Structuring a CV

Site: Postgraduate online research training
Course: a PORT for Modern Languages
Book: Structuring a CV
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Date: Tuesday, 31 January 2023, 9:50 AM


a PORT for Modern Languages tutorial

1 Structuring a CV

A CV is a record of your education and employment experience. But making that record is easier said than done, since the success of any application largely depends on how well you present your skills. You can find a lot of CV samples on the Internet and in specialist handbooks (we ourselves are going to reproduce a CV template on this website), but if you want your CV to create a good impression, you have to personalise it (it constitutes after all the first 'photograph' of your personal and academic profile for your evaluators). At the same time, you had better avoid too eccentric a format: aim for the happy medium, without being either impersonal or quirky. Likewise, you should not be too shy and modest about your achievements, but you must be honest. There is no reason to underestimate and belittle your successes, but never lie - accuracy is a merit in itself, and one of the most valued in research.

If applying for an academic post, you should give prominence to your major academic achievements, such as your BA and - if you have one - MA final grade, awards, prizes and scholarships. Highlight any publications, conference papers, conference organization and teaching experience you may have. If you are applying for a post in industry or business you may want to include any training courses you have been on, you IT or linguistic skills, or your driving license if this seems relevant. Tailor your CV to the specific requirements of the position for which you are applying.

If considering alternative careers, please access the Vitae website for support and information. Vitae brings together all those with a stake in realising the potential of researchers. They establish partnerships to champion the needs of researchers and demonstrate their impact on economies and society. Vitae provides online information, advice and resources for higher education institutions and researchers on professional development and careers. Please see:

A well-thought-out CV signals that you are a methodical and well-organized person. You could structure the compilation of your CV in several different stages, so that you can deal with them more effectively. Click onto the following pages for more information.

1.1 Before starting

Your CV has to be tailored to meet the specific requirements and interests of the institution (be that a university or a company) you are applying to. The first thing to do is therefore to get in touch with the Careers Advice Office of your university, so that you can use their advice and expertise to produce the best possible CV.

Since standardized documents make the processing of applications faster, some universities might ask you to fill in an application form. Normally you should still submit a CV.

1.2 How it should look

The layout of a good CV is almost as important as its contents. Its visual aspect plays a key role in persuading your potential employer of your skills, since appointment committees often have to read a large number of applications and therefore in their first sifting they will be scanning CVs rather than paying close attention to detail. You need to make sure that key points stand out.

You are advised to avoid any eccentricity which will distract your reader, such as:

fancy fonts:

use the simplest types (such as Times, Arial or Helvetica), without alternating them. Bold and underlined prints are on the other hand effective for headings.


the only suitable 'decorations' are the bullets aimed at starting sub-sections and making lists clearer. Allow for margins (adopting, for example, a spacing of 1.5 and a border of at least 2 centimetres).

multicoloured ink and paper:

old-fashioned black ink on white A4 paper is still the best choice, since applications are usually photocopied in black and white. Use a good quality printer (possibly a laser one).


As to its structure, our suggestion is to subdivide your CV into different sections clearly separated and marked by a white space and/or a subtitle in bold. Within each section, list your achievements in chronological or reverse chronological order. Once you have decided, use the same system throughout. 

At this stage in your career it is likely that your CV will not be very long - consequently some information that wouldn't be appropriate later in your career might be useful, such as for example reading groups or seminars you may have organized. You may also want to include topics or MA modules or essays that might be relevant for the position you are applying for. For example, if you were working on eighteenth-century French literature in your PhD research, and the job you are applying for involves teaching a course on twentieth-century French literature, you can include any MA modules/dissertation on that topic.


Remember that in any case your CV has to be


be as simple and neat as possible without being trite. Avoid technical terms (except if strictly necessary) as well as obsolete words and forms.


be precise: a vague choice of words (just as a proximate description of your various experiences) will leave a vague impression.


be detailed without being wordy. Long explanations make readers miss the point rather than make it clearer.


do not be reticent: omitting a piece of information you are expected to reveal (such as the reason why you left a job) creates the impression that you have something to hide


keep to facts: do not introduce any assessment of your own experiences (they are supposed to speak for you).


format your CV in an effective way: your key skills and experiences should be identified by a cursory glance.

1.3 What should it include?

The number and the length of the sections composing a CV can vary, sometimes in a noticeable way. That is the reason why you can find so many CV samples and templates on the Internet: they are in fact all the same except for few minimal changes.

