A well-written professional CV is a comprehensive overview of your work history and abilities, along with your academic and published achievements. It follows a strict structure, comprised of many components. Our in-depth writing guide and advice will help you craft a curriculum vitae sure to help you land the interviews you want.

The Proper CV Sections

The following sections are standard on every CV — the placement depends on your strengths and weaknesses. However, prominently display your name and contact information near the beginning.


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Name and Contact Information

Unlike in a resume, which omits your specific location, you’ll include a professional address and phone number on your curriculum vitae.

Students may submit the address of their current university, while professionals should list their current company address along with the department phone number. If including your current employment information could jeopardize your job, you can provide your personal address and phone number, although this is considered less professional.


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Education

This section should list your completed degrees along with current degrees in progress and relevant professional certifications. For example, applicants should include a National Board Certification under the Education section if you’re applying for a professorship.


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Your work history must include start and end dates, your job title, company location and a brief description of your accomplishments or responsibilities. Avoid including a laundry list of duties and focus on your critical successes.

Tailor your history to the open job posting. If you are applying to an academic institution, focus on teaching experience (including editing or providing feedback to others), management and administration experience as these are valued skills in academia. In this section, you can also discuss your laboratory and field experiences.

Describe any volunteer work or leadership positions, as these skills indicate initiative and responsibility.


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Research and Publications

Your bibliography should list all of your scholarly articles from most recent to oldest and should follow formal citation rules, although the style varies according to your field of interest. For example, if you are applying for a psychology position, use the APA citation style.

Many candidates also choose to include presentations along with publications — identify your role, followed by the title, date and location. If you have a significant number of publications and presentations, divide them into two separate sections.


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Professional References

In this section, you’ll list, among other things, people who’ll support and testify to your work ethic. You should have three default references, although HR and recruitment offices may request more or less.

If you’re applying for a collegiate position or a doctoral candidacy, it’s standard to obtain two academic references to attest to your professional and intellectual capacities, and one personal or professional reference to avouch to your character.

Write your references in the following format:
Name of individual, current job title of individual, institution or company where the individual works, address of the institution, email and/or telephone number of individual.
Example
Prof. F. Smith, Academic Supervisor, School of Environment, University of Carmarthen, Oxford Road, Carmarthen CA4 3DE. Email: [email protected]

Please note, this section may be optional depending on the requested length of your CV. If a potential employer requires a shorter document, you can replace this section with "References available upon request."

If you haven’t spoken to your references in a few months and are job hunting, be sure to contact them to ensure that their contact information is correct, and to double-check that they’re still comfortable being references for you. If you detect a hint of doubt, remove them from your list.


Optional Sections

The following sections may be relevant in one person’s curriculum vitae but not in another’s. Information you place here should bolster your abilities and accomplishments, but doesn’t necessarily fit organically in one of the previously discussed sections.

If the information looks sparse or incomplete, develop a "skeleton" CV with completely filled-out sections — including these optional sections. With time and experience, this additional information might develop into a professional work experience that can exist in the crucial parts of your CV.


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Areas of Interest

The Areas of Interest section, when written strategically, shows that you’re a well-rounded and unique individual. What appeals to an employer depends strongly on the company or university culture, and whether or not your areas of interest are relevant to your career path.

An employer who stresses that well-rounded candidates make the best employees may be genuinely pleased to see that you have placed highly in several footraces, speak fluent Japanese and write science fiction on the weekends. Many scholars use this space to describe areas of interest for future research, which is advisable. In academia, this is often one of the first sections; in all other cases, it’s often the last.


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Grants, Honors and Awards

If you have two or more scholarly honors or grants, create a this section. Otherwise, fold these accomplishments into your Education — a feeble section is off-putting to potential employers if you are applying for a high-level position or have worked in your field at length.

If you’ve never written an academic CV before, give yourself plenty of time to populate this section. Chances are that you've been recognized multiple times over your collegiate and professional career, but these may not spring to mind.

Look through your employment history, scheduling documents, journals and meeting notes to gather more details. Once you have written your first-draft CV, keep track of additional recognition in a dedicated file to add honors to your document as you acquire them.


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Technical Skills

Technical skills are the abilities and knowledge needed to perform specific tasks. Employers look for practical and relevant skills in the mechanical, IT, mathematical or scientific fields. If you have learned how to use a complex piece of laboratory equipment, know the ins-and-outs of particular software or mastered a new programming language, those should go in this section.

Just as with your grants, honors and awards, if you don’t have anything significant to place in Technical Skills, consider omitting it. However, this section is absolutely vital for a professional CV.


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Presentations

This section can be added to the Research and Publications section if you have only a few presentations. However, if you have a large number, consider making a separate section. You may want to list your contribution (such as the name of your paper or if you were a panelist), followed by the names of others you worked with, and a descriptive synopsis. See our CV examples near the bottom of the page for additional inspiration.


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Scholarly and Professional Memberships

Here’s another section where you may want to give yourself a while to consider what to include. Many people join professional associations while in academia and use those resources to meet potential employers or participate in group discussions before moving on to another area of intellectual interest.

For example, if you’re a medical researcher studying a particular illness, you may join an epidemiological society to gather information; but, if your interest next turns to the immunological aspects of the disease, you may not participate as much in the forums and professional societies you joined previously.

Going through your publication and presentation history may help you recall professional societies to which you belonged, or forums in which you’ve been active. If you held office or some other position in a scholarly or professional organization, consider placing this information in your Employment section. Just as in the other optional sections, if what is here does not add anything significant to your CV, consider excluding it.


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Other Employment

If you have relevant work experience outside of academia or industry that has taught you the skills you find useful in your career, you might want to include this section. However, be wary of including information that doesn’t apply to your field of research or industry.


