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Academic Coaching & Writing

III. Branding Your CV for the Academic Job Market

Jul 30, 2017 by Dr Sally

Every academic job application you submit will include a curriculum vitae (CV). The CV for your job application is a carefully constructed representation of your work in your field. Your CV functions as a record of what you have accomplished in your research, in your teaching, and in service to your department and university.

Your academic brand-your message about who you are as a researcher and professor-is threaded through your CV in the titles of your publications, the conferences at which you presented, the courses you taught or are teaching, and the affiliations you choose to highlight.

Your CV Is Not a Timeline

A CV includes your academic accomplishments organized by category and in a specific order. However, a CV is not simply a timeline. The CV you use for a job is a strategic subset of your accomplishments, which underscores the academic brand you wish to convey. To help create and maintain your CV, keep a comprehensive, master document where you record every publication, every presentation, every poster presentation, every invited talk, even if you presented to a small group of people at the local historical center. Update this document often so you do not forget anything.

The CVs you use when applying for jobs, grants, fellowships, and internal promotion will each look different because the purpose and audience are different. A job CV excludes information you would need for an internal review, such as committees you are on and a list of students you have advised. High school and undergraduate college awards (except for your degree) are not appropriate for higher-ed academic job searches.

Follow Models of CVs From Your Discipline

CVs vary from discipline to discipline. Ask those in your discipline who have been successful on the job search to share their CVs with you. Ask your advisor for examples of CVs from previous advisees who have successfully landed the types of jobs you are seeking.

Parts of an Academic CV

Typically, a CV includes the following headings, in a specific order, although these may vary in certain disciplines and at different stages of your career:

  • Education
  • Academic Positions
  • Fellowships/Grants/Awards
  • Publications
  • Conference Presentations
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Service
  • Professional Affiliations
  • References

After listing your professional affiliation, it may be expected in your field to include skills, such as foreign language proficiencies, professional competencies, certifications, teaching interests, research interests, or technical skills such as software knowledge.
Throughout your CV, list your accomplishments in reverse chronological order with the newest degree or the newest academic position first. Provide a full citation for every publication, using the style format that is most commonly used in your field (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago).

Edit your CV meticulously. As is true for all documents in your job application packet, your CV is a sample of your writing skills, your attention to detail, and your organizational abilities. Misspellings, formatting mistakes, and sloppiness are all errors that undermine your chances of consideration for a position. Ask others for editing and formatting assistance before you finalize your CV.

In the United States, it is not customary to include a photograph of yourself on your CV, which can put off and distract committee members. Even if including a photograph is the norm in your home country or at your institution, refrain from including it when applying to jobs in the US.

Remember, once you send out or post your materials online, you no longer control how they are viewed. We recommend that you convert your files to PDFs to lock in formatting and fonts regardless of what computer/device, font package, or software is used when others read your materials later. After you convert your document, check the design and readability when printed and when viewed on a computer and on mobile devices.

Audience Matters

Developing audience awareness, responding to the needs of your audience and understanding the norms of your discipline take precedence over all other advice. Think carefully about your audience and be familiar with the models from your field in preparing your CV and all your other job materials.

Here are examples that illustrate why audience matters and how the norm for CVs in one field is not the norm in another:

  • In some fields, it is common to provide a description of the academic positions you have held, while others would consider this padding (making your experience look like more than it is). Similarly, some disciplines expect descriptions of courses you have taught, while others do not.
  • The service activities that you list on your job application CV should consist only of professional service in your department, graduate association, and regional/national organizations. However, if the position for which you are applying is in a religious school, listing your volunteer experience as an afterschool reading specialist in your faith-based organization may be a smart move for this audience even though community-volunteering like this example is not usually included on an academic CV.
  • Likewise, consider your audience before including a section for “nonpeer-reviewed publications” (industry-related magazines, commentaries, letters to the editor, and similar items). Items like this may be appropriate for people whose discipline, academic brand, or work engages practitioners, field managers, and the public. However, the work you do outside of academia might not be interpreted by all disciplines or job committees in the same way.
  • Understand how your discipline uses subheadings on the CV such as “under review” or “in progress” for peer-reviewed journal articles. Many job committees in many disciplines consider including articles that are not accepted or forthcoming as padding. Instead, mention future work in your cover letter or in your research statement.

Design Matters

There are many ways to design a CV to be successful on the job market. While we encourage you to use a standard serif font such as Times New Roman in 11- or 12-pt. font, it is important to follow the norm in your discipline.

All job seekers will benefit if their CVs use:

  • white space effectively to let readers read without strain,
  • readable font without overdoing bold or italics,
  • black and white ink only-no color, emojis, or images,
  • consistent, active verbs in descriptions, and
  • dates, headings, and lists that allow readers to scan quickly.

A Caution

Your CV is not explicitly branded, nor should it be. Your cover letter is the place to expand on the accomplishments in your CV and connect them to your brand. The next two blogs discuss the Research Statement and Teaching Statement, two documents that do explicitly reference your brand and how it manifests in your research and your teaching.

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