How to Write a CV
Published On: April 25, 2022
The process of writing a resume or a CV requires a balance of finesse and attention to detail to land the interview. However, unlike a resume, a curriculum vitae or CV, is a written summary of a person’s career qualifications and education. It is another level of career exploration, so CVs are sought after in particular industries like academia, entertainment, travel, library sciences, engineering, architecture, publishing, and government work.
CVs also vary in length and number of custom sections. Some even have 10 or more pages. Our CV writing tips and section-by-section content examples will help you present your best skills and top achievements to potential employers.
Table of Contents
When you need to use a CV versus a resume
CVs and resumes are used as marketing documents to provide key information to potential employers about your skills, experiences, education and relevant personal qualities that show you as the ideal candidate. Where a resume and a curriculum vitae differ are their industries of use, format and length. CVs typically have additional categories and are anywhere from 2 to 10-pages long.
- Emphasizes academic accomplishments
- Used primarily when applying for positions in academia
- Vary in length; how long a CV is depends on your experience
- Should include a list of your publications, posters and presentations
- Emphasize skills and work experience
- Should be 1-2 pages maximum
- Used by applicants seeking positions in the private and public sectors
- Have a variety of formats, which should be chosen depending on your level of work experience
Formatting a CV
Depending on the job you are applying to, there are a variety of sections you could include on your CV. Best practice is to include the specifics listed in the employer’s job posting as they could want a larger scope of your career background and/or be looking for specific experiences and skills. LiveCareer offers several ways for you to model your CV for the best results. Formatting this type of document to be scannable by applicant tracking systems (ATS) is easy if you adhere to the requirements of the job posting and have a CV design that is readable and relevant. While the vast majority of job seekers in the U.S. will want to stick with a traditional resume, those pursuing certain job titles or positions should consider a CV.
The 12 most common CV sections
Below you’ll find a detailed example of what you might find on a highly experienced candidate’s CV. Keep in mind that your own CV might not need every listed section or display each section in the same order.
The 12 most common sections found in a CV are:
- 1. Contact information
A must-have for every CV, employers need clear and correct contact information from every applicant. While complete mailing addresses are no longer necessary, they won’t be able to tell you you’re hired without an easily reachable phone number and professional-sounding email address.
- 2. Summary statement
A professional summary offers recruiters a brief overview of your top career highlights relevant to the position at hand. Ideally, you should use language lifted from the job ad like “expertise in grammar, literature and linguistics” in this example. In three to five lines, describe exactly why you’re the ideal candidate. Use data and metrics to show the impact of your work whenever possible.
- 3. Core qualifications
This short section uses several precisely phrased bullet points to illustrate your strongest skills in the context of this new position. Think of these as lengthier descriptions of the most important attributes that would otherwise belong on your skills list.
- 4. Education
The sections detailing one’s education are critical on a CV. Not only does this example list a master’s and Ph.D., it goes further by adding mention of their “Advisory Program” since it’s a substantial part of their academic background. Notice how no undergraduate degree is listed, much like how you might not list a lower-level job held many years ago.
- 5. Work experience
Here, you’ll list your past employers, job titles, the length of each job, and where the jobs were performed. Beneath these, beyond only mentioning past job responsibilities, include quantifiable metrics to demonstrate precisely what you contributed to past employers, like “Supervised academic work of 60 students …”
- 6. Technical skills
This section offers a more straightforward, bulleted list of your remaining job-relevant skills, or “key skills.” Again, it’s best if these directly reference the terms used in the job description.
- 7. Affiliations
Use a section like this to highlight which major, industry-relevant associations you’re a part of or have worked with directly. These associations can carry much weight in certain industries.
- 8. Awards
Here, list any awards relevant to the job to which you’re applying that speak to your skill set as it relates to the job or that further emphasize your academic and professional achievements.
- 9. Certifications
Any certifications or credentials you have earned outside of your formal education belong here. For example, an entry-level clinical researcher may indicate they’re a Certified Clinical Research Associate (CCRA), just as a technical writer working in health care would show they’re Medical Writer Certified (MWC).
- 10. Conferences
Listing conferences attended, especially if you’ve delivered talks or presented work there, communicates yet another level of prestige or clout in your field. At a more basic level, this shows your commitment to taking a more holistic interest in your industry through networking, learning from peers, and more.
- 11. Grants and fellowships
Similar to “Awards” and common in fields like academia, medicine, or law, here you’d list financial grants or admittance into fellowships. This shows potential employers that you’ve proven yourself to influential people in your field, who then rewarded you based on your merit.
- 12. Publications
Here, list research papers or other published writing related to your work. This high-achieving English professor included their last four published pieces consisting of fiction, poetry, and test preparation guides.
