How to Create a Curriculum Vitae (or CV)
Curriculum Vitaes (also called “vitas”) and resumes have similar purposes — as jobseeker marketing documents that provide key information about your skills, experiences, education, and personal qualities to prove that you are the ideal candidate for a job in an easy-to-digest format.
How do resumes and CVs differ?
Primarily used in Europe, CVs differ slightly from resumes in their use format, and length. In the U.S., CVs are typically used in academia and is used to outline a jobseeker’s work, past publications, and research projects. Other differences between a CV and a traditional resume include:
- Paper size: CVs are formatted to A4 paper whereas resumes are formatted to letter-sized (8″x11.5″) paper.
- Personal information: CVs include information such as sex, nationality, date of birth, and marital status.
- Interests: Whereas resumes don’t usually include interests or hobbies (unless they are relevant to the position an individual is applying for) it is acceptable to include this additional information on a CV.
- Personal photo: While a resume doesn’t typically include a headshot, a photo is acceptable on CVs and international resumes.
Now that you know the main differences between a resume and a CV, you are ready to create one of your own. Start by creating the following section headers and then fill in the appropriate information, one section at a time. This will help make creating your CV feel less overwhelming.
What sections should be included in my CV?
Some of the most important sections on your CV, in order of inclusion, are:
- Professional Summary
- Areas of Expertise
- Work Experience (in reverse chronological order)
- Education and Training
- Personal Skills/Languages (and proficiency level)
- Digital Competence
- Additional Information (including publications, presentations, projects, conferences, seminars, honors and awards, memberships, references, citations)
Now that you’ve created your sections – and are no longer looking at a blank page – you are probably wondering how to fill in the content. Don’t fret! It’s not as difficult as it feels. Here is what to include in each of the seven sections of your CV:
Filling in Your CV Sections:
- Professional Summary:
- This is your CV’s “hook” and should engage the reader and encourage them to keep reading your CV while at the same time providing them a snapshot of what you have to offer them.
- The professional summary is 4-6 lines and provides an overview of your work experience, two or three major skill sets, and valuable personality traits or soft skills.
- An objective statement (within the professional summary) is useful for entry-level positions, career changers, or jobseekers looking to transition to a higher position.
- Using fragmented sentences is acceptable in CV/resume writing.
- Areas of Expertise:
These should include your organizational, managerial and job-related skill. Examples include: “Good communication skills gained through my experience as sales manager;” “Good command of quality control processes (currently responsible for quality audit);” or “Leadership (currently responsible for a team of 10 people)”
- Work Experience:
- Start with your most current or recent position and go backward chronologically
- Include your Job Title, Employer, Employer’s location, dates of employment, and sector for each position.
- Typically, positions more than 10 years old will not be included, or if they are included, omit dates of employment and details of the position and simply include them in a bullet-point list.
- Highlight positions of increasing responsibility within an organization.
- Use present tense for current employment and past tense for past positions.
- List experience using bullet points. This makes it easier for your potential employer to gain an understanding of your abilities.
- Each position should contain a mix of duties, specific achievements, contributions, and accomplishments.
- Use abbreviations only if they are commonly known. Otherwise, write out what the abbreviation means with the abbreviation itself in parenthesis.
- Include quantifiable metrics wherever possible, and include specifics on projects, process improvements, leadership, management, etc. If needed, create a separate Achievements/Career Highlights Section and place it before Work Experience.
- Avoid using the same words over and over. Manage, direct, oversee, supervise, and command can be used interchangeably while helping to diversify your strengths. Break out your thesaurus and see what you can come up with!
- Start each bullet point with a strong action word.
- Education and Training:
Start with the most recent degree or course of study completed. If you are currently pursuing a degree, certification, qualification, or diploma, write “Current” or “Anticipated graduation, 20XX”
- Exclude GPA unless you are a recent graduate. Feel free to list honors, magna cum laude, summa cum laude, etc.
- It is acceptable to leave off date of graduation, but be consistent with all degrees.
- Include relevant work experiences, internships, campus organizations, or coursework.
- Certifications can be included in the education section or be put in a separate “Certification” section if you have several.
- Don’t include high school unless it is your only education.
- If you took classes in a particular subject but did not obtain a degree, list “Coursework in XX, School Name, School’s Location” or “XX Studies, School Name, School’s Location.”
- Personal Skills: This section should include either formal or self-assessments such as languages spoken and your level of proficiency in terms of reading, writing, and speaking.
- Digital Competence: This is a self-assessment of your computer skills and proficiencies (if applicable).
- Additional Information: This section (if included) will contain information on your relevant publications, presentations, projects, conferences, seminars, honors and awards, memberships, references, and citations.
General Dos and Don’ts for Writing a CV:
- DO NOT include anything that can be viewed as political, religious, or controversial.
- DO double check your contact information and make sure your email address sound professional.
- DO NOT include an explanation of why you left a prior position.
- DO proofread your CV several times and ask a friend to do the same.
- DO NOT rely on spellcheck. Double and triple check to make sure grammar and spelling are correct. Spellcheck will not correct homonyms.
- DO take the time to download your document as a PDF and read it for widows and orphans; a widow is when the last line of a paragraph appears at the top of the next page, whereas an orphan is when the first line of a paragraph appears at the bottom of the first page. This also gives you the opportunity to adjust formatting issues prior to submitting your CV to a potential employer.
- DO NOT use third-person writing on the CV (ex. “lead high-performing teams” vs. “leads high-performing teams.”
Other CV-related Resources:
Helpful Books About CVs and Vitas:
CH Handbooks: A Curriculum Vitae Owner’s Manual, by Will Coghill-Behrends and Rebecca Anthony (CreateSpace).
How to Write an Impressive CV and Cover Letter, by Tracey Whitmore (How To Books).
The Global Resume and CV Guide, by Mary Anne Thompson (Wiley).
How to Prepare Your Curriculum Vitae, by Acy L. Jackson and C. Kathleen Geckeis (McGraw-Hill).
Other Articles/Websites About Vitas/CVs:
- Guide to Curriculum Vitae Writing— a .PDF from Colorado College’s Career Center.
- Curriculum Vitae Resume Writing Tips— from #1 Resume Writing Services & Resume Tips Resource Center.
- Writing Your Vita— from the Psychology Department at Hanover College.
You can find more information about resumes by visiting Quintessential Careers: Resume and CV Resources for Jobseekers.
CV and Vita Samples for Jobseekers:
Interested in seeing some excellent sample CVs?
- Free Sample Resumes and CVs for the Professions
- Sample Web CVs for Jobseekers
- CV Templates
- CV Samples
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Jobseeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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