Academic CV Guidelines

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The Do’s and Don’ts 

An academic CV is based on the Chronological CV format.  However, the two-page limit need not apply to academic applications due to the addition of supporting information relating to detail of your PhD and other related research. An academic CV can therefore be many pages in length, depending on your experience in the work place – five pages is the rough guideline to average length.

Your CV needs to be a powerful marketing document which markets you to a prospective employer.  Competition is just as fierce in the academic world as it is in industry and business.  Remember that It is important to realise that the purpose of a CV is not to get a job, but to get shortlisted for an INTERVIEW. 

Preparation before writing your CV is key to your success.  Match the content of your CV to the needs of the particular institution you are applying to.  No application will be the same, so it is a good idea to prepare a master CV which you can adapt for any application you make. All jobs are different and you need to demonstrate that you are the best fit for that job. 

Have you researched the department and studied their website, familiarised yourself with staff biographies and research profiles, and noted where your area of research might fit? 

Your CV will be written to include the requirements of the classic format, but will also need the following information:             

  • PhD extract – and perhaps a more detailed synopsis
  • Past, current and future research interests
  • Published research and articles
  • Research methodologies and techniques
  • Teaching experience – student supervision
  • Administrative skills
  • Conferences attended – did you present?
  • Funding and awards
  • Professional memberships
  • Any industry contact 


  1. Use 14 font for your name and 11 font for the rest of your CV.  Use Ariel or another clear font style – why not look at Tahoma or Verdana as alternatives.
  2. Capitalise and bold your major headings and use bold for any sub-headings
  3. Write your name on the top of each sheet you write – do not staple your pages together
  4. One font style is enough
  5. Be crisp and concise
  6. Be appropriate to your situation
  7. Make it attractive and appealing to the eye
  8. Write in statements – bullet points are most effective
  9. Avoid using the word ‘I’
  10. Use action/power words at the beginning of each statement (See end of this section for examples)
  11. Write headings which suit you and your experience/history.  The headings in the CV example are for guidelines only 
  12. Do not be afraid of white space
  13. If you are a new graduate, provide three references.  Two references are fine for a  more experienced academic.


  1. The words Curriculum Vitae – the reader knows what it is!!
  2. Your photograph (unless you are applying for a job for which a photo is essential
  3. Job descriptions
  4. Non-essential personal information
  5. Long sentences
  6. Lists – such as your GCSE’s.  You might choose to leave these out.

Top 8 Layout Suggestions

  • Your layout is up to you - there is no set recommended layout and the emphasis and priorities of the content will depend on the role you are applying for 
  • Use the Chronological CV but integrate details of your PhD into the main body of the CV 
  • Write out basic details using the Chronological format and then write details of your PhD, research and all associated research information in an Addendum/Appendix 
  • Mix and match elements from the two layouts suggested above.  Content and emphasis will depend on the post, the institution to which you are applying and your own strengths 
  • Put a line between your contact information and the main body of your CV.  It gives your CV more definition 
  • Write your name in the middle top of the page – or on the right-hand margin.  Your date of birth is not necessary 
  • Prioritise the information you provide and prioritise information under each heading 
  • Be consistent – make it easy for the reader to find out all about you in a logical and readable layout.  For instance, write your dates in the same place.  Use bold in a consistent way

Words to use on your CV

Use action/power words.  Use words which match the opportunity.  Some suggestions:

Achieved                     Administered              Advised                     Analysed

Assessed                    Arranged                    Budgeted                  Calculated

Completed                  Conducted                 Controlled                  Co-ordinated

Created                      Designed                    Devised                      Developed      

Discovered                  Distributed                  Evaluated                    Examined       

Explained                    Increased                   Instructed                  Liaised            

Managed                    Monitored                   Negotiated                  Organised      

Planned                      Promoted                    Recommended           Reformed

Represented               Researched                 Responsible for           Resulted

Selected                     Sold                            Solved                       Supervised     

Taught                       Tested                        Trained                      Welcomed 

Your CV Checklist:

  • Is it in a consistent and readable format? First impressions matter – how your CV is laid out tells the person who is reading it, a lot about you – see about being consistent mentioned above
  • Does the document emphasise your skills and achievements?
  • Does it tell the reader what they need/want to know about you? Look at what you have written from the employer’s perspective – is it logical and fluid? 
  • Is it accurate? Check your documents for spelling and grammar
  • Do not put too much information on a page.  Have you used enough white space?
  • Have you prioritised your information and used words which make you sound proactive and positive?
  • Have you asked your referees if it is OK to give their names before you include them?
  • Have you used abbreviations? Don’t!
  • Have you asked someone to proof read your CV before sending it?
  • Have you told the truth?
  • Have you kept a copy?

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