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The curriculum vitae, or CV, is the most important professional document in the world of academics, and is used frequently as a tool in hiring, promotion, tenure, and other decisions at colleges and universities. A great CV can help highlight a well-qualified candidate’s accomplishments, but a poorly executed CV can create poor perceptions.

To help academics avoid common CV pitfalls, Steve Joy, career adviser for research staff in the arts, humanities, and social sciences at the University of Cambridge, published a column in The Guardian outlining simple strategies for minimizing distractions and annoyances in CV documents.

The article, “Academic CVs: 10 Irritating Mistakes,” gives a number of simple tips for academics and explains how relatively minor details of a CV’s organization and formatting can impact the way reviewers perceive a candidate. A chief mistake people make, Joy writes, is creating documents that are not easy to scan through for important information.

“The person reviewing your application may spend no more than 90 seconds scanning through the CV, skimming for key highlights – such as your list of publications, places you’ve worked, grants won, and so on,” he writes. ”You have to make sure that the important stuff, which will not necessarily be the same from one application to the next, leaps off the page.”

Joy goes on to list numerous formatting and organization oversights in CVs that can make the documents unnecessarily difficult to read.

These oversights include splitting sections across page breaks; over- or under- using boldface and italic fonts; failing to list the candidate’s name at the top of each page; and failing to number the pages in a multi-page document. Including these kinds of mistakes in a CV can send a wrong message to the people reviewing it.

He also stresses the importance of using consistent reference style and avoiding institution-specific minutia and jargon that outside reviewers may not understand. Above all, Joy suggests that academics can optimize their CVs by getting input from friends and colleagues before finalizing and submitting the documents.

“When push comes to shove, the best approach to CV writing is the simplest: seek multiple opinions at every stage,” he writes. “And in so doing, dare to be honest. What impression do you really have of me on paper?”

The full article from The Guardian is available here:

Content originally published on Learn more about Interfolio’s acquisition of Data180 here.