Writing a CV

graduates with honours cant write a cv

So you are filling out that application form and a CV is being requested. As if there are enough ways of formatting your CV it’s slightly different when applying for jobs in academia. For jobs academia (including PhDs) you are really being asked to produce your academic CV. As I’m sure you have already guessed this type of CV should be focused on the academic work such as your undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations and any relevant experiences.  This is not to say that you cannot mention a part time job that wasn’t in an academic environment such as being a sales assistant, but that this type of work should not take priority on your academic CV.

So what should you include?

Education

For your undergraduate and / or postgraduate degree(s):

-What was your degree?

-What degree classification?

– Title of your dissertation

– Who supervised this project?

– What grade were you awarded for your dissertation?

Relevant Employment

In this section you need to mention any paid employment that is relevant to the job. For example if the PhD that you are applying for is in the field of Dementia then you would want to mention any relevant experiences such as working in care home for people with Dementia.

–          Position held

–          Name of organisation

–          Start – end of employment mm/yyyy  e.g  June 2013-December 2013

–          Brief description of your role. Note the emphasis on keeping it brief. Potential employers will have several CVs to read. Therefore you want to make sure that they have a good idea of who you are and what experience you have without having to trawl through pages and pages of info!

Other Employment

This is where you can mention part time / summer jobs that you have held but aren’t relevant to the field of work that you are trying to enter. It’s still important to mention this type of work because usually they demonstrate that you have other key skills such as working in a team or using supervision effectively. However as previously mentioned you don’t want to end up with a CV that is more than 2 or 3 pages at the most*! So if you already have your CV filled by the above sections and your contact details then consider not including this section.

Academic Achievements

This is actually quite an important section. This section is where you need to include conferences that you have presented your work at, any publications or if you were awarded any scholarships for your undergraduate postgraduate degrees.

Voluntary Work / Other Achievements

So if you have done some voluntary work that’s great! It’s a great way of gaining some experience and may give you an advantage when you are looking for paid work. But it is generally not rated as highly as paid employment. Therefore this is another section that you may not wish to include if you feel that it does not add anything to your CV other than to the length of it.

(You can format this in the same way as you have done for paid employment).

Contact details and Referees

that awkward moment email address

So hopefully you have a professional email address by now! If not now would be a good time…

Your contact details are important – so make sure you get them right. You want them to contact you, particularly if they are going to invite you to an interview right?

You may want to include referees on your CV but you need to think about this. First of all if you want to list referees and contact details make sure that the referees are happy for you to do this beforehand. Second, by doing this you are basically giving out the message to potential employers that you have referees that are

a) going to give you a good reference

b) happy to be contacted at whatever stage in the application process – meaning that the potential employer could assume that you are giving them consent to ask for references. Therefore employers may not notify you that they have done this until afterwards. This works for some people but others may want to check that they are still going to get a good reference first. You may want to check this if it was some time since you worked with that person. Do they still remember you?  Are you still on good terms? If you are using a referee you worked with a some time ago are they still appropriate?

Formatting

As if knowing what you should / should not put on your CV, how you should / should not phrase it (and actually having the motivation to do it) wasn’t stressful enough, there is the issue of formatting it.

Key point of your CV – It’s to get you SHORTLISTED for an interview. Therefore you want to make sure that the format that you use makes your CV clear, simple and easy to read. Let the information do the talking not the format. That means don’t do things such as using different coloured text to make your CV “stand out” or to make you appear “creative”. (Yes people have been known to do this for these purposes and it has made them stand out as UNSUITABLE)!

There are some pretty cool websites out there like visualresume.com that can help you build / format your CV. Although it may be tempting to go for one of those funky looking formats they are generally not suitable for academia.

Just keep it simple:

-Black text, 12pt in fonts that are widely used such as Times New Roman, Arial and Calibri.

– Separate section with spaces (not too large though) or with horizontal lines (they don’t need to span the whole way across the page).

-Make headings / titles clear using bold or making the text slightly larger.

Finishing touches

Finally when you have developed enough motivation to write your CV, using a checklist (such as the one below) may help you feel that you produced something that you would be proud to show others, a sense of achievement and confident that it will shortlist you for that interview.

CV Checklist:

-Is your name is on it? (Ideally at the top)

– Checked it for grammar and spelling?

– Do you have a copy to keep?

-Does it accentuate your skills?

-Does this CV give an overall positive impression of you?

– Should you get shortlisted for interview would you be happy be asked questions about the information on your CV? (You haven’t lied have you)?

Hopefully this has inspired you to get writing your CV for that application. So open up that word document and get typing!

-Dr Fran-kenstein

*Once you get into the world of academia then longer CVs are acceptable (as long as it’s all relevant info). This is because the length of your CV should have increased if lots of you work has been published! Also be careful when looking for any other info regarding academic C’s – it might be more relevant for after you have completed your PhD.

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