The only template available on the Internet endowed with some authority is the European CV format, which has recently been created by the European Community in order to standardize different national formats. Nevertheless this format reserves too much space to different categories of skills and too little to education to be the most appropriate for a prospective PhD student.

No CV template can perfectly suit your specific needs, unless it is expressly tailored for you. We therefore decided to present in this page a brief description of the different sections that your CV should include in general.

Personal details
Indicate in this section your:

  • name
  • nationality (it has to be specified, because non-British citizens may be requested to go through special formalities)
  • date of birth
  • marital status (optional)
  • complete address (including:
    • street address
    • phone number/s including your mobile
    • fax
    • e-mail address)
  • health (only if you have special needs)

You do not need to specify whether you have a driving licence and how mobile you are prepared to be in your PhD application, but when you are asked to send your CV for a job interview, for which this may be relevant, remember to add these two headings. 

Depending on how advanced you are in your career, indicate in this section your:

  • degrees (that is, the equivalent title if you come from abroad). Specify:
    • the final overall grades you were given (with their British equivalent if your titles of qualifications are not British)
    • place, name and type of institution where you studied
    • period in which you attended their courses
    • your PhD title, if you are registered for or have completed your PhD research.
    • Your PhD supervisor/s, if you are studying towards a PhD
    • principal subject options taken (including any special project, thesis, or dissertation work, if they are particularly relevant for the research you wish to undertake or the work you are applying for).
  • professional qualifications
  • 'A' levels (or equivalent -exams normally taken at 18 years old), if relevant to the job
  • awards and honours

Employment history
List in this section all your work experience, in particular, if you are applying for an academic job:

  • any teaching. For this you may include:
    • a description of the courses taught
    • tasks involved (such as, for example, examination procedures)
    • preparation of teaching materials

For any employment listed, academic or otherwise, provide details of:

  • name, type and address of the company or institution you worked for
  • the dates you started and finished
  • your position and responsibilities
  • skills/technologies you used and developed
  • the reasons why you left, if relevant

If you have not gained much work experience yet, you can include unpaid apprenticeships, summer jobs and any activity in voluntary organizations, but only if they have some relevance or if you need to explain a lapse of time between employment and studies. Also include part-time work. 

In this section you can give a statement of your research interests, which should include:

  • a summary of your PhD research
  • future research plans

These will be essential for any post-doctoral fellowship or academic post you may be applying for. You need to give full bibliographic details when listing your publications. If necessary, they can be subdivided into

  • books (including edited books)
  • articles
  • articles and chapters in books
  • reviews
  • translations

Again, if you are preparing a CV for a post in academia or a fellowship, it is crucial to highlight any conferences you may have participated in. Provide full details on

  • any conference papers given (include paper title, conference title, name and place of institution organizing the conference, date)
  • any conferences organized (title and date of conference, institution and place where the conference was hosted)

In this section you may want to include, if relevant for the job description:

  • language skills, specifying your expertise in each language listed
  • technical skills, and in particular your computer knowledge and specific packages that might be useful for the job you are applying for
  • other skills, such as social and organizational skills, specifying where you acquired them.

Provide details (name, address, email and, if possible, day phone numbers) of at least two scholars who are willing to write about your academic or professional expertise. Do not forget to indicate your relationship with them (e.g. personal tutor, content-course teacher, head of department, etc). You can also choose to name a referee who is willing to write about one of your past jobs. 

2 Sample CVs

NB: examples 2 and 3 include lists of academic publications which PhD candidates would not normally be expected to have. Each of the three CVs provides slightly differing templates from which you may choose.

Example n. 1 (a fairly brief CV, belonging to a graduate who wishes to undertake further study)

Example n. 2 ( a longer, academic CV, containing a fairly substantial list of publications)

Example n. 3 (similar to example 2)

(Word Format).

2.1 CV - Example 1


Personal Details

Name: Mary Jones

Address: 32b Bizwas Drive, Manchester MW7 5HJ


Telephone: 01577 577 503 (work); 07897 833 870 (mobile)

DoB: 17.3.1973


1994-1998: 2:1 BA (Hons) Portuguese with Mandarin, Nottingham University. Distinction in Spoken Portuguese, 1stclass marks in Modern Portuguese Women Writers (4th year module) and 5000 word dissertation on 'Cultural Resonances of the Fado 1925-1939' (4th year module).

