Creating effective CVs as a researcher

effective CV

An effective CV presents you as an ideal job candidate and secures you an interview. To convince the employer that you have the right experience, skills and attributes, you need to tailor your CV to each job application.

This section contains basic guidelines that apply to all CVs:

  • Preparation
  • Format
  • Ideas for improving your CV
  • Covering letters


Don't underestimate the time it takes to create a really professional and effective CV. Thorough preparation and customisation for each application is essential. Whatever job you are applying for you need to do some research into:

  • yourself:  your experiences, competencies and attributes (developed through both work and other interests), achievements, strengths and weaknesses. Carry out a self-evaluation
  • the job: the employer, the job, the experience and capabiltiies needed, and the application procedure. Visit the employer's website, talk to current employees or people doing similar jobs, analyse the job specification and job description, if there is one.  
  • map your own experience and capabilities to the needs of the job: idenfity your best examples of the evidence of your ability to do the job: use a variety of examples. Note any shortfalls and how you in your experience or skills
  • who will read your CV: this will influence the format and the way you present yourself and research experience.

Your CV format

Decide how best to structure and tailor your CV for the job you want. The format will depend on the employment sector and the job. Generally there are three broad types of CV used in the UK:

Keep an updated professional development record of for compiling your CV

Keep an updated detailed record of your education, work experiences (both paid and unpaid) and professional development. This will form the basis of producing CVs tailored to different job applications.

  • organise information under the relevant headings and sub-headings
  • include relevant skills and experience - tailored to the job with specific evidence/examples
  • convey personality and enthusiasm - an upbeat and positive tone
  • make it personal - don't use pre-formatted CVs from the web.

Other potential inclusions

When trying to decide what to include, always think whether it is this relevant to the job you are applying for and help secure an interview.

  • Personal profiles are optional, but can be a useful device if making a career change to emphasise your motivation and rationale. If using one, relate it directly to the employer and job. Personal profiles can be off-putting unless they convey a clear, focused message.
  • Photographs are not the usual convention on UK CVs.
  • Nationality is optional, but could be vital information if a work permit is needed.
  • Gender, health status, marital and parental status, date of birth are not necessary. It is your choice whether to include any of this information.

Improving your draft CV

Work does not stop when you finish typing! Careful editing will sharpen the messages and fresh eyes will spot issues you may not notice. To improve your CV:

  • Review it objectively
    • Is the intended audience obvious?
    • Is the content written clearly for the audience?
    • Is the general layout clear?
    • Is space wasted on irrelevant material?
    • Is the most important information on the front page?
    • Is there too much or too little information?
    • Is the evidence for your competencies presented clearly?
    • Check your SPELLING!
  • Get someone else to proofread it and give you feedback
    • Institutional careers services often offer a CV quality check and run CV clinics.
    • Ask colleagues or friends working in a similar job environment.

Covering letters

Always send a covering letter with your CV. Use it to draw attention to the highlights in your CV. It should contain compelling evidence that you should be selected for interview. Be aware that some organisations circulate CVs without covering letters so make sure everything is on the CV.