Studies show that only 1 of 5 employers have the patience or the time to read a CV in its entirety. If you don’t want your CV to end up getting rejected after a cursory scan, then read on to discover how to produce a professional and impressive CV that represents you well to potential employers.
What is a CV
A Curriculum Vitae, or CV, describes an applicant’s education, qualifications, and previous experience. Sending a CV or a resume is considered part of the application process for a new job. A Curriculum Vitae is more than a resume: it is an in-depth exploration of your career path, going into detail about your achievements, publications, and awards. While a resume is typically short and concise, a CV can give you room to introduce yourself more thoroughly. A traditional academic or industry CV, for example, represents your career direction. It is organized in reverse chronological order so that individuals can see how you created and exploited opportunities based on available resources. It’s a unique way for the employer to view how you translated the benefits of a better position or of more experience into positive outcomes for your company or university. A CV is standard in academia. For example, you might use a CV if you were applying for a professorship. Many science- or research-oriented industry employers prefer a CV as well, and it is the standard for all job applications in some European countries, such as the UK.
CV vs ResumeCV vs Resume – what is the difference? Generally, your resume would of course include your name and contact information; however, your education and work experience should be tailored specifically to the job you are applying for. For example, if early in your career life you taught in a high school classroom for two years and are now applying for a job as a chemical engineer, you might exclude listing that job in your resume, even if you won the Best New Teacher award in your district. The goal of a resume is to convince the employer that you’re the one they want and that you have the skills they need. You’re creating the greatest impact possible in the least amount of space, and listing any experience that doesn’t directly relate to the job is considered futile. An academic CV, on the other hand is a more detailed list of your accomplishments, and does not exclude any professional experience you have. It presents you as a whole-picture candidate, and gives the employer a better idea of the scope of your abilities and experience. If you are a graduate student looking for your first job in academia, listing all of your accomplishments might take a few pages. However, if you have been in the field for some time and are looking for a higher paying position, it might take ten or even more pages to describe everything noteworthy that you have accomplished throughout your career. Don’t worry though: your potential employer knows that more experience means a longer CV! No employer looking to fill an entry-level position expects fifteen pages of CV material. A CV in science research or an industry might be shorter or more targeted than an academic CV, but it is still longer than the typical resume. There are several important distinctions between a CV and a resume:
|Purpose||To present yourself as someone who is well-tailored to the position you are applying for.||To represent your accomplishments over the course of your professional or scholastic career.|
|Appeal to the employer||Your resume should be tweaked for each individual employer, to appeal to what they want in an employee. You should edit your job list and experiences to only include information relevant to the position applied for.||Your CV is a list of all jobs you’ve had as an adult that are even loosely related to your career, but should not include your job as cashier at McDonald’s. However, in general, you should not edit the jobs, experiences, or accomplishments on your CV for different employers. Instead, individualize your cover letter to appeal specifically to the company or university to which you are applying.|
|Length||Applicants are strongly encouraged to keep it short – usually one page and definitely no more than two.||Applicants in academia should provide an accounting of all their accomplishments –ten or more pages for accomplished or experienced individuals. Applicants in industry may produce a condensed version of their CV — generally 2 or 3 pages.|
|Layout||Organized in many different ways; highly customizable.||Always organized by main topic (the order of which is customizable) and then chronologically, starting from the most recent accomplishment, publication, or event.|
|Usage around the world||Used most often in the US and Canada for non-academic and non-research positions.||Ireland and New Zealand use a CV only; CVs are used more predominantly in Europe as a whole. There is even a European standard format for a CV. Where the CV is used only (or predominantly, such as in the UK), it tends to be shorter, and it shares some characteristics of a resume. See the CV samples at the end of the article for examples of UK-style CVs. A long-form CV is used in the US and Canada for academia and industry research.|
Can’t i just send my resume instead?There is a good chance that your application will be rejected if you send an employer or university a resume when it asks for a Curriculum Vitae. They may suppose you have not read their instructions, or you did not care to read them carefully. Moreover, when an employer asks for your CV, they are asking you for an in-depth document that may serve as a pre-interview. If you respond with a resume instead of a CV, that may be viewed as a reluctance on your part to share information about yourself, or a lack of confidence in your academic accomplishments.
