How to write a CV or Curriculum Vitae

How to write a CV or Curriculum Vitae

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One of the undisputed benefits of globalization is the constantly merging and expanding global market. Job opportunities have never been more plentiful, but that also means that the competition has never been fiercer. Getting ahead of the competition is what it is all about; and, the first thing you need to do, in this race, is to make sure that you have comprehensive ways of letting a potential employer know who you are and what you can do.

Employers can find potential employees through a number of different means. Those include traditional position opening advertisements, job application websites, business cards and many others. For you, as an employee searching for a job, things are a bit more difficult. You need to be prepared for anything and everything that the employer might ask of you. The first thing on your mind is a resume, right?

It is quite likely that you will need one, but what if they ask for a CV?

What is a CV?

To understand what a CV is you should first understand what CV means. CV stands for Curriculum Vitae, and this Latin phrase could literally be translated as "course of life." CV, also called just vitae, is a document detailing all relevant information in regards to getting hired by presenting oneself to a potential employer. It is composed out of one’s education history, employment history, achievements, qualifications and more.

It does sound a lot like a resume, but it is not one. It is not one because CV contains much more information than a resume does. To explain this more precisely let us first take a quick look at what a resume is or isn't.

For one, a resume is not all that lengthy.

A resume is, more often than not, should not be longer than one page. It covers the just the basics such as education and work history. Its short length and precision make it suitable for pretty much any job on the market.

A resume can contain information regarding certain awards or accomplishments relevant to the position you are applying for, and it can contain some of your professional affiliations. When such information is included in a resume, it should be done very precisely, and the information must be highly relevant to the opening. Keeping it short and simple.

The main difference between a resume and a CV is the length and the range of information included. CV is significantly longer and contains much, much more information.

A CV is a highly thorough document and must be regarded as such. It contains not only one's education and work history but also awards, acknowledgments, achievements, publications, hobbies, additional skills, and interests.

All of this can make a CV quite lengthy, depending on one’s work history and accomplishments, it can range from 2 pages up to ten or even more.

When should a CV be used?

Now that the difference between a resume and a CV has been explained, another question poses itself. When should you use a CV and who should use a CV?

CV should be used when a candidate needs to describe a large amount of relevant information to the potential employer. The key word here is relevant. Not all jobs require such vast amounts of information so one must make sure that the employer really needs to know all of that in order to invite you for an interview. It is usually required when someone specializes in certain areas or within a specific discipline.

Let us break it down even further. To put it in the simplest of terms, a CV should be used by those who are trying to get a job in positions related to academics, research or other education-related positions. One of the reasons for this is that a CV allows PhDs and others working at the university level to present published academic papers alongside their work and education histories.

Let us summarize this one more time.

  1. Resumes are more suited for those who wish to put the focus on their professional achievements and highlight the industry related skillets they possess.
  2. A CV is more suited for those trying to highlight their academic background and wish to focus on their education and areas of expertise.
  3. If you are a grad-student who plans on becoming an academic, a CV is something that you must have.

Do other people, apart from academics, need a CV?

Those seeking careers in academics and education should always have a CV. That does not mean that people seeking employment in other professions should not have a CV, nor that it may not be asked of them to present one.

The first group more likely to be asked for a CV is comprised of those seeking employment in medical or scientific fields. One of the reasons for this is that advancement in the medical and scientific field requires a number of academic publications. As we have mentioned, CV is more suited for those with academic publications.

The second group more likely to be asked for a CV is comprised of those interested in seeking employment overseas.

In Europe, UK, Middle East, Africa, and Asia, a CV is a much more standard requirement of the employment process.

The third group more likely to be asked for a CV is comprised of those individuals who are applying not for a position but rather a grant, scholarship or Internship.

What are the similarities between a CV and a resume?

Both CV and resume can be documents required of someone during the employment process. A CV can be required for other purposes, but a resume is required only for employment prospects. Another similarity between the two is that both can be considered as "living documents." This means that both need to be constantly updated as your professional career advances. Don't worry, even though they are called living documents, you don't need to water them three times a day. That would be just silly.