1986-1993: George Orwell Secondary School, St Albans. A levels (1993) in English (A), French (A), History (B) and Biology (A); GSCEs (1991) in English Language (A), English Literature (A), French (A), History (B), Maths (A), Biology (A), Art (C).



2000-2002 PR assistant, New Executive Company, Polzeath PX 4GP. Duties: assistant to PR publicity for Hispanic countries, with special responsibility for Brazil and Portugal. Maintained PR webzine.

1998-2000 EFL teacher, Come With Me School of English, Lisbon ( Duties: devised Beginners and Intermediate in English courses for 13-16 year olds; taught Business English.

1996-1997: Language Assistant, Technical Training College, Fulape, Brazil. Also placement in School in Taipei (2 months).


Skills (other)

Computing: Microsoft office general; Dreamweaver (advanced).



Fado - travelled to Fado festivals in Portugal and Brazil (1998-2002) – contributed reviews to World Music magazine on contemporary Fado scene.

Singing – performed at folk festivals in Britain and Ireland 2000-2002 (Reading 2000, O'Laoire 2001, Glengough 2001).



Professor Cameron Mackenzie, 34 Bridhurst Lane, Nottingham, NG4 5FG 788 5920). Director of dissertation module (Portuguese).

Sarah Groover, Music Critic (Lusophone), World Music, 13F Small Offices, Wibbly Way, London, E9 (020 8777 1254). Commissioned Fado reviews 1998-2002.

Ian Muchly, New Executive Company, Quickly Lane, Polzeath PX 4GP (01586 383 502). PR Director, boss.

2.2 CV - Example 2



Name: John Mills
Nationality: British
Date of birth: 4.7.75
Address: 35 Cornwall Crescent – Redhill – Surrey
                      RH1 6BB - ENGLAND
Phone number: 0044-020-72224546

Currently, PhD candidate in the Department of Italian at Royal Holloway-University of London (1998- )
CoursesLa lingua della prosa e poesia contemporanea, Università per Stranieri di Perugia (19-31 July 1999)
                    Synapsis. Scuola Europea di Letteratura Comparata, Certosa di Pontignano, Siena (24-30 September 2000)
BA (Hons): First Class in Italian, University College London, 1997
Awards: John Hale Prize for Italian (1995)
                     Stern Studentship for Modern Languages, University of London (September 1999-September 2001);
                     Scholarship awarded by the Italian Foreign Office (October 2002-January 2003))
Papers presented:
- 'Montale's "lauro risecchito": The satire of poets and poetry in Diario del '71 e del '72 and Quaderno di quattro anni' at Senses of Humour. One day colloquium on the multifaceted nature of laughter in Italian literature, art, media & film, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, 18 March 2000
- 'Montale reading Nietzsche' at Readers and Reading in Italian Literature. Society for Italian Studies: Conference 2000, Institute of Romance Studies, London, 8 April 2000
- 'Sandro Penna and the Question of 'Difficult' Poetry' at Society for Italian Studies: Postgraduate Day Conference, University College London, 27 May 2000
- 'Il "coup de théâtre" a casa dei Guermantes e lo sconvolgimento delle intenzioni del protagonista' at Synapsis. Scuola Europea di Letteratura Comparata, Certosa di Pontignano, Siena, 26 September 2000
- 'Poetry after the "Boom": Eugenio Montale, Vittorio Sereni and Mario Luzi' at Transitions: Perspectives on Shifts in Italian Literature and Linguistics, University of Toronto, 3 November 2001
- 'Le ultime poesie di Eugenio Montale. Intervista ad Andrea Zanzotto', Annali d'Italianistica, 19 (2001), 327-331

- Achille Serrao, Cantalèsia. Poems in the Neapolitan Dialect (1990-1997)Annali d'Italianistica, 18 (2000), 543-546
- Tiziana de Rogatis, Montale e il classicismo modernol'immaginazione, 193 (December 2002), 22

- 'Evening, over the gardens, the air is vaporous…', Poetry Review, 91, 3 (Autumn 2001), 33-34 [translation from Gianni D'Elia, Sulla riva dell'epoca (Turin: Einaudi, 2000)]