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Motivation or Objective

If this section is included, it’s often the first main section after the candidate’s name and contact information, and includes a description of what you are hoping to accomplish. However, its inclusion may be considered antiquated or associated more with resumes than CVs. The Motivation or Objective is most often found in short-form European CVs that share some characteristics with resumes.


What Not to Include

Your Photograph

A photo of you on your curriculum vitae may make you appear more personable and engaging, but it could invoke bias from the person reviewing your CV. Research the acceptable norm by country and position.

For example, a photograph is considered standard in Japan, China and some parts of Europe. This is not the case in the U.K., Ireland, Sweden or the Netherlands.


Unprofessional email address

Your email address should include some version of your first and last name, and not be from an outdated email system such as AOL. The recommended email address is [email protected] or [email protected] name.edu (e.g., [email protected]).


CV Writing Techniques

Use gapping, parallelism and bullet points to write a curriculum vitae like a pro.

Gapping

Write incomplete sentences (i.e., fragments) to increase impact and to omit extraneous words.

doDo This:

Primary Instructor, Organic Chemistry (2001-2008). Taught more than 300 students. Planned curriculum. Graded papers daily. Created engaging online tutorials.

dontNot This:

I taught a full lecture hall of approximately 300 students at the University of Colorado twice weekly. I also graded papers, planned curriculum with a team and engaged in tutorial sessions online.

The example on the left packs more punch and takes up much less space. Most importantly, it’s much easier to read and understand, which is vital when you’re trying to catch the attention of a hiring manager looking at the 40th application.


Parallelism

Use similar phrasing so that the reader can swiftly understand your meaning.

doDo This:
  • Supervised two undergraduate projects in econometric models for conservation.
  • Planned and delivered seminars in "Conservation Theory" and "Environment Modeling" to groups of 10-20 undergraduate students.
  • Mentored two Ph.D. students in the department.
  • Led three field trips with enthusiasm.
dontNot This:
  • Supervision support for two undergraduate projects in econometric models for conservation.
  • Deliver seminars in "Conservation Theory" and "Environment Modeling" to groups of 10-20 undergraduate students — planning teaching methods.
  • Mentor to two new Ph.D. students in the department.
  • Group leader on three field trips — requiring leadership, problem-solving under pressure and enthusiasm.

See how in the example on the right - that each of the leading verbs has a different ending. This lack of parallelism takes longer for the brain to process. Instead of easily scanning your qualifications, the reader may only skim over the words in a non-parallel construction.

On the example on the left it’s much easier to read when parallelism is used to make each line grammatically and stylistically similar. By cutting down on the verbiage and creating commonalities among bullet points, this section is now far stronger. Also, make sure that you use the same type of punctuation to end each bullet point.


Bullet points

Bullet points are used more frequently in resumes than CVs. However, using bullet points in CVs is becoming popular - bullet points make short and declarative statements that take up less than a line each, lending to the Parallelism structure of your curriculum vitae. Shorter verb-noun pairs belong on the same line.

doDo This:

Postgraduate Demonstrator, University of Leicester (2004-present)

  • Led several seminars for undergraduates
  • Supervised five undergraduates on their dissertations
  • Demonstrated experiments and supervised practicals for undergraduate students
dontNot This:

Postgraduate Demonstrator, University of Leicester (2004-present). Led several seminars for undergraduates. Supervised five undergraduates on their dissertations. Demonstrated experiments and supervised practicals for undergraduate students.


Action Words

Use captivating action words. Avoid verbs and descriptors that have become cliché, such as "team player" and "detail-oriented." Instead, use fresh and powerful phrases that catch the reader’s attention.

According to The Telegraph, overused words and phrases that irritate recruiters and potential new bosses are:
  • "I’m a hard worker."
  • "I work well under pressure."
  • "I can work independently."
  • "I’m a team player."
  • "I am a problem-solver."
  • "Good communicator."
  • "I’m proactive."
  • "I am a good listener."
  • "I’m enthusiastic."
  • "Excellent written communication skills."
According to LinkedIn, the 10 most overused words today are:
  • Motivated
  • Creative
  • Enthusiastic
  • Track record
  • Passionate
  • Successful
  • Driven
  • Leadership
  • Strategic
  • Extensive experience

These popular phrases are so overused that their meanings became hollow. Generally, these descriptors don’t belong on a curricula vitae at all — CVs are accounts of your work experience and accomplishments, and should be factual rather than aspirational (save the ambitions for the cover letter).

Remember to describe your actions and qualifications rather than yourself, and you will be well on your way to crafting a compelling CV. The Muse has an incredible compilation of 185 action words based on skills. Here are some of the universally relevant terms:

Example
  • authored
  • awarded
  • earned
  • ensured
  • documented
  • critiqued
  • corresponded
  • lobbied
  • reviewed
  • promoted
  • composed
  • measured
  • quantified
  • tested
  • tracked
  • discovered
  • investigated
  • examined
  • explored
  • mapped
  • advocated
  • consulted
  • educated
  • fielded
  • resolved
  • navigated
  • secured
  • mentored
  • trained
  • recruited
  • cultivated
  • directed
  • fostered
  • guided
  • revitalized
  • transformed
  • redesigned
  • generated
  • expanded
  • delivered
  • decreased
  • introduced
  • launched
  • spearheaded
  • engineered
  • formalized
  • operationalized
  • instituted
  • developed
  • built
  • designed
  • programmed
  • produced
  • planned
  • chaired
  • headed
  •  

Note that these action words are all directly associated with tasks and accomplishments and do not describe an individual’s inherent qualities.