On CVs (repost)

A series of posts on CV-writing (mostly for the UK market) from 2015 have been combined for this repost. See below for tips on how to structure a CV; advice from blogs and the internet more generally; some final golden rules.


What categories should your CV contain ? What information do you include ? Do you need to insert things like book reviews, or is that just weird ? Does house-sitting for your supervisor count as ‘professional activities’? Well, the answer to that last one is probably ‘no’. Or at least, that information does not need to be disclosed in your academic CV. But the other questions can play on your mind. Searching on the web for ‘academic CVs’, you’ll find a lot of stuff. The website historians.org includes a very long list of categories to include :

  • Personal details
  • Education
  • Dissertation topic
  • Teaching experience
  • Areas of specialization
  • Professional experience
  • Relevant course work
  • Teaching interests
  • Research interests
  • Professional affiliations
  • Presentations
  • Honors, awards, and distinctions
  • Scholarships or fellowships
  • Publications
  • Unpublished manuscripts
  • Professional activities
  • Editorial activities
  • Experience abroad
  • Research interest
  • Languages
  • Research experience
  • References

But this is quite extensive, and the UK market in particular prefers concise CVs. That being said, all the historians.org list needs is some quick tailoring :

  • Personal details – Your address, email, telephone number. Don’t really need photos or facebook pages, although those of you whom tweet professionally might want to include that information.
  • Education – Focus on Higher Education degrees, and include distinctions if you feel they value your work. Over time, however, you’ll probably only need to include the date, type of degree and institution.
  • Professional Appointments/Employment – This is quite straightforward, although you don’t need to include experience which is not related to academia (ie, babysitting).
  • Publications – There are many questions here:
    • How do you organise these? Well, this depends on how many you have. Early on in your career, you might prefer a chronological order. Later on, consider dividing into sub-categories: Books; Articles; Chapters; etc.
    • Published; Accepted; Under Review; Submitted… All of these are great ways of describing works in progress. Don’t lie about the status of your piece though, otherwise this could seriously backfire.
    • Do you include book reviews? Hm. One school of thought thinks NO, because it looks a bit desperate. But this is not at all a universal opinion. Indeed, book reviews show contribution to the field, and some book reviews are published in leading journals or are actually great pieces of interpretation, analysis and opinion. So why not point them out? For those early on in their careers, listing your book reviews might be a good thing since it takes up space. Over time, as your peer-review publications increase, it will become less necessary. You could always add a line in this section: Have contributed book reviews to (insert list of journals).
    • What about other publications, such as blog posts or books written on the side? Well, this is a personal question, especially
  • Grants/Fellowships/Awards/Distinctions – If you have got some research grants or received awards, this is the ideal place to put them. Indeed, it is becoming more and more important to show that you can attract funding, so incorporating a special section like this can really highlight your potential.
  • Teaching experience – Dividing this section according to UG and PG teaching can help show your range of experience and expertise. Then, you have other categories: Administrative responsibilities; pastoral care; etc. You might choose to expand these sections if you
  • Academic Presentations (Conference/Seminar Papers) – These are great, since they show your engagement within the academic community. They are also an easy way to expand your CV in its early stages. Over time you’ll be able to divide this section into sub-categories: on invitation; selected conferences; conferences organised
  • Professional affiliations/Memberships – Again, a section which shows off your engagement in the academic community. Fellow of a society? Member of an academic association? Associate fellow of a network? Just a couple of names will suffice, but they are a good way of showing your academic connections.
  • Professional activities – This section can include a variety of things: editor on a committee; media interventions; IMPACT talks and activities; workshops and conferences organised; convenor of a seminar. If one section is extremely long you might want to consider giving it its own heading, but otherwise it could all fit into here. Tailor this section to your experience, and to the aspects you want to highlight.
  • Languages – Outlining your hobbies might seem a bit pointless at this stage, but showing how many languages you can speak/read/both is always a good idea.
  • References – Have a list of 2-5 referees who (1) you know will write you a reference because you have already discussed this with them (2) you know will write you a GREAT reference because that is what you need. List their names, affiliations, possibly how you are connected to them (thesis examiner, supervisor, previous employer, etc.), and maybe their addresses. The details are up to you. Order them in order of preference/importance, rather than alphabetical order (or at least, that is what I would do).

