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A curriculum vitae, commonly known as a CV, lists a person’s professional and academic qualifications. CVs vary, depending on the country, job, employer, industry and purpose. This guide will explore the U.S. style of CV — commonly reserved for academic, medical, scientific, government, entertainment and legal positions that rely heavily on publications; presentations; and research.
In this page, we’ll present CV templates, explain the differences between CVs and resumes, and provide tips to help you get started writing and using your own.
What a CV in the United States is
A curriculum vitae — which means “course of life” in Latin — is a lengthy, comprehensive account of a person’s achievements over the course of their career. Some people think CVs are the same as resumes but they’re quite different. Although the purpose of both types of documents is to support a job application by showing to a potential employer what a person brings to the table, they have different goals, structures, scope and content.
Only send a CV if it’s requested! If you’re looking for a job outside of academia and research-heavy fields, you’ll most likely need a resume and not a CV. If a job description instructs you to send a resume and you send a CV, the employer will probably not read it. This is because most companies use applicant tracking systems that are programmed to weed out applications that do not meet specifications. Plus, sending a CV when an employer wants a resume conveys that you can’t follow instructions — which all but guarantees employers won’t want to hire you.
Five key differences between a CV and a resume
Resumes and CVs differ in their content, length, format, emphasis and utility.
CVs can be as long as necessary but are usually at least two-pages long.
Resumes should not be longer than one page in length.
The format of a CV, meaning the way you organize your work history, skills and achievements, varies depending on the position, organization and industry. CVs that are written to obtain fellowships and grants are formatted differently from CVs that are meant to obtain work.
Resumes follow three standard formats: chronological, functional and combination. Choosing between each depends on how long an applicant has been employed, how many jobs they’ve held, and if they have employment gaps or changes.
A CV provides an in-depth and detailed description of a person’s work, publications, research, honors, awards and positions held.
A resume is a succinct, results-oriented overview of a job seeker’s work experiences, skills and achievements relevant to a specific job.
The contents of a CV depend on what the applicant is trying to achieve (for example, a job or a grant); where they are applying ( a university or a law firm); and what they have done over the course of their career (teaching appointments and/or published works).
A resume is a succinct, results-oriented overview of a job seeker’s work experiences, skills and accomplishments relevant to a specific job.
A CV is only needed for positions that require a lot of research, publications and presentations; as well as for those applying for academic fellowships or grants.
Most employers in the U.S. ask for resumes. They are used by job applicants to market themselves to employers, provide a summary of their qualifications, and demonstrate their experience in a field.
Choose a professional CV template
Our templates come in several styles and are fully customizable so you can add sections to suit your background and your goals.
Follow the conventions of your field when organizing your CV. Harvard University Career Services advises that “Different academic disciplines have different standards and expectations, especially in the order of categories,” so it’s wise to review templates in your industry to ensure you’re in line with the proper standards.
What to include in a CV
As we touched on above, the contents and organization of a CV depend largely on its purpose, the industry and the applicant’s experience. But Karen Kelsky, former tenured professor and academia career expert, says that while variation is to be expected among CVs, there are elements that should always be considered. They include the following:
Heading: This should include your name, email address, phone number and address. It should always be placed at the top of the document.
Education: Listed with degree first.
Certifications and licenses: Only list those that are applicable to your application.
Related professional skills: These should be directly relevant to the position or grant.
Work experience: Include institution/organization, department (if applicable), title and dates of employment.
Professional affiliations: Your professional affiliations should relate to your course of study, work experience and goals.
Publications: Add professional journals, books, chapters, manuscripts and online publications.
Awards and honors: In reverse order, with name of institution or organization and date.
If you apply for a job in most countries outside of the United States, employers may ask for a curriculum vitae rather than a resume. It’s important to keep in mind that many international CVs, such as in Europe, are structured and formatted more like a U.S. resume than they are a U.S. CV.
3 tips for writing an eye-catching CV
Tailor your CV to your audience.
Industries, organizations, employers, even departments all have their own goals and values, so it’s important to address the needs of the people who will be considering your application. For example, if you are applying to work at a hospital that values clinical research over practical work, list your top research accomplishments before your direct work experience.
Your CV should be relevant to your experience level.
That means if you’re a lawyer with 10 years of practical experience who has published a number of articles in professional journals throughout your career, your CV should reflect those accomplishments and not your graduate dissertation or the honors you received from the first law firm you worked for.
Be meticulous and consistent when formatting your CV.
You won’t impress the dean of a university, a hospital department head, or a major book publisher
if your CV is full of misspellings and typos, grammatical errors, inaccuracies, graphics, and inconsistent margins and type. So take your time, proof it more than once, and use Resume Now’s templates and builder to ensure your CV is polished and ready to send!
Create your own professional CV in minutes!
Choose your favorite design to make your resume stand out. These resume templates help you customize your resume and show your personality as well as your skills.
Easy to customize
Our resume builder makes it easy to select typefaces, fonts and to properly format your resume. If you want to design a different resume, simply click a button to try another template.
Makes Writing Simple
You don’t need writing experience to create an impressive resume. Use pre-written suggestions tailored to your job title and add industry keywords with the click of a button.
How do you write a CV with no experience?
You probably have more experience than you think! For example, if you are a graduate student applying for a research position at a university, you can list your graduate thesis; fellowships, grants, honors and awards; research assistant or teaching experience; relevant skills; community involvement; presentations; volunteer activities; certifications; professional affiliations; and student activities or offices held.
How do you write achievements on a CV?
Always weave your accomplishments throughout your CV. So if you are a lawyer then publications, conference presentations, and community service achievements might be considered accomplishments. Be sure to quantify specific achievements when you can, such as “Organized and managed city-wide $3.5 million youth services funding campaign,” and call out any honors or awards you have received under their own section.
Can you use bullet points on a CV?
Bullet points are a must on a CV. Remember, CVs tend to be quite lengthy, so bullet points make them easier to read.