Non-academic CVs

For those of you who missed today’s workshop on non-academic CVs, here’s my effort to sum up the take-home messages:

Non-academic CVs are VERY different to academic CVs – It’s essential that you don’t try to use your academic CV to apply for non-academic jobs as there are several key differences that will put you at a distinct disadvantage to those people who have bothered to rethink their CV. Non-academic CVs are:

  • Shorter than academic CVs – they should be no more than 2 pages.
  • Focussed more on skills than on your experience. Non-academic employers will be less impressed by a list of publications than an academic employer will – they want to know what skills those publications have helped you to develop. Rather than forming a large part of the CV, then, your publications should be used as evidence of your skill in written communication.
  • Can be arranged chronologicaly, by skills or by a combination of both. Chronological CVs are the most common and easiest to write.

You don’t need to include lots of personal information on your CV – It’s not common practice in the UK to include a photograph, and you don’t have to include your date of birth, gender, place of birth, marital status or age. You do need to make sure your name and contact details are on the CV – if they’re not, how will the employer contact you? It seems obvious, but people do forget. Practice in other countries varies, so you’d need to check what is usual if you’re applying outside of the UK for a job.

You don’t even need to put details of referees on the CV – Most potential employers won’t contact referees until much later in the recruitment process (sometimes not even until they’ve made you a conditional job offer), so there is plenty of time for you to provide details of referees. If your referees are very impressive, you could include their names, but no contact details. Otherwise you can simply put ‘Details of referees upon request’.

You don’t need to write ‘Curriculum Vitae’ at the top of the CV

The ‘basics’ are REALLY important – You need to be really careful to set covering letters out properly and adopt a formal tone. You need to check spelling and grammar, and make sure that everything is well laid out, easy to read and accurate. Don’t rely on Word’s grammar and spell check. If your first language is not English (and maybe even if it is) you should get someone who is a native speaker to read the CV and covering letter to check for mistakes. Don’t give them an excuse not to take your application seriously.

Professional recruiters can tell almost immediately whether your application and CV has been tailored for the job that you’re applying for – They see hundreds of applications and can tell which candidates have taken the time to tailor their CV. They’re going to take those people more seriously.

There is no standard form that a CV should take – You can (and should) rearrange your CV based on the job you’re applying for in order to showcase your particular strengths in relation to that job. If your biggest strength is your work experience, that should appear first. If it’s the awards you’ve won, they should come first.

Presentation is important – Don’t go over the top on presentation. You don’t want to detract from the content, and you want it to be as clear and easy to read as possible. Some employers make make black and white copies of your CV so make sure it will all be readable if copied. No yellow text. Also, avoid too many font changes, use of bold, capitals, etc.

That’s a VERY basic summary of the key points, but hopefully useful nonetheless.

4 thoughts on “Non-academic CVs

  1. Pingback: Writing an academic CV « Research Staff Blog

  2. Excellent article, Claire!

    Your point regarding tailoring one’s CV is particularly important. Applicants have no excuse in not customising their resume for the appropriate job. The recruiters and employers we’ve spoken to cite this as a key reason why they’re likely to throw a resume away.

    Show you care, show you pay attention to detail, and give the application the respect it deserves by taking the time to tailor your CV appropriately, depending on the position.

    But a word of caution, be very careful in editing documents. When applying for many positions, and creating multiple documents, it’s not difficult to mix up who you’re sending what document! Take your time, and proceed with care.

    Daniella and Adam


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