained average caseload of 85.”


Cover Letter

The purpose of a cover letter is to convince an employer that your skills and background make you worth interviewing.

While a resume summarizes your experience, a cover letter persuasively relates that experience to the specific job to which you are applying. Although a cover letter is not always required, when it is, it gives you the opportunity to explain why you’re interested in that particular company, making you a more attractive candidate to that employer.

Cover Letter Essentials

It’s so important to be prepared, be sure to research the company and the individual(s) you are scheduled to meet with. It is important to anticipate and practice answers to possible questions and prepare your questions to ask during your interview.

More Information about Interviewing

Interviews – Steps to increase your Interview IQ

Research the Individual(s) You’re Meeting With

Companies will often give you the names of the individual(s) you’re meeting with, but if they don’t, it’s completely appropriate to ask “with whom will I be meeting?” Look at the company bio and LinkedIn profile, as well as Google, anyone you’re meeting with so that you know their background and can ask questions that show you’re well informed.

Research the Organization

Learn as much as you can before the interview. Visit their website to understand their products/services, the volume of business, competitors, culture, and other key information. Search for news articles or other publications about the organization. Use Google News, LexisNexis, Hoovers, Glassdoor, Wetfeet, and Business Week, as well as LinkedIn and Twitter. Of course, if anyone at your network works at the organization, you’ll want to speak to them to get first-hand information.

Research the Job

In addition to researching the individual(s) you’re meeting with and the company, you need to understand as much as you can about the job itself. Analyze the job description and match your experiences, skills, and interests to the job.

Know Yourself

Now that you have completed your research on the interviewer(s), company, job, and salary, you need to focus on yourself. Why are you interested in this position? How do your experiences and qualifications fit the requirements of the job? Be able to discuss your strengths and weaknesses, your educational background and work experiences, and your goals and values. Write down your competencies and accomplishments and think about concrete examples as evidence.

Prepare at least 4-7 stories using the S-T-A-R method:

S – situation (give an example of a situation you were involved in that resulted in a positive outcome);
T – task (describe the tasks involved in that situation);
A – action ( what did you do/what actions did you take to complete the tasks effectively);
R – result (what was the outcome? what happened?)

See some examples of S-T-A-R responses in Behavioral Interview Questions.

Know the Interview Format Ahead of Time

Employers, depending on the type of role they are interviewing for, may Structure the Format to highlight job-seekers’ strengths and abilities to think on their feet.  It is completely appropriate to ask “how long should I plan to be at your office?” so you can prepare appropriately and pace yourself once you are there.

Practice, Practice, Practice

And then practice some more!

  • Read the job description thoroughly.
  • Prepare answers to potential questions in advance. Be sure to connect your skills with their specific requirements.
  • Practice your answers with a friend or counselor in the Department of Career Development.
  • Recorded mock interviews are also available after a practice session with a counselor.
  • Polish your S-T-A-R stories!
  • Don’t forget to take advantage of Big Interview – an online interview practice tool that can be used from home if you have a webcam on your computer, or from the designated computer in the Department of Employer Engagement and Career Design.

Make a List of Questions to Ask

The questions you ask indicate your level of interest in the organization and your preparation for the interview. If you don’t have any questions to ask, most employers will think you’re not interested in the job. Don’t ask questions that could easily be answered through your research. Instead, ask questions that demonstrate a genuine interest in, and understanding of, the organization and the position. You should have at least 10 questions prepared.


  • What are some of the qualities that will make the person in this position successful?
  • Can you describe a typical day or week for the person in this position?
  • What will the biggest challenges be for the person in this job?
  • Could you tell me about the people with whom I will be working directly?
  • What are the challenges currently facing the department/organization?
  • How will the person in this position be evaluated?
  • What are the opportunities for professional development?
  • How has this job evolved?
  • What are the advancement opportunities?
  • How will this position have an impact?
  • Does this position offer any flexibility?
  • What are the next steps in this process?
  • When may I expect to hear from you regarding my candidacy?


You will need a list of three or four references to take with you to interviews. Use the same header as your resume.

List 3 references that can speak about your qualifications:

  • Name
  • Job Title
  • Relationship to you
  • Phone Number
  • E-mail

Networking is the most important part of your job search. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up to 80% of jobs are found by candidates or filled by employers through networking. It is critical that you develop this skill as it is one you will use throughout your life.

Build Your Network

LinkedIn is a great resource for:

  • Career exploration, networking and job search.
  • Sharing advice and information with professionals in your field through updates and groups.
  • Recruiters to post jobs as well as to screen and search for possible candidates.

Add to your connections

Invite past and current co-workers, classmates, friends and family to connect. Be sure to add these 3 things to your customized invitations: the person’s name, a personal message, and the words “thank you”. For ideas on customizing invites, read this blog from the Muse.

Join groups

You can join up to 100 groups.  Using the top search bar, click on the magnifying glass, add in a key word, and select “Groups” from the “More” menu bar.

To learn more visit our LinkedIn Guide

Expand Your Network for the Job Search

Networking is the most effective job search tool. LinkedIn can help you find contacts to conduct informational interviews and lead to job opportunities.  Visit our Networking & Informational Interviewing page for tips and sample messages for outreach.

How to make networking connections on LinkedIn:

  1. Ask for an Introduction
    You can ask a 1st level connection to introduce you to one of their connections. Go to any 2nd level connection, who you’d like to reach out to. On the 2nd level connection’s profile, click on “More” below their name and select “Share profile”. This will take you to creating a message – add your 1st connection’s name in the “To” box.  Create a message about why you’d like to be introduced. Write a short but very professional message to your 1st level connection, asking her or him if they will forward your message along.  See a sample request for an informational interview here. OR  Send a regular email to your 1st level connection with this same request.  Since not everyone reads their LinkedIn messages, this method might be the better approach.
  2. Use your groups
    Message your 2nd and 3rd level connections for an informational interview.
  3. Look for and connect with Alumni
    Search “Northeastern University” in the search bar on the LinkedIn home page to take you to the school’s page. Click “See Alumni” to search for current students and alumni based on “Where they live”, “Where they work”, “What they do”, “What they studied”, “What they are skilled at”, and “How you are connected”. Follow step 1 or 2 above to connect.
  4. Explore target company pages for connections
    Company pages list current and former employees, selected job openings and news/updates. Select to “Follow” target companies for updates. Reach out to informational interview and network with 1st and 2nd connections from the company page.

Search and Apply for Job Opportunities

To maximize LinkedIn as a job search tool:

  • Use the “Jobs” tab to review and apply for open positions. A list of jobs that may interest you will appear based on keywords from your profile.
  • Set your career interests. You may narrow your search using the “Search jobs” field or by updating your career interests.
  • Let recruiters know that you are looking for employment. Indicate this preference while setting your career interests.
  • Create a search alert and get notified of targeted job opportunities. Click here to find out how.
  • Apply! Utilize the “Apply” feature for jobs you are interested in. You may be able to apply only with your LinkedIn profile, may be requested to submit a resume and cover letter, or may be directed to the company’s website to apply for the position.

For other Job Search Resources outside of LinkedIn check out our Job Search Resource Page


Resources for your Academic Job Search

Resources for your Industry/Non-Academic Job Search

Funding Resources for Graduate Students/Post-Docs