Academic CVs: 10 irritating mistakes

The application process for an academic position will often require many, many documents. It can be a laborious process to ensure that all the required documentation includes the right details. However, there are some quick wins to ensure that your CV avoids some common, irritating pitfalls.

With several years of experience working as a careers adviser for research staff at the University of Cambridge, Dr Steve Joy has put together the ultimate list of common, and irritating, mistakes he often encounters when reviewing CVs.


1. Not scannable
Make sure that key pieces of information are easy to pick out on a quick review of your CV. Don’t do this on screen! Print it out and give it to someone to check whether they can pick out the pertinent details.
2. Sections split across pages
If a section of your CV goes over to the next page it may not be picked up as the reader may look straight at the next heading on the next page.
3. Structured in chronological order
If the first thing the person reading your CV reads is something dated several years back, you are firstly making it harder for them to scan your CV, and secondly the reader may make a quick assumption that you have not done much recently.
4. Content not tailored to the specific application
Do not submit your CV until you have made it easy for the reader to see how your experience is relevant to the role. If it is a teaching position you are applying for bring forward and expand on that experience in that area, rather than focusing on your research experience.
5. Using language that’s unclear to the reader
Every institution has its own set of acronyms and will also use different terminology for the same thing, such as tutorials, supervisions, office hours. Make it easy for the reader to understand what you are referring to. Find out what terminology the institution you are applying to uses.
6. Including course codes for everything you’ve taught
Unless you are an internal candidate, course codes are completely unnecessary and will be baffling to the reader. They are for internal administrive use and do not serve any purpose for the outside reader.
7. Inconsistent style of referencing
In the academy you are required to clearly reference your work, the same applies to your CV. If you do not use consistent referencing on your CV you will make it harder for the reader and you will create an impression of being inconsistent.
8. Using ‘Curriculum Vitae’ as a heading
Now, despite the fact that you are submitting your CV together with several other documents. And despite the fact that Dr Joy has so far consistently suggested that you make it easy for the reader, he tells us not to put the words CV nor any of your qualifications as a heading. Just put your name.
9. No page numbers
Put your name as a header on every page, and number all of the pages. This really does help the reader to know where they are, particularly if they are any interrupted. It also really helps if a pile of CVs is dropped. Yours won’t get mixed up and will be easy to ensure that all the pages are still there.
10. Overusing bold and italics
Overuse of text styling creates an impression of everything being important, rather than picking out key points. Under use creates the reverse impression and makes it harder for the reader to pick out what you want to highlight.


In summary it is all about making it easy for the reader to navigate your CV. Always print out your CV and give it to someone else to read the printed copy. It is often easier to pick out problems on the printed version rather than on screen. Most CVs will still be read in printed format.

When you have updated your CV remember to upload your new version here.

To read the full blog post click here.

Diana Hayes
A key part of the team, Diana is achievement-oriented, forward-thinking and strategic in creating a high-yielding network of interested academics, universities and related associations. Her research and content have created genuine engagement amongst both candidates and employers resulting in a network of 250,000 academics. Diana’s experience is in sales, marketing, event management and business development.

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