When should i use a cv instead of a resume?Which to use won’t be a guessing game! Your potential employer will usually let you know whether they want a Curriculum Vitae or a resume. In the US and Canada, the ‘default’ is a resume; in Ireland, New Zealand, and most of Europe, it’s the Curriculum Vitae. Generally, in academia, the long-form CV is favored. If you have done your due diligence to discover whether your employer is looking for a CV or a resume but you are still uncertain, the professional thing to do is to place a polite call to the company’s Human Resources to ask.
The following sections are generally required on every CV. Although which you place first will depend on your strengths and weaknesses, ensure that your name and contact information are prominently displayed near the beginning.In both cases, it is common practice to use boldface type to bring special attention to a particular aspect of the reference. For example, if you are the fourth author on your first published paper, it is not unusual to boldface your own name in order to draw attention to it. You may also boldface your role when discussing presentations:Due to the length of a CV, accomplishments and publications stand a good chance of fading into a universal sameness. By making judicious use of boldface or italics, you can make important words and phrases stand out on the page.e.g.There are those who argue against including the full contact information for references, and state that the old standby ‘References upon Request’ is more useful. This may come into play if your employer prefers a very short CV, and if your references are not particularly well-known in your field. Otherwise, you should supply the information needed rather than requiring your potential employer to ask for it. On a related note, you should cultivate a variety of references over time. If you haven’t spoken to one of your references in a few months and are going on a job hunt, be sure to contact them to ensure that their contact information is still the same, and to double check that they are still comfortable being a reference. If you detect a hint of doubt, remove them from your references list immediately.
Your name and contact informationUnlike in a resume, you will want to include a professional address and phone number — that is, the address for the university or company where you are currently employed, or where you are currently enrolled, and the phone number for the department where you work. You may also include a home or personal address, but this is optional. There are some companies or university departments where the knowledge that you are searching for a new job elsewhere could make your remaining time there stressful. If that is potentially the case, you may choose to instead provide your personal address and phone number, although this is considered less professional.
EducationThis section should include not only a list of your completed degrees, but also of degrees-in-progress as well as any professional certifications. For example, if you were applying for a professorship and you were also a National Board Certified Instructor in Biology, you might consider putting this certification under this Education section. Many candidates also choose to put information about their dissertation in this section.
The record of your employment should include start and end dates, the title of your position, the location of your company, and a brief description of your accomplishments. Avoid including a laundry list of duties, and focus instead on accomplishments: not the day-to-day grind, but describe when you went above and beyond your job description. If you are applying for an academic institution or position, focus on teaching experience, experience that involves editing or providing feedback to others, and management or administration experience. Besides research and publications, those are the most important skills in academia. In this section, you can also discuss your laboratory and field experiences. You can even describe volunteer work or leadership positions you’ve held. This section isn’t just about ‘official’ jobs or positions, but responsibilities you took on that showed initiative and responsibility.
Research, including publicationsYour references, while chronological, should otherwise read like a traditional bibliography. Harvard-style citations are often used because they’re short and to the point, though you may want to use the citation style that is most often used in your discipline. For example, if you were applying for a psychology position, you would use the APA-style citation. Many choose to include presentations, and not just publications. However, if you have a great number of publications and presentations, you may wish to place them in two separate sections. For a presentation, you would identify your role in the presentation, followed by the title of the presentation, and where and when it was given, e.g.:
Panel Convener and Chair, Black Radical Experimentation, CAALL, 2016.
Panel Convener and Chair, Black Radical Experimentation, CAALL, 2016.
