What is a CV?

Last updated: April 10, 2024
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Kai Dickerson
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What is a CV?
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CV stands for Curriculum Vitae, a Latin phrase that translates to “the course of your life.” It gives employers and institutions an in-depth look into your training, skills, work history, achievements, and competencies.

This may sound like a fancy word for resume, but there are differences between the two.

In the following article, you will learn what makes a CV unique and how it compares to a traditional resume. Plus, we'll give you our expert tips for writing a successful Curriculum Vitae (CV), with a list of key points for inclusion.

What is a CV?

A Curriculum Vitae is often used when applying for an academic position. It gives a potential employer a detailed overview of your work and professional experience. If you are a job seeker, check the details on the job advertisement as it may specifically ask for a CV.

You may need to target your CV to a specific job, showcasing relevant experience in chronological order. For example, medical, science, and teaching positions are all good matches for a CV style application.

Why is it important to have a CV?

You may need a CV to help you stand out from the crowd and secure your dream job.

With the current unemployment rate for recent graduates in the US sitting around 9%, there is fierce competition for these types of positions.

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A CV gives the prospective employer an introduction to you, your skills, and your experience.

First impressions matter, and the quality of your CV may determine whether the hiring manager asks you to come in for an interview.

Your CV can also be a valuable tool to convince a current employer to give you a promotion.

What is the difference between a CV and a resume?

We know that CV means "course of life," but what about the meaning of resume? The word resume translates to "summary," and that right there is the key difference between the two.

A resume is typically between one and two pages long, and it is a short and sweet summary of your relevant experience and skillset. A CV can be as long as you like, but we recommended keeping it between two and three pages in length.

CV in different countries

The differences between a CV and a resume can also vary between countries.

For example, in the US and Canada, you'd use a resume when applying for most jobs, with a CV saved for academic roles and research grants.

In Australia, South America, and some parts of Europe, a CV and resume are the same thing.

Regardless of whether you are sending a CV or resume, you should always include a cover letter.

More about cover letters 

What should you include in a CV?

A well-written CV is not something you should rush. It will take time and effort, but your commitment to excellence will be worth it.

Before you start, write a list of anything you think would fit. Remember, you should record any education, dates, and details as accurately as you can.

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Potential employers will expect the information to flow in a certain way, under a few key headings. Below, you’ll find a list of these headings with a detailed explanation of each.

1. Contact information

The first section of your CV should include your basic contact information.

Your full name, phone number, and email address are all essential. After all, you will want to know if you are chosen as a candidate for any employment opportunities.

If you prefer to keep your street address private, your general location will be enough. For example, “New York, 10001,” is sufficient for a CV or resume.

For those with a LinkedIn or Jobcase account or some other virtual portfolio, you can add this to your contact information section.

2. Personal profile

The second section is your personal profile.

This will be a detailed account of your recent work history and relevant experience. You can list key competencies from previous roles, such as teamwork, communication, initiative, self-management, and problem-solving skills.

Depending on the type of position or grant you are applying for, this section may showcase your research goals or a personal statement.

Be sure to address any criteria that are highlighted in the specific job description you’re applying to.

3. Education and research

The third section is designated for your academic experience.

This includes your education, with the most recent qualifications listed first. Each record should have a completion date, name of the school, location, and type of degree.

If you’re still studying, you can mention your progress with an expected date of graduation.

After education, add any professional appointments, and your involvement in authoring books, book chapters, or peer-reviewed journals.

4. Awards and accolades

The next section of your CV should include any awards or accolades you’ve received.

This is your chance to show a potential employer why you are the best candidate for the job.

When writing out this section, add the official name of the awards with the date, location, and relevant industry.

You can feature honors, grants, and fellowships in this list.

5. Other experience

Add any experience that doesn’t fit in other categories here. This could include conferences, teaching experience, lab work, and graduate fieldwork. Add short courses, first aid certificates, police checks, and licenses.

If you are a member of any relevant professional organizations, you can put these in this section.

6. Interests

Often, employers will want to learn more about a job seeker to determine if they are the right fit for a company.

You can share some of your favorite non-academic activities, such as sports, crafts, and musical pursuits.

If you have interests that may improve your employability, be sure to discuss them here. For example, you may speak fluent French or be confident with digital media. Including these fun facts can enhance your job application.

7. References

A hiring manager will often read your CV before they meet you. This means they have to rely on the information you provide when deciding whether to set up an interview.

Employers will usually contact your references to get a second opinion, so your references need to be people who genuinely believe in you.

Always ask for permission before using someone as a reference. Add their full name, job title, workplace, and contact details when listing them on your CV.

What you shouldn’t do when writing your CV

You now know what you should include in your CV, but what are the big no-nos?

Here’s a list of five things you should never do when writing a CV.

1. Don’t lie

A massive 78% of job applicants lie and telling the truth will give you an edge.

Education, achievements, and work history are easy to verify, and a lot more companies have started doing their research.

2. Don’t forget to update your CV

Small tweaks to your document will show the company you’re serious about working for them, and not just copying and pasting the same document to dozens of open listings. It shows effort on your part, and companies want that.

If you are applying for an academic position, you should alter your CV to suit the job.

3. Don’t put in the wrong contact details

Always double check your contact details before sending your CV.

You could miss out on an employment offer by giving the wrong phone number or mistyping your email address.

4. Don’t make it too long

A CV will be longer than a resume, and there's no strict page limit.

However, employers are busy, and we recommend limiting your document to three pages max.

5. Don’t save in just one format

You may be applying for jobs and grants in different ways, so it is a smart idea to save your CV in a range of formats.

Consider an editable Word Doc for personal use, and a PDF for virtual applications. Keep in mind, some employers still prefer printed applications.

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Create your CV using the outline provided above. Choose the most relevant skills, attributes, and experience to match the criteria on the job description, and remember to check for any spelling or grammatical errors.

We wish you all the best with your job seeking, and we hope the tips in this article help you find success.

If you're looking for more tips and advice for your job search, visit the Jobcase Getting Hired Resource Center.



Angela Berger
Bullet point

I think that Kai Dickerson accomplished the goal of clearly showing the differences between a CV and a resume perfectly. It was easy to understand with a stable sound that keeps the reader wanting to actually finish the entire article.

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Bullet point

This is a really cool article . I think everyone should read. When I had my business I was asked about different types of application packages.the standard app.resume.this type.and military specifics.the list went on as your professon required more degree.i was told that the flash drive I had could produce those type apps plus more .I really didn't need all that I chose my app platform and could run unlimited apps from that ....but I was never on line so I only needed one standard type app. But thanks for sharing this very helpful info.