How do they differ one from the other?

The most obvious difference between a resume and the CV is the length; as we have mentioned, a resume is about one page long, and a CV is as long as it is necessary for it to be. A resume need only contain the most relevant information whereas a CV must contain all relevant information.

Another difference is the way they are written.

A resume is something that can be changed for each job you apply for. You can change your resume in such a way that you are targeting something or someone. Including tech choices, information most relevant for that particular position, in your resume is standard practice.

A CV, on the other hand, is much broader. Its purpose is to present all of your life's achievements including academic, professional or otherwise. To put it in the most basic of terms, a resume is a brief summarization of the most relevant information. A CV is an in-depth analysis of that information.

For example, let us assume that you were a research physicist applying for a position.

If you were to send your resume,, you would be sending information only related to that particular position. Your work-related experience would in focus. Sending a CV gives you an opportunity to include your lab work, teaching and research experience, publications, as well as fieldwork. You can see how it would make much more sense to send a CV as you need to give more information related to yourself for this particular position.

Let’s take a look at it from another perspective.

Imagine if you were a grad-student fresh out of college. Your CV would be about as long as your resume, which is perfectly normal at that stage in your life. You still need to find your place in the world, and that takes time. You have not worked on any research projects or anything related to academia. Fast forward 15 years. You have been working as a college professor for the past five years and have a number of papers published in your name. Your CV, at this stage, would be significantly longer. You have progressed as a professional and have added information to it because of it.

All of your accomplishments, on a professional plan, go into your CV. Being featured in a scientific journal or being awarded an academic honor is something that goes into your CV. Teaching experience is also highly valued in academic circles, and that can also be an important part of your CV.

This should paint you a clear picture of when you should use a resume and when should you use a CV. Now you need to ask yourself how to know if a potential employer is expecting a resume or a CV without them explicitly stating so.

How to know which one to use?

To put your minds at ease, most employers are quite specific regarding what they expect from you. If they require a resume from you, they will ask for one. If they want a CV, they will ask for a CV.

If you are seeking employment in the USA or Canada, one not related to the academia, it is quite safe for you to turn in a resume instead of a CV if the employer had not specified otherwise.

Another way of telling if you should go with a resume or a CV is to know how many other applicants, besides yourself, will there be. If there are thousands, it is more likely that you need to turn in a resume.

Again, this does not apply to countries outside of USA and Canada. In the end, if you are still unsure you should always feel free to contact the employer and ask which one would they prefer. There is no shame in it, and nobody will think less of you if you do so. Better safe than sorry.

What should a CV contain and how to format one?

If you do end up needing a CV, there are quite a few things you need to know. Let's start with the bad news. There is no one format to rule them all and different areas of expertise require different formatting. You will need to determine which format is best suited for the job you are currently applying for and tailor your CV in such a way.

It is similar to including tech choices in your resume but on a broader scale. When you are targeting your resume towards a certain position, you need to do so for pretty much every different position you apply for. When you tailor your CV, you are not tailoring it for certain positions, but rather for certain areas of expertise. There are a number of different formatting when it comes to CVs, and you will need to find out which one is the most suited for your field.

For you to understand which formatting you need to use in your CV, you first need to understand how these formats differ one from another. One type of formatting can focus on your work experience, and other can focus on your academic accomplishments. It all depends on the job you are applying for. A certain position will require of you to be a niche expert, and another might require of you to be a "Jack of all trades." You need to format your CV in accordance with that.

A safe way to go about doing this is to look at how others have done it. There are a lot of examples on the Internet, but they are not always very precise. Talking to your colleges or mentors is a good idea as those with more experience should already know which positions require which skill sets.

That being said, always remember that you are an individual and that you are trying to present yourself as uniquely qualified for the position. Take notice of how others did it but don’t just copy. Make sure that your CV reflects who you are as an individual and as a field expert.

