How to Prepare a Winning CV for Mid-level Professional Roles in Academia

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.

When applying for mid-level professional roles in academia you have to make sure that your CV really stands out, especially that the number of candidates with the level of experience similar to yours might be high. In order to do that you can use a few techniques which will prove to your prospective employer that you are an enthusiastic and proactive person who has taken initiative in their previous roles. If you want to find out how to do it, check out this example of an excellent mid-level CV of John Smith who successfully applied for a Senior Admissions Administrator position. John’s CV along with the advice below will help you understand how you can prepare an outstanding mid-level CV that really makes your experience stand out.

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 current career goals. In mid-level CVs this section does not have to be long. A single sentence or two short sentences are sufficient to let your employer know what you are looking for and why you deserve to get it. For example, John included in this section of his CV a sentence which, firstly, places emphasis on his previous experience (4+ years of working in administrative university positions) and, secondly, explains exactly what type of a role he is currently looking for:

How to Prepare a Winning CV for Mid-level Professional Roles in Academia Careers in HE

Remember that in order to impress your prospective employer this section of your CV should convey a clear message that you are looking to work within the higher education sector, and in the specific position for which you applied. For extra points you could also state why you are looking to work in this position, just like John explained that the Senior Admissions Administrator role will help him “use his existing expertise and take on new responsibilities”.

Emphasise your value in the “Achievements” section

The “Achievements” section is your chance to outshine other candidates for the position by demonstrating your passion and enthusiasm for the type of work required by the role. You should include in this section any formal awards or nominations to awards which you received throughout your career – as long as they are relevant to the position for which you are applying. For example, John decided to include in the “Achievements” section of his CV the Best Student Support Award 2020 which he received personally in his current role of Admissions Assistant as well as the Best Student Support Team Award 2018 which he received as a member of the Admissions Team at his former institution:

How to Prepare a Winning CV for Mid-level Professional Roles in Academia Careers in HE

John also included in this section two informal achievements which he had in his previous role: preparing popular website materials on admissions for international students and streamlining the university’s student check system to improve the team’s productivity. Even though John didn’t actually receive any formal awards for those two achievements, writing them down will show his prospective employer that he is a proactive employee who regularly takes initiative – just the thing that can get him an interview invitation!

Make your “Relevant work experience” standout

If you are applying for a mid-level position, you might be competing against a significant number of candidates, many of whom might be more experienced than you. In order to make your CV standout you have to spruce up your “Relevant work experience” section by showing how much experience you have gained in your previous roles. Apart from mentioning in this section the titles of your previous roles and the responsibilities which you had in each role, you could include the projects which you worked on during each role. For example, this is what John decided to include in this section of his CV under the “Projects worked on” heading in relation to his role of Admissions Administrator:

How to Prepare a Winning CV for Mid-level Professional Roles in Academia Careers in HE

By listing the three projects under the Admissions Administrator 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 tasks John is used to working on and what level of responsibility he can handle. John also showed to his prospective employer that he is used to not only blindly following the procedures of the university, but also taking initiative to help in improving them. You can use this clever strategy applied by John in your own CV. Simply list any larger tasks that you personally performed or which you helped to complete that were time limited, out of your ordinary work routine and that finished with a success.

Use the “Recent trainings” section wisely for extra points

Developing new skills by attending frequent internal and external training sessions is very much appreciated by prospective employers. Showcasing any trainings which you attended in the past 2 to 3 years in the “Recent trainings” section of your CV will definitely help your CV stand out. By calling this section “Recent trainings” you show to your prospective employer that you regularly participate in professional trainings and have plenty more training sessions to talk about during the interview than just the sessions mentioned in the CV. This section can include both internal trainings attended as part of your role and external trainings provided by professional training providers – regardless of whether your employer paid for them or you did it yourself. For example, take a look at how John used this section of his CV to bring to the attention of his prospective employer the internal training on Data Protection in Higher Education which he undertook as part of his previous employment, as well as the online training on Effective Administration in Higher Education provided by the Association of UK Higher Education European Officers which he attended:

How to Prepare a Winning CV for Mid-level Professional Roles in Academia Careers in HE

John also listed the topics covered in each training, so that his prospective employer is better able to understand what knowledge and skills he gained during the trainings.

Evidence your expertise in the “Professional memberships” section

Finally, the “Professional memberships” section of the CV shows prospective employers that you are willing to share experience and learn best practices from more senior professionals. This attitude is extremely valuable for two reasons. Firstly, it means that you will stay up to date with the latest developments in your sector. Secondly, it shows that you are a cooperative person you will work well as part of a team. Just make sure that the memberships in this section are related to the specific role for which you are applying. For example, John included in this section of his CV his memberships in the Association of UK Higher Education European Officers, the Association of University Administrators and the Student Services Organisation – all of which are directly relevant to the Senior Admissions Administrator role for which he applied:

How to Prepare a Winning CV for Mid-level Professional Roles in Academia Careers in HE

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 skills in the higher education administration sector from the early stages of his career.

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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