Our customers prove our CV Builder is better
How to begin writing a CV
Before you start writing a CV, preparation is critical. You should focus on key points that explore your career history deeper than the average one-page resume would. When it’s time to sit down and write this important part of your CV, start by formatting it in an optimal way for easy readability. List your professional experiences using reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent. Here are some other helpful tips you can use as you create this part of your CV.
- Organization: Begin each entry in your listing of jobs with your position title, the name of your employer, the location of the company, and the time period of your employment. Make sure to use correct formatting and keep things in chronological order, especially when cataloging research studies and publications.
- Details: Include a list of bullet points that give an overview of specific responsibilities and duties you typically completed and emphasize impressive achievements to showcase your past success. This can be done through separate sections that show off awards received, conferences you attended, or any scholarships and grants you have.
- Skills: Make a list of your applicable soft, hard and technical skills — From the list of required and desired skills in the job ad, which do you possess? Create a list, making sure to have a good mix of hard and soft skills.
- Word choice: Use strong, clear action verbs to start each duty, responsibility, or accomplishment in all of your job entries to help the reader visualize your contributions.
- Variety: Choose unique verbs or synonyms for common actions for each new detail about your individual work experiences instead of repeating the same words, and don’t forget quantifiable metrics. These can be added in various sections of your CV and provide grounding for the experiences you are presenting to potential employers.
- Study the requirements for the role: Make sure you have familiarized yourself with the duties and responsibilities, the required skills, and credentials. In order to write a customized CV, you need to understand the role and how your current industry experience would be a good fit. This will help you decide the section order of your CV and which accomplishments would be the most significant.
- Review CV examples for your job title: LiveCareer offers a library of CV examples written by certified resume writers. Search by job title to better understand all the elements that go into a strong CV.
With this reference material gathered and the review complete, you are now ready to sit down and write.
Our professional Resume Builder helps you craft a great CV
It’s easy to use our Resume Builder to create and customize a CV that will help you showcase all of your significant industry skills, here’s how:
Modifying your CV:
Although CVs are different from resumes and include more sections, it’s possible — and easy — to use our Resume Builder to create and customize a CV. Follow these simple steps to build your CV:
- Click one of the “Create My CV” buttons. On the new page that appears, select “Create a New Resume” to begin the process.
- Follow the steps on the page and fill in the blanks. The builder will automatically guide you through creating the summary, adding your work history, skills and education.
- After writing your summary, you’ll be able to add extra sections and begin customizing your document. Click the box next to the section (or sections) you want to add to your CV, or click “Add Your Own” to manually type in a section that isn’t on the menu.
- When you reach the end of the builder, you’ll see your CV, just as the example shows. If you go over a section with your mouse, that area will be selected, and an icon with arrows will pop up on your right. By pressing this icon, you’ll be able to move that section to a different part of the document. This way, you can organize the layout of your CV accordingly.
- If you would like to change the headers of any of your CV sections, simply hover over where it says “Summary,” “Education,” etc., until the Rename button appears. Then put your new title in the space provided and click enter.
- You can change the formatting of your document on the menu at the bottom of the page. After clicking the arrow next to “Normal,” press the “Custom” button. A new menu will appear, where you can adjust the margins, font size, font style, and spacing. If you want to change the color, a menu with different options will appear when you click the “Color” tab.
- Be sure to click “Spell Check” at the top left to ensure no grammatical errors.
- Once you’re satisfied with your CV, you can click “Download” and save the document on your computer. If you don’t want to download it just yet, press “Save and Next” so your work isn’t lost.
How to make a CV ATS-friendly?
Each of LiveCareer’s resume and CV templates are crafted to pass scans performed by ATS (applicant tracking system) programs. Our recruiter-approved, expertly designed templates guarantee that your information is laid out strategically, headers and footers are used correctly, no inappropriate fonts are used, and that margins are clear and properly sized. Taking care of these elements ahead of time makes it much easier for a resume to be approved by an ATS.
What makes a good CV?
Adhering to the job posting requirements is important, but a good CV goes even deeper and explores the significant details of your entire career experience. A good CV should include every element of your work and academic history along with other relevant background information. In some countries and for specified industries, they can also include your picture, hobbies, interests, and various background details.
How do I write a CV for an internship?
Even though you might not have a lot of traditional work experience, you can still include a variety of qualifications in your CV. Things like academic and volunteering programs can be a great way to show direct industry experience. Be sure to strike the right balance of hard and soft skills and use quantifiable metrics, like percentages, the number of projects you worked on, or dollar amounts, to present yourself as a well-rounded candidate.
How do I write an academic CV?
Most academic CVs are between four and five pages long, reaching a maximum of 10 pages depending on your level of experience. Similar to a standard resume, professional experiences are also outlined in chronological order. Instead of altering the document to correspond with the open position’s requirements, the focus should be on cataloging all academic accomplishments such as publications, research, program assistance, and mentorships.