Organiser (with Prof. David Forgacs) of the two-day international conference Poetry in Italy in the 1960s and 1970s(Sponsored by The British Academy; with the assistance of the Centre for Italian Studies, UCL), Institute of Romance Studies, London, 12-13 October 2001

Inlingua, Centro Direzionale (Naples): June 1997-July 1998
Full-time Teacher of English Language
University College London: October 2000 – June 2001
First Year: Middle Intermediate (Translation from Italian to English)
      Second Year: Lower Intermediate (Translation from Italian to English)
University College London: October 2001 – June 2002
First Year: Beginners (Translation from Italian to English)
      First Year: Upper Intermediate (Translation from Italian to English)
      Second Year: Middle Intermediate (Translation from Italian to English)
      SOCRATES: Advanced Translation from Italian to English and from English to Italian

Language skills
English - mother tongue
Italian - reading, writing and verbal skills: excellent
French – reading and writing skills: good; verbal skills: basic

     Technical skills
Software: last versions of Word, Excel, Eudora and Dreamweaver

History and social studies (UK Delegate for Committee on European Identity at The Idea of Europe. European Student Conference, Frei Universität, Berlin, 21-25 November 2000)

2.3 CV - Example 3


Personal details

Name    Philip Sousa
Date of birth  13 September 1975
Address    8 Redhill Road – WC1E 8UC - London
Phone number 0044-020-7606885


1994-1998 BA (Hons) Italian and French at Pembroke College, Oxford. Class of degree: I
1998-1999 MA in Critical Theory at the University of Sussex
1999-2003 D.Phil. at the University of Sussex: Representations of the Italian South, 1860-1900


Chapters in edited volumes
'The notion of Italy', in Zygmunt Baranski and Rebecca West (eds), Introduction to Italian Culture, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, (forthcoming)

Refereed articles
'La logica dello stereotipo: "Un omicida" della Contessa Lara', Lettere Italiane, 7, 2001, pp. 286-294.
'Nationalist discourse as idées reçues: the case of Alfredo Rocco', forthcoming in Nations and Nationalism.

Bibliographic research for Bibliografia gramsciana 1922-1988, J. Cammett (ed.), Editori Riuniti, Rome 2001.
Assistant Editor of Gino Bedani, Remo Catani and Monica Slowikowska (eds), The Italian Lyric Tradition, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 2002.

Piero Bevilacqua, 'A reply to Anna Bull', Modern Italy, vol. 4, no. 1/2, 1999, pp. 77-80.
Emilio Gentile, 'Mussolini's charisma', in Modern Italy, vol. 5, no. 2, 2000


1998-2001 Major state studentship from British Academy to support postgraduate work
4-5/2002    British School at Rome Grant in Aid of Research (value £1,000 approx)

Invited talks

3/2001         '"The moral value of violence": Leopoldo Franchetti and the mafia', Italian Department Seminar, University of Kent

12/2001       'Sententiousness, stupidity and the nation: Alfredo Rocco and Gustave Flaubert', Italian Department seminar, University of Cambridge

4/2002         '"The ancient fiery matter": the South and the nation in post-Unification Italy', Commonwealth Fund Conference. Two Souths: Towards an Agenda for Comparative Study of the American South and the Italian Mezzogiorno, UCL

Conference organization

8/2002 Organizer of Association for the Study of Modern Italy conference on 'Disastro! Disasters in Italy since 1860: culture, politics and society', at History Department, Yale University. Two-day international conference.

Teaching experience

10-12/2000: Temporary lecturer in Italian at UCL
10-12/2000: Tutorial and language teaching in European School, University of Sussex
2001-2003: Lecturer in Italian, University of Wales, College of Cardiff

Other appointments and affiliations

Society for Italian Studies: member since 2001
Association for the Study of Modern Italy: member since 2000
2002-2003: reviews editor of Newsletter of Association for the Study of Modern Italy

3 What to do next

Once you have completed your CV, check it carefully before sending it along with your application. One single misspelling or misused word is enough to make your image as a methodical person collapse. You can also ask a friend for help: other people will see mistakes you miss.

Likewise, be extremely critical of your CV as to its style and contents. If you were one of the referees called to support your application (and consequently your CV), how would you react? Which aspects of your CV would look weakest? Which section(s) would you modify? How would you do it?

You can find a lot of CV templates and examples on the Internet, in which you can identify some effective solutions, just as you might find it helpful to compare your CV with those of your friends.