Freddie’s simple rules for formatting your academic CV

Hello, fellow academic traveler! If you’re like me, you’ve often struggled to know how to format your CV, which as we know is the single most important document of your professional life. So many different people give completely contradictory advice, always expressed as absolute no-exceptions rules that, if broken, will result in potential lawsuit and certain ridicule. It can be hard to know where to begin! But fear not. I’m here to give you the lowdown, after years of reading and synthesizing these rules. With these guidelines, you’ll have a beautiful, professional CV in no time.

  1. Please, no cliched fonts! There’s nothing search committees hate more than fonts they’ve seen a thousand times. This means no Times, no Garamond, no Cambria, no Calibri, no Helvetica, or anything else that comes prepackaged with Microsoft Word, Adobe InDesign, or any other popular program that you likely have access to. As a good rule of thumb, if members of search committees can read your document without downloading a new font pack, something’s wrong.
  2. Don’t get gimmicky with your font, though. That screams “amateur.”
  3. Remember, you want all of your sections to be as self-contained and visually coherent as possible. This means that every heading absolutely must fit on a single page. Keep margins to 3.5 inches on all sides. No lower than 16 point font, please — you don’t want committee members to have to strain to see. Four full carriage returns between each line item; you want them to have room to breathe. Oh, and it should go without saying that you want to have as much listed under each heading as humanly possible if you want to get a job. Good luck.
  4. The total number of lines in each section must grow according to a mathematical sequence that is intuitively apparent to the committee member. The last thing you want is for a committee member to have to pull out a calculator. Make sure your sequence is classic without being cliched. If you use the Fibonacci, you might as well write “Help, I’m trapped in the 90s!” on the top of your CV. But don’t get fancy; the Padovan sequence will make you look like a showoff. Choose wisely.
  5. Bold and italics only when necessary. Bolding or italicizing anything that’s not necessary is the kiss of death. Of course, you must bold or italicize when necessary; to fail to do so shows that you have grad student mentality and are not ready to be taken seriously as an academic. The key to recognizing the difference between necessary and unnecessary bolding or italics is
  6. If you send a CV that’s in a standard International ISO paper size like A4 or a North American paper size like letter size, you might as well slap the chair in the face on your campus visit. Any serious academic knows the only acceptable paper size is Jeppesen Aeronautical Chart standard. It should be from a prewar production run, of course.
  7. Header should include your name, email address, PIN number, SnapChat handle, cosmological constant, and the phrase “BUSH DID 9/11.” ( STEM applicants may substitute “jet fuel can’t melt steel beams,” if dictated by field-specific convention.)
  8. If I see a single bullet point on your CV at any time I’ll rip your diploma from your goddamn hands, I swear to god.
  10. A watermark can add a whimsical, personal touch that really makes you stand out from the pack!
  11. Video CVs are increasingly accepted and, in many fields, required. However, any format other than your unblinking face, holding as still as possible, while an offscreen British man reads the complete content of your paper CV in a droll but sensitive tone, is unacceptable and may result in IRB action against you. Vine is the only acceptable choice for hosting your video CV.
  12. Using a ruler, compass, and number 3 pencil, find the exact midpoint of each section of your CV. Then, draw a circle that encompasses every word within that section, while intersecting (but not overlapping!) the first letter in the first word and last letter in the last word of each section. The radius of each circle of every section must be a factor of the total number of words in your CV as a whole, including headings but excluding headings.
  13. Color in your CV is forbidden, except when it is mandatory.
  14. Confused by how to list work in progress? The conventions are simple. If an article has been submitted but you have not yet heard a response, it should be listed as “not yet denied.” If you have received a revise and resubmit request, it should be listed as “politely denied.” If you have received an acceptance with revisions, it should be listed as “accidentally accepted.” If your work has actually been published, it should be listed as “accepted out of mercy and/or corruption.”
  15. Double reverse half-chronological order (Mayan calendar format) throughout the document.
  16. Your CV has to be scannable — research suggests the average search committee member spends 12 seconds rubbing your CV’s paper between their fingers before lighting it on fire.
  17. Remember, ABC: Always Be Concise.
  18. Remember, ABC: Always Be Comprehensive.
  19. Don’t forget to staple a lock of virgin yak hair to the upper right hand corner, or if applying to a British university, the upper left.
  20. If you find that you keep getting rejected, ask yourself: was that yak really a virgin?
  21. Make sure to prominently list the name of the Ivy League institution where you got your PhD on every page. If you got your PhD at a non-Ivy League institution and still want a tenure track job, hahahahahahahahahahahaha oh christ that’s hilarious
  22. Have Steve sign every page of your CV.
  23. List your first three books prominently near the top of your CV. If you haven’t published three books, seriously, where did your life go wrong?
  24. For goodness sake’s, proofread! Have at least six graduate students go over your CV in fine detail, looking for the slightest error. Then have a faculty member pretend to do it. Then pay somebody credible to take out all the errors your undermining, jealous grad student friends snuck in there to undermine you.
  25. Make sure all of your applications are sent within seven (7) days of your dissertation defense. Otherwise, your dissertation has officially gone stale and you are worthless garbage.
  26. Your university likely has a career counseling department that will help you prepare your CV. Everything they tell you will be the complete opposite of what your advisor told you. Somehow, they’re both completely wrong.
  27. Ultimately, the goal of your CV is the same as your goal on a job interview: to appear formal but casual, friendly but standoffish, self-aggrandizing but not conceited, teacherly but not didactic, fully formed but moldable, amenable to change but resistant to change, brilliant but dumber than your potential colleagues, and most importantly, nothing at all like the grad student you’ve spent the last 7 years being.

Good luck!