Academic CVs: 10 annoying mistakes


Applications to instructional jobs are notoriously convoluted, says Steve Joy – to make life easier, right here’s what not to do on your CV
CV on table
Some mistakes are nerve-racking due to the fact they are able to so effortlessly be constant, so here is a tip: in no way use Curriculum Vitae as a heading. Photograph: Gary Roebuck /Alamy

Friday 1 November 2013 10.25 GMT First posted on Friday 1 November 2013 10.25 GMT
Applications to instructional jobs are notoriously convoluted, mainly to posts which combine coaching and studies. Typically the CV could be one file among a groaning dossier that could well comprise a cover letter, a studies announcement, a teaching announcement, pattern courses or syllabi, or even (from time to time) a variety announcement. Where do you start? And with such a lot of elements to fear approximately, how vital is the CV?

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The solution is that its miles very important. Many choice committed individuals say that the first document they observe is the CV. It indicates which you’re fundamentally eligible to do the advertised job, and it offers a run-down of your career so far. It’s the scaffolding on to which the selectors can dangle all the different information contained some other place for your software. Yet, for a number of various motives, many humans persist in writing truly awful CVs.



What follows is my list of the top 10 most disturbing mistakes – disturbing due to the fact they are able to so easily be fixed. They are the fruit of extra than 10 years’ combined enjoy as a researcher, teacher, and academic careers adviser at the University of Cambridge. I even have seen literally hundreds of educational programs and, for this reason, the myriad ways to shoot your self in the foot with a poor CV. But if I needed to sum up my advice in just one line, it would be this: do not pass on about the achievements you’re maximum happy with; prioritise the ones which are maximum applicable in your meant organization.

1) Not scannable

Be sensible: your CV will nearly actually not be read in detail, line via line, word by way of phrase, till you have made it at least directly to a longlist and really in all likelihood no longer until you have got made it all of the way to the shortlist. Before that point, the individual reviewing your utility may additionally spend no greater than 90 seconds scanning thru the CV, skimming for key highlights – together with your listing of courses, places you’ve worked, grants gained, and so forth. You should make certain that the vital stuff, with the intention to not necessarily be the same from one utility to the following, leaps off the web page.


There’s no singular ‘correct’ manner to layout a CV in order that it can be scanned efficiently, but here are recommendations. First, you have to maintain seeing it on the page, so don’t spend too lengthy modifying your CV at the display before you print it out to take a look. Secondly, the first-class test of whether or not it is scannable is – drum roll, please – whether or not someone can test it.

So, provide a difficult replica of your CV to a willing pal, preferably someone who owes you a favour however would not recognise your profession records internal out. Put a stopwatch on them for ninety seconds and ask them to read via the CV. What did they choose up in that time? What did not stand out? Did they identify the achievements you most want the selection committee to notice?

2) Sections split across pages

This is part of the good judgment of scanning. Someone analyzing speedy will turn the page and jump directly to the subsequent heading, because of this that anything content material has been ‘held over’ from the previous web page ought to properly cross absolutely unread. Break up sections by means of the usage of subheadings, e.G. Divide your teaching into undergraduate and postgraduate, or separate it consistent with the factors of the coaching technique including lecturing, examining, curriculum layout, and so on.

3) Structured in chronological order

I never concept to must negotiate this, however, lately, a surprising number of early career lecturers have attempted to argue this factor with me. Let me therefore say very actually: reverse chronological order is the norm; it’s far reasonable; it is sincerely de rigueur. CV writing isn’t approximately what’s logical or optimal to you; it is approximately anticipating your selectors’ needs and looking to make their lives as clean as viable.