What are the “must have” sections of a CV?

CV stands for a course of life, and you should remember that when it comes to writing one. Start off with the basic background information and work your way forward. Here is a list of some of the most common sections a CV should include.

  1. Your basic information. Basic information should always come first, and it includes your full name and surname, current address, phone number and email, as well as some online profiles such as LinkedIn. If you are from the USA or Canada, this is all of the basic information you need to include. When applying for a position overseas, you can add a small picture of yourself in the bottom right corner of the CV. Take care, as including the picture is not deemed appropriate in the USA and Canada.
  2. A brief introduction in the form of a bioFor certain positions, it is necessary to include a short introduction to your CV. This is done in the form of a short bio and, depending on your area of expertise, it can be used to make the hiring manager pay closer attention to your CV. It should be relevant to the position, personal and well formulated. If you can make it creative, you can do so but not at the cost of sounding unprofessional.
  3. Educational and professional historyA CV must include your educational history as well as your work history. It should contain all relevant information including courses and certificates you might have, professional training and such. Your education history needs to be in reverse chronological order, and you need to include everything related to your studies. Degrees, both obtained ones, and ones which you are currently pursuing, as well as any research projects or papers, you might have collaborated on. Listing the years of your graduation is necessary, and some formats will even require you to fill in the dates of your studies (starting and ending). If you worked on a thesis or a dissertation you should include it alongside the name of your mentor. For your work history, you need to list the dates during which you were assigned to a specific position as well as any applicable experiences regarding the position in question. If you are a researcher and work in a lab or a research facility, you need to include that as well as if you are working as an educator of any kind. This section should also include other relevant experiences such as pro-bono work, field work, volunteer work and anything else of importance.
  4. What are your personal areas of interestThis is something that should never be a part of a resume but is an essential part of a CV. A CV should have a section for things you enjoy doing and find interesting. One's interests can tell a lot about a person, and this information can be valuable to a potential employer. It shows who you are and it speaks volumes regarding your character and temperament. To be clear, you should not just merely list your hobbies and be done with it. This is a perfect opportunity to present yourself, as well as your strong points, through something unrelated to your professional career. Don’t simply write:

“Book Club founder”

Write something along these lines:

"As a founder of a book club, I enjoy reading and discussing books and ideas with others. Through the years I have been selecting members of my book club, and I spend my Sundays bouncing ideas off them and debating the intricacies found in books."

Leadership skills are also highly sought after, and you should always mention them.

Don’t just write:

“Natural born leader with strong leadership skills”

Here is an example of how it should be done:

"As a little league coach, I am constantly following the progress of each and every player and guiding them towards a role in the team which is best suited for them. I devise strategies based on our opponent's previous games, and I make sure that the team is working like a well-oiled Swiss clock."

In this part, you can also mention your interests related to the opening. If you are trying to land a job as a news presenter, it would be prudent to mention that course in fast reading you have been taking.

Whatever you write in this part, make sure it shows who you are outside of the job but is still in some way related to the job. If not to the job specifically, at least to how you are as a worker. Make sure you don’t just jam everything related to yourself without any sense or order to increase the length of your CV. List only relevant information and keep it within limits. You don’t have to list everything you have ever done or have been interested in.

  1. Unique skill sets. What makes you stand out from the crowd? How many languages do you speak? What computer programs are you proficient in? If you are a top expert in a certain area or field or know a niche program list that as well.
  2. Don’t be overly humbleIf you have accomplished something, and that something is meaningful list it. Have you won a prize or an award? Any recognition or professional references? Have you been a receiver of a scholarship or a grant? Any patents or fellowships? List all of it.
  3. Publications and speechesHave you published any scientific papers, articles or books? Have you, as an expert in a field, given any lectures or have you spoken at panels or conferences? List all of them with an articulate description to make it more easily understandable to the reader.
  4. MembershipsBeing an official member of a particular social or professional club can go a long way. If you held a position within an organization make sure you list it as well as a brief summary of your responsibilities during your time at it.
  5. Recommendations and referencesIf you have someone in a position of power or relevance backing you up you should list that in the reference section. It is not always necessary, but it is a good idea to put it in if you do have relevant backers. Only the positive ones, though. In case you feel like you should have a reference section but don’t have enough references it is acceptable to simply put: “References available upon request.”
  6. Everything else. Depending on the position you are applying for your CV could include any of the following sections:
  • Time spent studying abroad
  • Teaching Experience
  • Research experience
  • Exhibitions
  • Relevant professional certificates and/or memberships
  • Consulting work

