Making Your Academic CV Effective

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This article discusses ways that you can improve your CV and get noticed by academic employers.

Academic CVs are very different from CVs for commercial jobs so much of the advice you see on generic job sites will not be relevant. Here’s how to sell yourself in the best way possible.

What should I include?

Make sure the structure is simple and well organised.

Each section should be clearly distinct.

For an academic CV you should include as much of the following as possible:

  • Contact details
  • Qualifications
  • Teaching Experience
  • Research/publications
  • Research/project management
  • Administrative posts held
  • Professional bodies/posts
  • Grants/prizes awarded
  • Referees names/contact details

What should my CV look like?

Your CV needs to be attractive to look at but professional and not gimmicky.

It needs to be easy to skim read; remember the selection panel might only spend a couple of minutes looking at each CV. Make clever use of italics and underlining to draw the eye around the page but don’t overdo it!

Use bullet points not large chunks of text. Write in short sentences, don’t use ‘I’ or ‘we’ too much

Use a single column in standard format with left justification rather than deliberately trying to make the layout unusual

Print it out on white, good quality paper.

Improving the Effectiveness: the contents 

  • Do not include everything! In each category list only the most recent or relevant activities. For example, if you have a PhD, a potential employer probably won’t want to know about your GCSEs.
  • Relevance: make sure that each CV you produce is tailored to a particular job; do not just send out a standard CV. You need to emphasise the skills and experience that employer is looking for.
  • Language: use active words that will convey your qualities in a more immediate way. For example, do not say that you ‘worked on’ or were ‘responsible for’ a particular project but instead think about how you showed leadership. Use verbs like: ‘achieved’, ‘increased’, ‘improved’, ‘proposed’, ‘established’.
  • Avoid including too much personal information on your CV. There is no need to include hobbies or outside interests, marital status or religious affiliation unless any of these has a specific relevance for the job (they almost certainly won’t!). Your CV should focus on your career only.

Improving the Effectiveness: reviewing your CV 

  • Ask someone else (friend, family member, colleague who’s not in competition with you or member of the careers service) to read your CV and comment on it. If they understood it, liked the layout and couldn’t find any mistakes, then it’s ready to go.
  • Do not just write a CV, print it off and put it in the envelope! Produce your CV and then leave it for a while. Come back to it with fresh eyes, you’ll be able to spot your mistakes and correct poor layout more easily.
  • Don’t lie or try to artificially enhance your qualifications, skills or experience. You will get caught out.

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