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How to Write a CV

If you are looking for a job, you may have noticed that some employers request a CV instead of a resume. Many jobseekers assume that a CV and a resume are different terms for the same thing, but this is not necessarily true.

CVs and resumes are similar, true, but the differences are important. If you submit a resume instead of a CV, you will risk appearing inexperienced and naïve – definitely not qualities that will scream, “Hire me!” to prospective employers.

What is a CV?

“CV” is an abbreviation for “Curriculum Vitae,” which roughly translates to “This is my life.” In other words, your curriculum vitae or CV is meant to draw a picture of your life for prospective employers. A CV is more than just a listing of past employers: It is a resource that describes everything you have done in life pertaining to your career.

The main difference in the content of a CV as opposed to a resume is that the CV is usually expected to include more detail, and therefore be a little longer. In general, a CV is expected to be one or two pages for a professional just entering the workforce, two to four pages for a professional with some experience, and as many as seven pages for an experienced professional. No matter how experienced you are, however, your CV should not exceed ten pages.

When is a CV Usually Required?

You will probably have noticed that some job ads request a curriculum vitae, while others simply ask for a resume. Usually, academic positions are the ones that require CVs. You should expect to be asked to provide a CV anytime you are applying for a(n):

• Teaching position
• Professorship
• Science position
• Research position
• International job
• Fellowship
• Grant

What Should a CV Include?

Your CV should always start with your personal information and end with your references, if you have any. However, the order of the sections in between is entirely up to you. Remember, your curriculum vitae is meant to represent your life as a whole, so it is probably best to list your strongest sections before your weaker ones.

For example, if you are a recent graduate or only have a few years of experience yet, or if your academic record is quite impressive, you can list the education section first.

In addition, every CV you send out should be tailored for the specific position you are applying for. This means that you should only list experience that is related to the position. You can also change the order of the sections in your resume, so that experience that is more closely related to the job is listed earlier in your CV.

Personal Information

Like a resume, your CV should start with your name and contact information. Also like a resume, you do not need a subject heading for this section.

Some jobseekers and employers feel that since a curriculum vitae is supposed to be a representation of your life as a whole, this section should include personal details, such as your date and place of birth, your marriage status, and the number of kids you have.

However, others feel this is unprofessional, not to mention damaging to your chances of getting the job. Whether you decide to put these personal details in your CV is up to you, but you should definitely never do so if you feel it could prejudice the employer against you.

Statement of Purpose

If you include a statement of purpose, also known as a personal mission statement, in your CV, it should immediately follow your personal information. This section should only be a sentence or two long, and should do two things: state where you are in your career, and what you are looking for in your next job. (Note: Because you are tailoring your CV to the specific job, your goals in your personal mission statement should match the position you are applying for.)

Summary of Qualifications

Just like in a resume, your summary of qualifications should provide an employer with a bulleted list of your most important qualifications. This section should include a handful of bullet points at most, but each one should quantify your achievements with numbers, as this will make a bigger impression on a potential employer.


Like a resume, a CV features an education section that lists your degrees in reverse chronological order. Each listing should include the school, city and state where it is located, your degree and focus of study, and the date you graduated.

Most professionals in academic fields have impressive educations, which is why this section often comes next in a curriculum vitae. However, if you feel another section is stronger or more relevant to the position you are applying for, you can rearrange your CV accordingly.


Although some resumes include sections for awards and honors, these sections are short and may be lumped in with achievements. In the academic world, however, experienced professionals often have a long list of awards to their name. For this reason, a CV can be laid out with a separate awards section.


If you have applied for and received important grants, these can be considered “bragging rights” as well. However, not all academic professionals have done so, making this section optional.

Employment History

Another section the resume and the CV have in common is the employment section. As in a resume, your employment history should be listed in reverse chronological order.


Most jobseekers who use resumes would never have use for a publications section, but many researchers, professors, and scientists have published their work in academic publications. This section provides an opportunity to list all of the publishing credits you have achieved.


Many academic professionals have dedicated some part of their education and/or career to research. The format of the curriculum vitae allows these professionals the option of giving these efforts special attention.

Professional Memberships

Another notable difference between a CV and a resume is the need for a “Professional Memberships” section. Most non-academic professionals do not belong to any professional organizations. Academic professionals, on the other hand, often belong to several. Because professional memberships are regarded highly in traditional academia, this section can be used to include them in the curriculum vitae.

Volunteer Work

Having donated your work for the good of the community is an advantage and should always be included on your CV. Volunteer work can also be used to demonstrate experience and skills, even if you have not acquired them through paid work. In addition, you may want to include any relevant experience you have gained while pursuing your hobbies or personal interests.


Just like in any other industry, ads for academic positions may ask for references. This should always be the last section in your CV, and should include three to five professional references. Your references should be able to speak knowledgably and positively about your work, so if possible you should choose colleagues who have known you for at least several years.

Writing a Superb CV

As you can see, one of the main benefits of a CV is its flexibility. If you have never written a curriculum vitae before, you may find the many optional sections to be rather overwhelming. However, it is important to remember that a CV is designed to allow you to represent yourself to your best advantage. Your CV should be always written and organized in a way that you feel best reflects your unique personality and your qualifications for the specific job.

About the Author: Jason Kay writes for career related websites like JobGoRound, which provides job search information and advice as well as reviews of CV writing services and resume distribution services.

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