ReferencesYour Curriculum Vitae should have a References section, where you list, among other things, those who support your bid for the position you are applying for. Most jobs require three references. If you are applying for an academic position or a PhD candidacy, it is standard to obtain two academic references to attest to your professional and intellectual capacity, and one personal or professional reference to attest to your character. Generally, the format for the References section is:
Name of individual, with title (Position held by individual) Institution where the individual works Address of institution Email and/or telephone number of individual
Prof. F. Smith (Academic Supervisor) School of Environment, University of Carmathen, Oxford Road, Carmathen CA4 3DE Email: [email protected]
Optional SectionsThe following sections may be important in one person’s CV but not in another’s. If you find that what you would place within the optional section is both important to an employer’s understanding of your abilities and accomplishments and does not easily fit within one of the essential sections discussed above, you should include it. For many, it may be difficult to envision what might go in each optional section without actually going through the process of attempting to complete it. Consider attempting to populate each of the additional sections, then deleting the ones for which you can’t say much or for which you can easily insert the information into one of the standard sections. While doing so, why not also consider developing a ‘skeleton’ CV that has every section — even optional ones — filled out completely. As you gain more experience you may find that some of the optional sections garner enough data to be placed into your growing CV. Your CV is an important document, and working out the best format for you is worth your time and energy.
Areas of interestAn ‘Areas of Interest’ section can show that you are well-rounded, and it can present you as a unique individual. However, you can’t fill this space with just anything. What will be appealing to each employer will depend strongly on the company or university atmosphere, and whether or not your areas of interest are of relevance 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, or write science fiction on the weekends. Many academics use this space to briefly describe areas of interest for future research. That is advisable, and a good use of space! In the case of academia, this is often one of the very first sections; in all other cases, it is often the very last.
Grants, honors, and awardsIf your primary accomplishments can be placed in the education section, do so; a feeble section for grants, honors, and awards can be off-putting to potential employers if you are applying for a higher-level position or have been in the field long. However, if you have more than two or three entries for this section, it is absolutely vital to make it a part of your CV. If you’ve never written a CV before, give yourself plenty of time to populate this section. Chances are, over the course of your academic and professional career, you have been recognized multiple times for a variety of reasons; but honors and awards that did not appreciably alter your career direction may not jump to mind at first. Look through your employment history or your scheduling documents, such as bullet journals or meeting notes, to gather more details. Once you have written your first-draft CV, it’s a good idea to begin keeping track of these in a dedicated file on your computer or on the cloud; or just add honors to your CV as you acquire them.
Technical skillsAccording to The Balance, technical skills are “abilities and knowledge needed to perform specific tasks. They are practical, and often relate to mechanical, IT, mathematical, or scientific tasks.” If you have learned how to use a complex piece of laboratory equipment with ease, know the ins and outs of a useful piece of software, or mastered a new programming language, those should go in this section. Just as with the grants, honors, and awards section, if you don’t have anything significant to place in this section, consider omitting it. However, this section is absolutely vital for an Industry CV.
PresentationsThe ‘Presentations’ section can be placed in the ‘Research’ section if you have few presentations or publications. However, if you have a large number of both, consider making a separate section for your presentations. For projects, you may want to list your contribution, followed by the names of others you worked with, and a descriptive synopsis. See the CV examples at the end of the article for more information.
Scholarly and professional membershipsThis is another section where you may want to give yourself a while to ponder. Many of us join professional associations when we are in academia, and use their resources, or participate in their discussions for a brief time before moving on to another area of academic interest. For example, if you are a medical researcher studying a particular illness, you may join an epidemiological society to garner 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’ve belonged, or forums in which you have been active. If you held office or some other powerful position within a scholarly or professional organization but currently don’t belong to many professional organizations, 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.
Other EmploymentIf you have employment experience outside of academia or industry that has taught you skills that 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 to what will be asked of you in industry.
Motivation or ObjectiveIf this section is included, it is often the very first main section after the candidate’s name and contact information, and it includes a description of what you are hoping to be able to accomplish. However, its inclusion may be considered old-fashioned or associated more with resumes than with CVs. Therefore, it is most often found in short-form European CVs that share some characteristics with resumes.
