top of page

Resumes and CVs


The primary documents that we use when applying for jobs are either our resume or curriculum vitae (CV). These are summaries of our past and current professional activities. If you are looking primarily for jobs outside of academia, you will normally be required to submit a resume; for jobs in academia, you will most often be asked to submit a curriculum vitae. 

The main difference between these two documents is length and the amount of detail required. A resume will normally fill a maximum of two pages and will list contact information, education history, previous employers, job titles, dates of employment, and a short description of any work that is not clearly defined by a job title. 

A curriculum vitae has no maximum length and will grow to be quite long over the course of one’s career. This document should contain the same information as a resume, but list far more detail under the description of each job, including specific performance measurements when possible. For example, if addressing teaching experience, a CV might include classes taught, topics covered, specific responsibilities, and any noteworthy achievements in that position.[1] The CV will also contain categories that might not be included in a resume: repertoire lists, professional memberships, community or scholastic service, languages spoken, publications,[2] special abilities (such as website development, or a secondary instrument), and even interests outside of the music field.[3] Donald Hamann also recommends that one include categories for research, creative activities, recordings, grants, honors, awards, and professional references.[4] He also suggests that each individual may choose to include different categories, including some not listed above. If your accomplishments are not fully articulated within the usual categories, then create your own so that potential employers have the most complete picture of your abilities.


  1. Studies show that employers typically spend fewer than ten seconds reading a resume.[5] Does the formatting and visual layout of your document immediately draw the reader’s attention to the most relevant information?

  2. Is it well-organized? Are the headings clear, and is the information formatted in a logical way? Are the most important elements highlighted in some way, and is the most pertinent information listed first? Is the chosen format applied consistently?

  3. Is it visually compelling? David Cutler argues that a resume should be approached as a work of art. He recommends that you “aim to make a nicer-looking document than the competition, mirroring the high quality of your work.”[6] Angela Myles Beeching recommends using a distinctive but professional typeface in your letterhead design, and an easily-read, standard-serif typeface (Palatino, Garamond or Times New Roman) for the content.[7]

  4. Is information organized in a way that presents strengths? For example, if you perform frequently in orchestras but rarely offer solo recitals, do not list these as separate categories. Instead, list “instrumental performance.” De-emphasize your weaknesses.[8]

  5. Is it “perfect?” The most important aspect of any professional document is its accuracy.[9] Make sure that everything listed in the document is true and that you are not embellishing in any way.[10] In addition, you must proofread with utmost care. Any misspelling, punctuation error, or inconsistency in format will be considered a major fault. Employers assume that application materials are examples of your best work. 

  6. How might you customize this document for specific jobs? For a teaching job, you might list your education history and teaching qualifications first. For an orchestral job, however, you might consider placing your current ensemble membership and your primary teachers in first position.[11]

  7. Some resumes may contain an opening statement that highlights your strengths and objectives. What makes you an ideal candidate for this position?[12] Consider specifically crafting this type of statement for your job applications. 


  1. Make sure that your document clearly lists your full name and contact information. Avoid using titles such as Dr., PhD, MFA, etc., as this information will be reflected in your education history.[13] Also avoid using Mrs., Miss, and Ms., as those salutations can reflect marital status, which should not be revealed in a job search.[14]

  2. Dates. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, dated entries should appear in reverse chronological order.[15]Listing years only is almost always sufficient. 

  3. 3)    Dissemination. Always send documents in PDF format. Employers will use a variety of word-processing programs. If the document is sent in a format other than PDF, unintended changes in font, formatting and style can occur. PDF is a locked format and is universally accepted as a standard document type.[16]

We hope that these guidelines can help you shape documents that accurately reflect your credentials and put you at the top of the “yes” pile. Good luck!


[1] Cutler, David. The Savvy Musician. Pittsburgh, Pa.: Helius Press, 2010, 83.

[2] Cutler, 83

[3] Hamann, Donald. On Staff: A Practical Guide to Starting Your Career in a University Music Department. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013, 30.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Beeching, Angela Myles. Beyond Talent: Creating a Successful Career in Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, 260.

[6] Beeching, 261

[7] Beeching, 259

[8] Cutler, 84

[9] Beeching 259-260

[10] Cutler, 84

[11] Hamann, 26; Cutler, 84; Beeching, 261

[12] Ricker, Ramon. Lessons from a Street-wise Professor: What You Won’t Learn at Most Music Schools. Fairport, N.Y.: Soundown Inc., 2011, 72.

[13] Cutler, 85

[14] Ricker, 70

[15] Cutler, 86

[16] Hamann, 27


Recent Posts

See All

Lessons from Year One as MD: Part 2 - The Code

Lesson 2: Have a Code and Let it Guide You 1. Introduction In part one of this exploration, I laid out the first of three important lessons that I learned during my first year as Music Director of the

Speaking to an Audience

You have finally made it: years of study, practice, dedication, and perseverance have landed you your first conducting job. You can’t wait to rehearse the orchestra, lead the connections between phra


bottom of page