How to Prepare a Winning CV for Entry-level Academic Roles

Oliver Drake

Oliver is recruitment specialist who specialise in recruiting to academic, research and university administration roles. Oliver has gained, over 20 year resourcing for the higher education in the UK and worldwide.

If you are looking for an entry-level academic role you will have to compete against many other applicants. Because of this it is important to make sure that your CV highlights all of your relevant experience and really brings out any extra-curricular activities which you have undertaken when studying for your degree. If you want to learn how to prepare a winning CV, check out this example of an excellent entry-level CV of John Smith who successfully applied for a Graduate Teaching Assistant position. John’s CV along with the advice below will help you understand how you can prepare an outstanding entry-level CV that will win you an interview.

Use the “Personal profile” section to emphasise your goals

The “Personal profile” section sets the tone of your CV and helps your prospective employer understand your previous academic experience and your future career goals. Outstanding entry-level CVs typically include in this section a very succinct summary of the most relevant experience of the candidate, followed by a clear and unambiguous statement of what the candidate is currently looking for. For example, John included in this section of his CV two sentences. The first sentence highlights his relevant university education and his experience in supporting university students. The second sentence clearly states that John is looking for a Graduate Teaching Assistant position, which reassured his prospective employer of his specific interest in this type of work:

How to Prepare a Winning CV for Entry-level Academic Roles Careers in HE

For extra points you could also state why you are looking to work in this specific position, just like John explained that the Graduate Teaching Assistant role will help him “expand his teaching skills and specialise further in his selected areas of expertise”.

Express your academic interests in the “Areas of expertise” section

The “Areas of expertise” section in your CV will help your prospective employer understand what areas in your field you would like to teach about or research. By listing the topics in your field which you are most interested in you will help your prospective employer assess whether your goals and interests fit within the university department’s long-term research and teaching strategy. It will also show them that you understand you are expected to specialise in a particular area at some point and that you know more or less what that area might be. For example, John included in the “Areas of expertise” section in his CV the following bullet points describing different research areas in his field:

How to Prepare a Winning CV for Entry-level Academic Roles Careers in HE

John included those areas because he found them particularly interesting when he was studying them during his degree as well as when researching them for extra-curricular projects.

Sell your teaching skills in the “Teaching experience” section

Teaching experience is a crucial factor which most universities look for in candidates applying for many academic roles. If the role you are applying for involves even a small amount of teaching duties, you are significantly more likely to be invited for an interview if you include some teaching experience in your CV. Don’t worry, this experience does not have to be significant. It could be a presentation you delivered as part a university project or a mini lecture which your lecturer allowed you to teach in class. It could also be tutoring of more junior students or even high school students. Anything that shows you have some experience in teaching will be just fine. For example, John included in this section his two-year private tutoring experience:

How to Prepare a Winning CV for Entry-level Academic Roles Careers in HE

If you are applying for a purely research-oriented role, then you can change this section to “Research experience” and include in it any additional research projects which you have undertaken as part of university study outside of the standard assignments or other research-oriented activities in which you participated in outside of your course. Those research activities should be related to your field of study. Moreover, in order to really make your CV standout you can spruce up your “Teaching experience” section by showing the extent of your academic expertise. Apart from mentioning in this section the titles of your previous teaching roles and the responsibilities which you had in each role, you could list the subjects which you taught. For example, look above at what John included under the “Subjects taught” heading in relation to his role of Private University Tutor. By listing the subjects which he taught in his previous role John achieved two things. Firstly, he made his prospective employer gain interest in his CV by providing plenty of details about his experience. Secondly, he helped his prospective employer understand what types of modules John could potentially assist in at the new university.

Share your success in the “Grants and scholarships” section

Bringing funding from grants and external sources is a significant part of working as an academic. Even when applying for graduate positions your prospective employer will want to see evidence that you will be able to do that at some point in the future. This is where the “Grants and scholarships” section comes into play. You should include in this section any scholarships or small grants which you received in order to study or undertake side academic projects which were somehow related to your study areas. For example, this is what John included in this section of his CV:

How to Prepare a Winning CV for Entry-level Academic Roles Careers in HE

You can also state the amount of each grant and scholarship in the brackets, just like John did it in his CV. This will impress your prospective employer even more, especially if the amounts are high.

Evidence your expertise in the “Academic memberships” section

The “Academic memberships” section of your CV shows a prospective employer that you are willing to expand your knowledge and learn best practices in teaching and research from more experienced academics. In this section you should include any memberships in research institutes, academic discussion groups and associations which are related to the areas of your academic interests. For example, John included in this section his memberships in the Institute of Administrative Management and the Academy of Management – both of which are related to his areas of expertise:

How to Prepare a Winning CV for Entry-level Academic Roles Careers in HE

You could also include here any memberships or student memberships in professional bodies related to best practices in research or teaching, just like John included his student fellowship in AdvanceHE. Notice how John also mentioned the years when he joined the above associations and specified that he is currently still their member. This shows to his prospective employer that John has been interested in developing his academic expertise from the early stages of his university degree.

Show your proactivity in the “Recently attended conferences” section

Finally, if you have attended any conferences in the past few years which are related to your field, you should showcase them in the “Recently attended conferences” section. This will show to your prospective employer that you are open to keeping yourself up to date with the latest developments in your field. For example, John included in this section of his CV three conferences which he recently attended, including the Strategic Market Management and Entrepreneurship Conference 2019:

How to Prepare a Winning CV for Entry-level Academic Roles Careers in HE

John included in this section not only the names of the conferences, but also the places where those conferences were held, the month and year in which they took place as well as a brief description of the themes of presentations which he attended.


Further resources:

Lucinda Becker, Write a Brilliant CV (SAGE, 2020)

James Reed, The 7 Second CV: How to Land the Interview (Virgin Books, 2019)

James Innes, The CV Book: How to avoid the most common mistakes and write a winning CV (Pearson, 2016)

Kevin Peachey, How to write a successful CV (BBC News, 12 January 2015):

Stephen Chambers, Top 10 CV buzzwords – and how to avoid them (The Guardian, 9 February 2017):

John Lees, How to write an outstanding CV profile (The Careers Blog – Guardian Careers, 20 January 2014):

Sarah Shearman, Five ways to get your CV and cover letter noticed (The Guardian, 1 June 2017):

Clare Whitmell, Spring cleaning your CV: an essential guide (The Careers Blog – Guardian Careers, 21 March 2013):

Jack Grove, Career advice: how to write a CV for a university job (Times Higher Education, 5 January 2017):

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