Your CV needs to be aimed at the industry or area you are seeking employment in. Always remember that and you will know what additional information you need to put in it. Add examples and list achievements relating to the job, and you won't miss anything.

How to do the formatting?

The first thing you need to make sure of is that your CV is free of any grammatical or spelling errors. Make sure that you are using a proven font and that it suits your overall formatting.

The second thing you need to make sure of is that your CV flows, so to speak. It needs to have a logical, readable order. Don’t forget that it will be assessed by people who know absolutely nothing about you. You should organize your CV by utilizing topical headings. The order of the topics does not have a fixed pattern it needs to follow, but that does not mean that you can just do in whichever way it comes to your mind. Put your stronger points first and the ones not so flattering last.

Never mention your salary under any circumstances nor why you have left your previous company.

Don’t forget that a CV is not a resume. When you are writing a resume, something called “gapping” is allowed. “Gapping” is the practice of making sentences shorter in order to convey the most information in the least amount of words.

This is something that should never be done when you are writing a CV. Your CV needs to draw the reader in and make him interested in you on multiple levels.

Here is an example:

Let us assume that you have been working as a sales manager for the last five years. In a resume you could simply write:

“Sales manager (2005-2010)

Team leader

Responsible for the sales”

In a CV it should look something like this:

“During the time period between 2005 and 2010, I have worked as a sales manager. During this time, I was in charge of leading a team of ten experts ranging from marketing experts to analysts. My main responsibility was to devise a sales strategy based on a number of different factors as well as its implementation.”

A CV must always be printed single side, even though it might make more sense to you to do it double side because of its length. You should also put a number on each page starting from the second one.

This goes without saying, but just to be safe. Never lie on your CV. All of the information is easily checked, and you could get yourself in a heap of trouble if you do lie.

Using online CV templates

Using online CV templates can be tricky because there is no one template that works for every position. You need to know which ones are suited for the position you are applying for and if you know this, the chances are that you know how to write one yourself.

You should still look at as many as you can and learn from them. They can be a valuable teaching tool but not a way for you to quickly come up with a finished CV.

Do I need a CV or not?

If you are seeking employment in the states, and you are not in the medical or academic field, the chances are that you won't be asked for a CV and that a resume will suffice. That being said, having a CV is a good idea for a number of reasons.

For one, it is a complete list of all of your professional accomplishments, and if you keep it up to date, it can serve as a way for you to extract information when writing a resume. Another reason to have one is that you never know who might ask of you to produce one or if an overseas position opens and is just perfect for you.

With all the information listed above, it becomes pretty clear that writing a CV is a time-consuming process that requires plenty of attention to detail and quite a tad of creativity. Both can be quite challenging for entry-level professionals. The good news is that you can count some professional help with CV writing. And you won't even need to look long! Here, at Elite Essay Writers, for example, we can accommodate any writing request, and CV is not an exception.

Given that our staff consists of qualified writers with an impressive academic background in multiple areas, finding a perfect person for your CV will not be a problem. We make a point of assigning writers with orders in their respective areas of expertise; so, if you are a physicist, you can stay confident that your CV will be written by a physicist, not a historian. Plus, if you are not entirely staffed with the quality of the CV we write for you, are entitled to a round of free revisions.

Also, we guarantee your complete and utter confidentiality. Even though there is no shame in contracting custom writing help, we still understand that this is your business, not someone else's.

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