What not to include
Your photographYou may feel like a photo of you on your CV will make you appear more personable and engaging. Consider the following – Suppose you send your CV to a new employer and they don’t hire you. Would you suspect that this was because they didn’t like your skin color, or your facial hair? Or perhaps they preferred another gender, or a different age? Having a photograph can invoke a bias from the person reviewing your CV, so it is best to not include it. There are several countries, however, where a photograph is considered standard, including Japan, China, and some parts of Europe — though not the UK, Ireland, Sweden, or the Netherlands. When in doubt, ask the Human Resources department if they prefer to have a photograph included in CVs.
Unprofessional email addressYour email address should include some version of your first and last name, and not be from an outdated email system such as AOL. The best possible email address is [email protected] email client dot-com, e.g. [email protected] If you don’t have such an email address, get one. Scroll to the bottom of the article to see some sample CVs.
Academic CV vs Industry CVCVs for industry and for academia have some important differences, as do CVs in the arts and the sciences.
Applying in industry
Perhaps you have a PhD in biomedical engineering, and you’re hoping to consult for a biotech company. Your CV is going to look very different from the one you would create if you were applying to become a biology professor at Princeton. First, you have to keep in mind that a company isn’t necessarily looking for every detail of your academic career the way that someone considering you for a professorship might. Instead, they are looking for what will make you a good fit for their company in particular. How does your experience line up with their goals, the projects they’re working on, and the level of expertise required for the position? In fact, a CV for industry is very similar to a resume — except that it contains the sections recommended for a CV and is still usually a bit longer than a resume. An industry CV is more to the point than an academic CV, and it places more emphasis on readability and layout than on sheer impressive weight. Put another way, the focus in an industry CV is on what you might accomplish, whereas an academic CV depicts what you have done so far. This is based on how these institutions determine value. A professor with numerous publications brings value by attracting prestige and pulling in new students excited about their work, and lower-level employees who wish to bask in the glow of their reflected authority and expertise. A company wants to know what you will be able to do to create a cohesive research team, work swiftly and professionally, and, in general, increase or maintain their revenue stream. Can you design experiments that will solve problems? Will you understand what the results mean? It follows that an industry CV should then place time, focus, and energy on the ‘Technical Skills’ and ‘Experience’ sections. An industry job may also place more emphasis on the ‘Areas of Interest’ section to show that the applicant has social skills as well as intellectual ability: that he or she is capable of managing a team of other skillful and intelligent people. Finally, you should be aware that larger companies may rely on technology, rather than people, to examine CVs to weed out the undesired. According to the Wall Street Journal, approximately 90% of larger companies use software that skims through CVs looking for certain words and phrases, eliminating 50% of applicants this way. For this reason, it’s important to use the latest jargon for the industry, and to assiduously avoid terms that are considered outdated or unprofessional in your industry.
Applying in the ArtsScience is a collaborative enterprise. The arts? Not necessarily. Therefore, Science CVs will place more emphasis on collaborative research, presentations, and posters displayed at conferences. If, on the other hand, you are applying to teach in the arts at the graduate level, you may have a small handful of papers authored by you, and your thesis, or another novel-sized description of your detailed research (a monograph). Scientists spend much of their time at university doing research, where PhD students in the arts may have a great deal more teaching experience. Teaching experience may also be of more value (and therefore should be emphasized) in a CV in the arts.
Standard CV FormatThere is no standard CV format, so do the best you can Be on the lookout for requested formats from employers. If there is no guidance given on the CV structure, there are no set rules beyond the fact that your name and contact information ought to go first, and that you must include the ‘core’ sections described above. The rest is all about what you want to emphasize in your CV. This in turn is based on what you believe your potential employer most values. Which sections should be placed at the beginning? If you are applying to a research-based university, it is your research and publications. If you’re a graduate student applying for a PhD, it would be your education, as it is your most impressive recent accomplishment. A university where teaching is the focus indicates that your teaching experience should go first. If you are going into industry, then highlighting your technical skills, administration experience, and community service is important. If employers focus most of their attention on the first half of the first page, you should lead with the category that best presents your skills — or is most suited to the position in question.