If that argument would not persuade you, here’s any other angle. Remember that I’m going to be skimming your CV, now not reading it in detail. If I cast a brief glance over your guides and notice on the pinnacle of the list a paper dated 2007, then I might also well conclude that you haven’t posted some thing considering and determine not to waste extra time on analyzing this segment of your CV.four) Content now not tailor-made to the precise application

four) Content now not tailor-made to the precise application

In many cases, that is clearly a query of shape. If you’re making use of for a coaching position at a less studies-extensive university, then do I actually need to battle through seven or eight pages of data about your research experience before I get to a meagre segment for your teaching? Bring the teaching phase ahead and extend it. If you’ve taught modules or topics relevant to the brand new publish, then say so. If they want somebody with enjoy of supervising research college students, then be sure that I can read about your experience of supervising research college students without the need to pause, contemplate, or decrypt.

Five) Using language it’s uncertain to the reader

Avoid like the plague all organization-particular Arcana. My personal university has more than its honest percentage of real and fake medieval terminology this is completely opaque to outsiders (and to many insiders), eg Tripos, Part II, prelims, JRF, DoS. This is never an completely Cambridge phenomenon. You should be ruthless in purging your CV of language that does not make feel to readers outdoor your modern group due to the fact you run the real hazard of offending. You will seem like a snob who can not be stricken to translate his or her experience into commonly comprehensible language. Think undergraduate tests, 0.33 12 months, postdoctoral fellowship, and so on.

And here is an associated tip: know the variations in favored language among your current and destiny institutions. Paper, module, unit, or path? Tutorials, supervisions, office hours, or some thing else? Show that you have finished your homework, as it says something about how seriously you need the activity.

6) Including route codes, for the whole thing, you have taught

To my mind, it’s baffling to want to list all course codes and different administrative technicalities in your CV, however, I see this accomplished alarmingly regularly. Yes, I do want to know what you have got taught, in what format, and to what rookies. I’m also happy, in maximum cases, to recognize the precise titles of these publications or lectures. However, I don’t want to know whether or not your college additionally labelled that coaching as ‘Paper Ge21’, ‘Module AS100305’, or ‘Unit H3946’. This is administrative statistics – for inner use only. Unless you’re an internal applicant, how does this type of pedantry assist the selectors decide to position you on their shortlist? Extraneous facts on a CV won’t be as heinous a mistake as incomprehensible records (see number five), but it clutters up the skim-studying technique, doubtlessly confuses the reader, and does you no discernible favours.

7) Inconsistent fashion of referencing

Why it’s miles that expert students who’ve to put together references and bibliographies for booklet cannot position a listing together for his or her CVs, the use of a steady fashion and with proper interest to the element, is a perennial mystery to me. And, sure, it does count. Is slapdash what you need me to think about you before I’ve even met you?

Eight) Using ‘Curriculum Vitae’ as a heading

I can comprehend a CV once I see one, and I consider that others can, too. Your heading ought to be your name. And don’t be pretentious: no titles or postnominal letters. Just your call.

9) No page numbers

Put your call as a header on every page after the first. Put page numbers on every unmarried web page. This would possibly seem a little too ‘belt and braces’ for some, but the reason is sound. First, it seems professional. (Need I say extra?) Secondly, it serves a sensible cause. What happens if I by accident drop the twelve pages of your CV on the floor? What takes place if, in studying your 15-page magnum opus, I inadvertently mix up the series of pages? What occurs if your CV receives by accident jumbled up with the CVs of 11 different candidates? These matters can, and do, manifest.

10) Overusing ambitious and italics

Overuse bold or italics in your CV and not anything sticks out; keep away from the use of ambitious or italics and, likewise, not anything stands proud. The former regularly smacks of desperation (‘Look! Look at a majority of these essential matters! Look at all of them!’), whereas the latter has a horrible whiff of disinclination (‘Yeah, whatever. Read it, do not study it. I do not mind’). But the satisfactory manner to mitigate over or under-formatting your report is actually to print it out and show it to people.

When push comes to shove, the great method to CV writing is the most effective: are seeking for a couple of reviews at each stage. And in so doing, dare to be sincere. What impression do you definitely have of me on paper?