The order here is pretty good/basic, although you should always remember to tailor your CV to the job being advertised. If it is a teaching fellowship, consider bringing the ‘teaching experience’ section higher up in your CV. If it is a research grant or research-led lectureship, focus on grants and fellowships.




There are plenty of websites to give you guidance for writing a CV. Some are not so good (we won’t name names…), others are much better. ‘The Professor Is In’ is well-known in America, and her tips are genuinely very good. But she has written a lot of articles, and getting concise information might prove a bit tricky (that being said, some posts are really useful. Personal faves include : Dr Karen’s Rules of the Academic CV and Why Your Job Cover Letter Sucks. More on the latter one later.)

A recent discovery was The Early Career Blog, by Steve Joy (Careers Adviser for Researchers in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the Cambridge University Careers Service) Hi Steve! We like your blog. We also found your tips on writing cover letters really useful.

Joy’s article on ‘CVs for academic jobs : most irritating mistakes’ was originally published in October 2013 his blog. It was then re-published in November 2013 in the Guardian. Here, we quote some of our favourite passages :

  1. On Visibility : ‘You have to make sure that the important stuff, which will not necessarily be the same from one application to the next, leaps off the page.’
  1. On Headings and sub-headings : ‘Break up sections by using subheadings, e.g. divide your teaching into undergraduate and postgraduate, or separate it according to the elements of the teaching process such as lecturing, examining, curriculum design, and so on.’
  1. On Organising your content : ‘Reverse chronological order is the norm; it is reasonable; it is absolutely de rigueur’
  1. On Tailoring the content to the application: ‘If you’re applying for a teaching role at a less research-intensive university, then do I really want to wade through seven or eight pages of information about your research experience before I get to a meagre section on your teaching? Bring the teaching section forward and expand it.’
  1. On Referencing works : ‘Use a consistent style and with proper attention to detail.’
  1. On Logical points: ‘Put page numbers on every single page.’



  1. Regularly update your CV. Otherwise, you forget all the very cool stuff you did. So, at the end of a term, go ahead and insert those couple of seminar papers that you gave, or updated that article reference which initially read ‘under review’ and should now read ‘accepted for publication’.
  1. Don’t be afraid to re-vamp your CV. This is not about content, but appearance. Indeed, although one might think that appearances don’t matter in academia, that is really not the case. This is especially true of CVs. Don’t hesitate to tweak bits and bobs of your CV to suit your needs: as your list of publications expands, and your list of conference papers narrows down to the most important/recent ones, you should seize the opportunity to rethink its basic appearance: OMG did i use THAT font ?! Why is every second world in bold ?? And should this section be divided by theme rather than chronological order ? If you’re asking yourself these questions, it’s probably because there’s a problem. So play around with font, size, bold, indentation and order. Over time, and as you start to see other CVs and notice what works and what doesn’t, your CV should change in appearance. At the end of the day, clarity is key (see below). Because the important thing is that the information which is most important just leaps of the page.
  1. Have 2 versions of your CV. This is just sound advice. The first version you want is the 1-2 page CV. Sometimes, job applications specify they want a short CV, so this just speeds up the process. Also, when you send conference proposals, articles,etc, they sometimes ask for a CV. They probbaly don’t need your whloe life story, so a short CV with the basics (ex: education, employment, publications, grants/fellowships, teaching interests) might be the best. The second version is the full, long version of your CV. (If your ‘long’ CV is only 1-2 pages at this stage, don’t worry, that’ll change sooner than you think.) This one contains much more detail, which we’re about to discuss below.






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Feature Archive: British Library: French archival collections

Sam Young is a second-year PhD student in the School of Modern Languages at Cardiff University. His research explores the role of Social Catholic associations in the development of mass urban housing in France after the Second World War. Here he talks about the material available at the British Library for historians of France and the Francophone World.

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