“Use your own words… don’t copy other people’s work … don’t plagarise!”. These are the golden rules of academia.
However, in the world of job applications and CVs: “Do use their words, match yourself to their specifications, mimic their language!”
This can be a hard task if you’re a PhD or postdoctoral researcher: You need to undo a lifetime of following the rules of academia. You have to force yourself to go against the fundamentals and very essence of the communication guidelines you have been following throughout your career.
Whilst an academic CV can follow a chronological history of your university education, including undergraduate, master’s and PhD qualifications, followed by research achievements, awards, teaching and impact activities, a non-academic CV requires a more targeted approach.
Hiring is a risky business, so anything you can do to instil confidence in the employer will give you an advantage over other candidates. You need to show them that you have the directly and indirectly relevant experience, skills and capabities that meet their requirements in a very obvious and accessible way. This not only shows them that you have the necessary profile for the position they’re offering, but also that you understand their needs and so are more likely to fit into their work culture and environment.
So, if you’re applying for non-academic jobs, whether it’s in research, communications, data analysis, policy, etc., the art of MATCHING and SECTIONING your CV is more likely to yield good results (i.e. an invitation to interview) than a chronological historical record.
Here are some tips and examples to help you to re-write and target your CV to a non-academic post:
- Treat the job description and specifications as you would an exam or essay: Underline/highlight the key words that are the most prominent – they are the requirements that are most important to the employer;
- Create sections in your CV that reflect these key requirements. You don’t want to create too many sections, so join two or more together, e.g. Communication and teamwork; Management and leadership; Research and analysis, etc., according to the keywords that appear in the job/personal specifications;
- Provide evidence of these skills by using bullet points under each of the sections. Write down a very short story of just one or two lines that demonstrate an example of how you have used a particular skill. Use situations, quantities and results to bring your examples to life and make them interesting and realistic for the employer to read.
- Under each of the headings, use 3 – 4 examples taken from your current and former employment, volunteer work, research-associated experiences and personal life and bring them together to consolidate evidence of your experience.
- You will still need to include sections in your CV about your education, employment history and other experiences to show where you have used and developed these skills. However, it’s sometimes a good idea to place them later in your CV, especially if it’s a job where ‘transferable’ skills and more relevant than directly relevant experience.
I hope these tips and examples give you a good starting point to re-invent and re-think your academic experiences so you can write a great non-academic CV!