Can I ask your advice, academic readership? I don’t usually talk about my job applications on here, because it seems like the opposite of this blog’s self-gratulatory purpose to report on their passage to the rejection bin*, but one that I applied for a short while ago had me wondering about something I’ve wondered about before. I used to be close to someone who’d never been rejected for a job that they’d applied for in their life, and occasionally, in an agonised way, they’d try and offer me advice. One of the things that always used to horrify this person was the length of my C. V., because theirs was never more than a page, even though they’d done a lot of stuff. The general idea was that if it was more than a page, no-one would read it, and even then the key points needed to be immediately obvious. Second page points would be lost, they said, cut it down. And I would say plaintively that an academic C. V. doesn’t work like a real-world one and has to have everything on. And in the past one of my esteemed referees has told me not to cut such documents down: “It’ll be useful for them”, they said. Nonetheless, for some years I’ve waged a battle to keep mine on four pages with research statement and three without, and tables and bullets to keep things clear.
Now, this job I just applied for, their human resources department have a model C. V. on the web. (I figure anyone who knows me and knew about this job knew that I would have to go for it, so I will risk the identification for once.) Not wanting to ignore such a hint I drafted the C. V. for this application according to that model, and well, I can’t make it fewer than six pages. Six. And I am including more stuff from the numismatic world than I used to, for reasons explained earlier, but all the same I haven’t got incredible amounts to put there and it still makes six. All of which left me asking myself, “Doctor, is it supposed to look like that?”
So I thought I’d ask you, people who’ve applied for jobs, people who’ve read the incoming documentation, what would you expect, what’s normal, what works? Short and punchy? Full and comprehensive? Compromise? I would welcome your advice, and I bet I’m not the only one.
* Though, the last rejection I had was the nicest I’ve ever received, really personal and full of regret that they could only pick one person. I was very flattered, but not a little confused as the relevant job had closed in December 2008. It turns out they got my postcode wrong and so the letter had been flying around the UK postal system for the following month and a half trying to find me. If they had wanted to interview me, I might never have known…