Build your collection of evidence for CVs and applications

1. Create a list of the skills, experience and attitude employers need in roles you want to pursue:

  • Do your own research: what do you think is really needed to do the job well and to be effective in the sector, environment or current challenges faced by the organisation?
  • Ask what others (e.g. contacts in your network) think is required .
  • Consider what you would need to achieve the objectives they propose?
  • How can you evidence the skills they require?

2. Based on the above, create a list of your own corresponding skills and experience. What evidence can you offer against each employer’s need? Think of two or three examples for each need.

3. Prioritise your evidence - which do you think the employer will be most interested in? Which might they compromise on? Write your evidence for use in the CV, cover letter or application form using the STAR technique.

  • Situation – the situation that you were in
  • Task – what you needed to do or achieve
  • Action – the actions you took or the skills/approaches used
  • Result/Review – what happened, the outcome, successes, results

How to tailor your CV for non-academic posts

You will probably have an academic CV, but you will need to adapt this to create a skills-based version. You may also need to reorganise your CV to fit an application form template, depending on the role or industry you are moving into.

Make your skills evident with a summary followed by examples using the STAR technique referenced above to organise your evidence.

  • Use our Skills-based CV tip sheet for hints and tips to help you create a skills-based CV. Don’t forget to use evidence that you found when doing your Skills analysis.
  • The PFDC hosts workshops on skills-based CVs and courses on how to apply for non-academic roles. Visit our events listing or email the PFDC team

Note that different countries and different sectors will have preferences for different CV styles, so you need to make sure you tailor your CV to the sector or country to which you are applying. Find out what the norm is in the sector you want to go into. What type of CV do they expect to see? Find this out by asking colleagues and friends, looking at company webpages and by doing your research.

Personal statements on CVs

Personal statements on CVs are controversial. It’s your choice whether to include one, but there is some useful advice for researchers on this in ‘How and when to write a personal profile statement on a CV‘ – a blog from Sarah Blackford at BioScience Careers. The blog links to example CVs that have profile statements.

Application forms

For some roles you will be asked to fill an application form instead of providing a separate CV and cover letter.

Remember to fill in all the fields and make sure your most relevant skills appear first. Provide evidence to reinforce your skills with a summary followed by examples using the STAR technique.

Cover letters

You may be asked to provide a cover letter with your application. A cover letter shouldn’t be your life history; it should detail your motivation for applying for the role, what you bring to the role and how your skillset makes you the ideal candidate.

  • Use our Cover Letter tip sheet for hints and tips to help you write an appropriate letter for roles outside academia
  • The PFDC hosts workshops on non-academic CVs and cover letters and courses on how to apply for non-academic roles. Visit our  or email the PFDC team

Referees and References

  • Choosing a referee: As you are moving away to a less familiar environment, you will need to think carefully about who would be a great referee for you. If you have a choice, think of possible referees who know you well and will also understand the perspective of a non-academic employer and how your research skills and experience are transferable to a different role. The website has some advice for researchers on how to choose a referee. You can find more advice on referees and references on the Careers website.
  • Helping your referee: It is a big responsibility, and very time-consuming, to write a reference or letter of recommendation for someone. You may want to offer to help your referee. Nature Jobs have useful advice to academics on writing a recommendation letter (aimed at writing for a student but very useful advice to academics for writing any reference).