Career advice: how to write a CV for a university job

Keep it brief, tailor to the job requirements and do not mention your hobbies. Our panel of top university administrators offer some tips on how to write a top-notch CV

January 5, 2017
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Standout performance: plan carefully when aiming to highlight skills and achievements – and mind those typos

With dozens of well-qualified applicants competing for some university jobs, having an impressive résumé is vital for making the interview shortlist. Here, senior university administrators offer their top tips on writing a standout CV.


Amanda Shilton Godwin, head of professional development, Association of University Administrators
Think of a CV as a poem: you have to convey a lot of ground in very few words. Every single word counts. 

How your CV looks, visually, is crucial. The space you leave is as important as the words you use. If it looks just too dense, chances are that people won’t read it. So leave plenty of white space.

Think about the order in which you present your career history – start now and work back. One way of tackling this is to cover the key aspects for each role by bullet-pointing for each your "responsibilities" and "achievements". That gives you a route to showcase the breadth of the role and your results.

Try to look at yourself from the recruiter’s point of view. What knowledge, skills, experience or behavioural attributes seem to be the most key to the role? Does your undoubted ability to fulfil those requirements leap off the page at you from your CV? If not, you need to shape it accordingly. 


Kim Frost, director of human resources, University of London
Remember that those in charge of shortlisting have very little time to read your CV – they may have a pile of more than a hundred. Make it easier for them by making sure you match your skills very clearly to the job requirements.

Have a friend read it through before you send it – more than one spelling error might just get you on to the reject pile.


Jacqui Marshall, deputy registrar and director of human resources, University of Exeter
Keep it brief: one piece of paper, two sides, is ideal.

Put your skills profile right at the top so that busy people sifting do not have to delve into the body of your CV to ensure that you are a match to the job specification.

Do not write in detail on each role you have previously performed, but put key deliverables and size of team, budget responsibility and so forth, so that people can understand the scale of previous roles and identify your achievements. Remember that the previous five to eight years are more critical than what you did when you left school.

There is also no need to list every training course ever attended unless relevant to the job you are applying for. And don’t include personal information such as marital status, children or hobbies.


Peter Brook, director of human resources, University of Portsmouth
Don’t start your CV with your photo or a picture and avoid the Comic Sans font unless you’re designing a birthday card.

Other than that, I appreciate brevity – ideally no more than two sides of A4 with a clear structure that summarises, in chronological order, your achievements in current and previous roles. It helps, too, if those roles are clearly described.

Academic CVs will be longer but publications and conferences attended can be in a separate annex.


Yusra Mouzughi, deputy vice-chancellor (academic affairs), Muscat University, Oman
Keep your CV as up to date as possible all the time. Constantly add your achievements to a rough draft of your CV and then you can filter that CV and adapt it to a job you are applying for.

When applying for jobs in an international environment, what seems obvious may not be clear to others, so always state your gender, nationality and country where your degrees were awarded.

In the digital world, make sure that you label the CV file clearly with your full name and date/job you are applying for. Your initials or some random labelling that only you will understand will not help your potential employers.


Alex Killick, director of people, Glasgow Caledonian University
While it may be very tempting to throw everything and the kitchen sink into a CV, show confidence and clarity by demonstrating your skills, experience and personal impact on two pages. That includes your publications, so choose wisely which ones to highlight. You can always append a more detailed publication list if required.

Many applications fail to make the grade because they are too generic. Tailor your CV to match the job requirements and have a sharp covering letter that demonstrates how your skills and experience fit the job requirements.

Try to strike the right balance between providing factual information and presenting your CV in a way that will help the reader to get a quick sense of your attributes rather than a sequential chronology. Always start with who you are and what you are about and then find the flow that best fits. Employers are more interested in recent achievements than the list of qualifications or what you do at the weekends, which you should leave out unless you are struggling to fill the space.

jack.grove@tesglobal.com

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