Twitter Chat Summary - How to Write a Killer Academic CV

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On Tuesday 8th July, hosted a twitter chat, you can read a summary below:

View the killer academic CV event on storify

Last week’s busy Twitter chat (see #jobsQ) saw an influx of questions in relation to writing killer academic CVs for people at all stages of academic life. We welcomed questions in advance of the event and had many emails so our panel were well primed to begin.

One of the first questions is a common one- what’s the ideal length for a CV? Common sense advice was given by both panelists - it depends on the position you’re applying for, but there are no hard and fast rules. Not too long (recruiters can get overwhelmed with applications), but not too short that you miss out key detail (2 page CV is a myth). General advice from Caroline Edwards, a Lecturer at Birkbeck, University of London was about 3-4 pages long for an academic post but shorter for a teaching post.

Formatting of CVs was picked up in a few questions by myself, Michelle Boardman Senior Academic Manager at the University of Derby Online Learning. With a rapidly growing academic team, I am involved with recruiting staff at all levels and have sifted through hundreds of CVs. Tips for CV writers were a reminder that the recruiter often doesn’t have long to read documents; don’t make them too lengthy, the choice of font is important (my personal hate of Times New Roman), use a legible font size (10 can be too small), use clear subheadings and consider uploading a PDF version as Word documents can often be formatted oddly when viewed on tablets.

With CVs applicants often send covering letters. The focus of a covering letter should be to flesh out the relevant parts from a CV, but again keep it brief. Recruiters will often have, from one applicant, a CV, application and covering letter to read. The covering letter is the document I will spend the least time on so make sure you sell yourself in the CV - don’t just rely on the covering letter.

The structure of a CV is also important; with the key message that you tailor depending on the role applying for. Caroline recommended for a research CV prioritise academic experience, publications, funding / bids, teaching and conference papers. With a teaching CV list teaching experience first, but also include research activity as departments want to attract candidates who are research active as it contributes to curriculum development, funding and the research profile of the institution.

When writing CVs it’s as important to decide what to leave out as it is to know what to list, does all experience count, even your first ever paper round? How do you know what is relevant to include? I always encourage people to think about how previous experience, even if not in a ‘traditional’ academic role, can demonstrate transferable skills. For example, exam invigilation evidences administrative experience which is relevant for today’s modern academic (gone are the days of typing pools!) and a student liaison role would indicate someone who can take a student centered approach to the work they do. Caroline encouraged applicants to research the department / centre they are applying to so they can highlight relevant non-paid work. This could include seminars you’ve led, conference attendance, reading groups or talks you’ve been invited to present. If you haven’t done any of these things - start volunteering! It’s all about selling your relevant experience to the employer.

Both myself and Caroline are bloggers so it was interesting that we both agreed on whether to put academic guest blog posts in a publishing section of a CV. We advised that if it’s not on a peer-reviewed blog, it’s better in a media publications section so it doesn’t weaken the strength of research publications.

As a recruiter, I may come across an applicants blog through searching online for them ahead of an interview. In particular, because I work for an online department, I’m always interested in the virtual profile of candidates. The CV is just the starting point of getting to know someone so make sure your online profile sells you as well as your CV.

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