Careers Clinic: what is the most common mistake on academic CVs?

Written by: Dene Mullen
Published on: 26 Nov 2020

Writing a CV

Source: iStock

We asked five experts to point out the mistakes they see again and again on academic CVs. From the importance of formatting to the misspelling of the word “college”, here’s what they said:

“While content is important, formatting matters more than many people think. Use white space and logical groupings and headers to guide your reader through your CV. Make sure your CV tells a coherent story, rather than simply listing years of activity.”
Allison M. Vaillancourt, vice-president, organisational effectiveness at Segal, a North American human resources consulting firm

“Surprisingly, many CVs lack attention to detail – so mistakes in dates, spelling and general layout are very common. Further, a 27-page CV is not what employers are looking for. Recruitment agencies are looking for genuine matches to the job being advertised, so a bit of effort on the part of the applicant to ensure you address the skills/knowledge/experience being sought can go a long way in getting to the next stage of the recruitment process. Also remember that the institution is likely to receive multiple applications, so be sure to save your document with a sensible title including your full name and not just ‘my CV’!”
Yusra Mouzughi, vice-chancellor, Muscat University, Oman

“The most common mistake people make is not incorporating their personality, soft skills and how they can contribute to the organisation they’re applying to. As we know, it only takes a few seconds to make a first impression. The recruiter needs to see your CV and understand how you’re unique and can bring immediate value in the role.”
Quila Cervelli, global employer branding manager, RMIT University, Australia

“Just [making it] too long to actually read – remember, in the first instance, it is often a HR person reading it.”
Michelle Wenham, chief people officer at TEDI-London

“Academic CVs must be written in a lot of detail, but you have to keep them clear. Going chronologically is the best way to do it. The worst thing is having a spelling mistake, especially in the name of the university you graduated from. I’ve also seen applicants writing ‘collage’ instead of ‘college’. And not identifying your role in publications − this can be simply done by noting at the beginning of the section: *corresponding author; student or post-doc advisees are underlined.”
Suzan Abu Shakra, manager of faculty affairs at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia