Competency-based CVs for researchers

If you are moving to a new employment area, a competency-based CV is particularly useful to show how your skills could transfer. It enables employers to see at a glance how your experience and skills match the needs of the job. It includes similar information to the more familiar chronological CV but the material is organised under a different sequence of headings.

The central element of this type of CV is a competency profile. The profile lays out the range of competencies and attributes that you have developed as a researcher, matching them to the requirements in the job specification. This may help dispel stereotypical thinking about your academic background.

To be effective, competency-based CVs need careful design and more preparation than a chronological CV, but it can have a greater impact if done well. However, it can look unfocussed if you have not thoroughly researched the job and the evidence of your competencies.

The structure of a competency-based CV might be around the following headings:

Personal profile or career aim: a brief, thoughtfully worded statement tailored to the specific job. Use it to show your career motivation and how you match the required skills. Make sure that the rest of the CV has evidence to back this up. Highlight your career aim and, if relevant, give your rationale and motivation to move into a new work domain. Take care to make the statement positive and professional. Do not include vague or general remarks or exaggerate your talents.

Competency profile: the major section in this type of CV, based upon the list of requirements in the job specification or job description. For help creating your own profile and identifying supporting evidence, look at our advice on assessing your capabilities. Provide detailed evidence of how each competency has been developed and used successfully.

Examples of evidencing competencies

Confident communicator Ability to write for a variety of audiences. Produced regular well-received reports for my research sponsors; wrote a newspaper article outlining my research findings for the general public; wrote a successful doctoral thesis and published two journal articles for academic audiences.
Received very positive end of term feedback from students on my teaching. Developed confidence in public speaking through giving papers and talks at conferences and meetings.
Project management Manage my research and teaching workload by setting priorities, planning, and monitoring progress, ensuring I meet deadlines and budgets set by external sponsors. Responsible for organising two well-attended and profitable social events at my local tennis club in the past year.
Problem solving Take an analytical and systematic approach to research problems, looking for patterns and key issues. Look for logical solutions on the basis of past experience or novel ideas in the research literature, as well as seeking advice and opinion from colleagues.

Education and qualifications: a short summary with most recent or relevant experience first. If you are moving to a new career area, your research subject may be of less relevance than your competencies and attributes, but see Presenting your research on marketing your research experience to different audiences.

Key achievements: highlight significant achievements, successes or responsibilities where they are appropriate.

Work history: a reverse chronological list of jobs and employers with a brief description of significant achievements. Have separate headings for ‘relevant work experience' and ‘other' work experience if appropriate. Include unpaid work if this adds weight to your case.

Interests: include relevant interests that evidence your capabilities.

References: include (with permission) or offer two references.

Researchers’ chronological CVs examples

Six researchers’ experiences and capabilities presented as competency-based CVs These are fictional examples, but they are all modelled on real successful examples of CVs. They show different approaches to presenting a range of experience, subject and style.

Also check out examples of these researchers’ CVs written for academic job applications or as chronological CVs.

Alan MacDonald, part-time doctoral researcher, arts and humanities and teacher

Alison Parry, doctoral researcher, social sciences

Mike Robinson, research staff, biological sciences

Nabil Anwar, research staff, physics

Rebecca King, research staff, arts and humanities

Susan Weaver research staff, social sciences