Learn from CV ExamplesFind CV examples within your field, and learn from them You should look at many examples to see how others have leveraged their skills and experience to best advantage. Ask people in your discipline to show you their CV. It’s even better if you’re aware of who has struggled to find a position, and who was accepted for one right away. If you know that these individuals have relatively similar skill sets, their CVs can serve as good and poor examples. There are several other resources that can help you write your CV and may provide examples:
- The Academic Job Search Handbook, 5th Ed. by Julia Miller Vick, Jennifer S. Furlong, and Rosanne Lurie has lots of great advice about the job hunt in general, along with many CV samples for different career paths
- The Purdue OWL Writing Lab contains some excellent advice about writing in general, as well as several pages devoted to CVs in particular. A fabulous resource.
- The Chronicle of Higher Education is another great resource with a plethora of job-related advice as well as several sections on how best to compose a CV
- Rice University’s How-to includes a concise description of how to write both a CV and a resume, with two CV examples
Show AccomplishmentsEmployers value accomplishments Qualities represent potential. Accomplishments represent reality. Guess which an employer values more? Focus on accomplishments or responsibilities in your CV rather than traits. For example, it’s more effective to state that you led your team to finish a research study in record time and under budget, than to blandly state your confidence in something as intangible as your “leadership qualities”.
Useful writing techniquesUse gapping, parallelism, and bullet points to write like a pro
GappingUse incomplete sentences to increase impact and to ditch extraneous words. The following example is NOT very effective:
I taught a full lecture hall’s worth of students at University X twice weekly, over 300 students’ worth. I also graded papers, planned curriculum with a team, and engaged in tutorial sessions online.
Primary Instructor Organic Chemistry (2001-2008). Planned curriculum. Responsible for daily grading. Created engaging tutorials online.
ParallelismUse the same type of phrasing so that the reader can swiftly understand your meaning. Here is part of a CV in which the author did NOT use parallelism:
- Supervision support for two undergraduate projects in econometric models for conservation.
- Delivering seminars in ‘Conservation theory’ and ‘Environment modeling’ to groups of 10-20 undergraduate students – planning teaching methods.
- Mentor to 2 new PhD students in the Department.
- Group leader on 3 field trips – requiring leadership, problem solving under pressure and enthusiasm.
- 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 PhD students in the Department.
- Led 3 field trips with enthusiasm.
Bullet pointsBullet points are used more often in resumes than in CVs because resumes tend to have more short and declarative statements that take up less than a line each, such as the examples from the ‘Parallelism’ section. Shorter verb-noun pairs belong on the same line. For example,
Primary Instructor Organic Chemistry (2001-2008). Planned curriculum. Responsible for daily grading. Engaged in additional tutorials online.
Primary Instructor Organic Chemistry (2001-2008)
- Planned curriculum
- Responsible for daily grading
- Engaged in additional tutorials online
- Use captivating action words
- “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”
- Track record
- Extensive experience
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
CV designCV Design and document formatting is important White space and readability is of utmost importance. You can use the ‘print preview’ selection in MS Word to get a good feel for your layout. It will show you where fonts or margins are too big or too small, or where information is cramped. In industry, white space is especially important: go for clarity and readability over impressiveness and length. Don’t get fussy with your fonts. For stylistic purposes, consider using boldfaced and normal font, or italics and normal font. Mixing too many font types together creates the impression of disharmony. The result you want to create is one of clarity and organization. Not only does this help make your document more readable, it makes you, the applicant, appear straightforward and organized.
CV Examples and Templates
Note that these are not all good examples, as some are presented here in order to outline their flaws. Please mind the descriptions. Also, the PDF documents typically are to be used as examples to learn from, as they are real-life CVs, but not in editable format. The Microsoft Word templates are to be used to help create your own CV.
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