What is a CV? What does CV mean?
A CV stands for curriculum vitae. It’s a comprehensive document that provides an overview of your top skills, previous work experience and academic background. In the U.S., a CV is mostly utilized among academics and jobs requiring specific educational experience (e.g., research technician or physics professor). This document details relevant publications, research experience, awards, professional affiliations and more.
For example, in the academic world, postgraduate students use their curriculum vitae to apply for fellowships and grants, for submissions to publications or conference papers and, of course, when applying for a job.
CV vs resume
We explained what a curriculum vitae is, but what’s the difference between a CV and a resume? Is a resume the same as a CV? Here’s how to tell them apart:
What is a Resume?
It’s important to note that, while in the U.S. a CV is mainly used for jobs in academia, health care and sciences, in countries such as the U.K., Northern Ireland and New Zealand, a CV is essentially the same as a U.S. resume. The one major difference is that their curriculum vitae can be slightly longer than a U.S. resumes (two to three pages in length), giving you more room to provide details such as hobbies and interests, depending on the norm in the country.
So if you’re applying for a job outside the U.S. and the job posting requests a curriculum vitae, make sure to check the CV trends and guidelines in that country before creating your document using one of our curriculum vitae templates.
How to write a CV
Follow our expert tips and advice on how to write a curriculum vitae to create a strong CV that effectively highlights your career and qualifications.
Start with your contact information
In addition to your name, email address, phone number and city and state of residence, include links to your professional portfolio or job network profile (e.g., LinkedIn) in your CV.
Present yourself in your professional summary
In a few sentences, start your curriculum vitae with an overview of your career and educational background, emphasizing training and skills that match the job’s needs.
Highlight core qualifications
Feature six to 10 relevant skills in your CV. Include a combination of crucial hard skills (learned, job-specific abilities), soft skills (intangible and interpersonal abilities) and technical skills (knowledge needed to perform the task).
List your education
Feature up to 10 years of your academic credentials on your curriculum vitae, including specific coursework or projects that apply to your profession. If you graduated more than 10 years ago, you don’t need to include the graduation date.
Write out your work experience
In reverse-chronological order, with the latest job at the top, focus on achievements and major responsibilities rather than everyday duties. Show in your CV how you’ve used your best skills effectively.
Add additional sections
Create separate sections in your curriculum vitae for “conferences,” “honors and awards,” “affiliations” and “certifications” if you have credentials to show off in these areas that are relevant to your field. Your CV can be as long as necessary.
How to make a CV perfect
Tailor your CV to the job.
Look over the job description carefully, pick out primary skills and responsibilities and feature credentials and work experiences in your curriculum vitae to match the job’s needs. For example, if the job requires a record of research grant funding, be sure to feature any grants you’ve received or managed.
The most important information goes on the first page of the CV.
Be strategic on how you order your CV. Think about how you want the hiring manager, recruiter, or person reviewing your curriculum vitae to read your information. Highlight your top skills and relevant experience in your summary statement, focus on the most relevant skills in your core qualifications and within each category, and list items in reverse-chronological order.
Feature in your curriculum vitae a mixture of skills.
Read the job description well and determine the most important skills they’re looking for in an applicant. In the core qualifications of your CV, make sure to include a well-rounded mixture of hard skills (learned, job-related skills), technical skills (knowledge and abilities needed to perform specific tasks; usually using tech) and soft skills (personal attributes), to show what you can do and how you work.
Use action verbs and avoid pronouns in your CV.
Begin each sentence fragment with an action verb and avoid using personal pronouns (I, me, or my). Each bullet point should go straight to the point, and remember, they’re sentence fragments, not complete sentences. For example: “Wrote investigative reports and over 15 articles for Bullet Journal.” See our article 280+ Action Verbs for Resume Writing for a comprehensive list of action verbs.
Follow the CV conventions of your field.
If you’re writing a curriculum vitae for academia, health care, or the sciences, check CVs from your field or talk to other peers to make sure you’re following your discipline’s norms. Your area might require a specific section or follow a particular format that other specializations don’t.
Use our professional CV templates
and easily customize them
Creating a curriculum vitae is easier when you use one of our CV templates.
- They’re preformatted, so you don’t have to think about having the correct margins, font size or font type.
- Our CV templates are customizable and can be adapted to fit your needs. Need more sections? Want to change the font colors? You can do that and more by using our Resume Builder!
- We have a wide range of CV templates perfect for any job or industry, including free downloadable CV templates you can edit using Word.
- Our CV templates have a complementing cover letter template you can use and create using our Cover Letter Builder.
This curriculum vitae template features a streamlined design for easy scanning with customizable colors and an elegant font type.
This unique monogram design for the header makes this CV template a great choice for candidates who want a simple but modern design.
Make a powerful first impression with this CV template, which features bold fonts and a two-column layout.
Elegant yet colorful, this curriculum vitae template perfectly balances professionalism and style.
CV examples for every
job and industry
We have over 400 CV examples you can use as inspiration and guidance.
- Examples for hundreds of different jobs.
- An expert creates each curriculum vitae example.
- Simply pick a CV example and we can help you make it yours using our Resume Builder.
Medical CV template and example
Academic CV template and example
Sciences CV template and example
Law CV template and example
To explore the rest of our extensive library of examples, visit our CV examples page.
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What does CV mean?
CV means curriculum vitae, which is Latin for “course of life.” It’s a detailed document that goes over your entire professional or academic career. A CV in the United States is primarily used in higher education institutions, sciences and healthcare, as employers in these fields may want to see all of your accomplishments beyond work experience. So a curriculum vitae will often include a list of your awards, honors, publications, grants, memberships and even languages.
How do I write a CV?
If you’re creating a U.S.-style curriculum vitae to get a job or a grant, Harvard University Career Services advises that “Different academic disciplines have different standards and expectations, especially in the order of categories,” so we recommend researching good CV examples in your field or talking to colleagues to make sure you meet the standards.
In general, however, here’s what to include in your CV:
- Summary statement or professional summary: A paragraph of two to three sentences where you highlight your top qualifications aligned with the job description. You should include your years of experience, top skills and work achievements.
- Core qualifications: Include six to 10 relevant skills in your CV. Highlight a combination of your top hard skills (learned, role-specific abilities), technical skills (knowledge and abilities needed to perform specific tasks with tech), and soft skills (personal attributes).
- Education: List all relevant academic experiences in reverse-chronological order with a maximum of four items, including doctorate degrees. If you graduated more than 10 years ago, you don’t need to include a graduation date in your curriculum vitae.
- Work experience: Work backward, placing your latest job at the top. Focus on major work accomplishments instead of daily tasks and summarize them with three to five bullet points to make your CV stand out.
- Additional sections: Depending on the type of CV you’re writing and the purpose of your curriculum vitae, you may need to include other sections such as “Research Experience,” “Teaching Experience,” “Publications,” “Honors and Awards,” or “Certifications.” If this is the case, list your items with bullet points and follow the format of your field.
Is it OK to use a CV template?
Definitely! Using a professional CV template to create your curriculum vitae will save you tons of time. You don’t have to worry about formatting, using the correct font type or whether the colors are professional. Just be sure to choose a template that fits the job or organization.
When should you use a CV?
A curriculum vitae and a resume might serve different purposes in the U.S., but the good news is that you won’t have to guess when to use which. The employer will let you know in the job description if they want candidates to submit a CV or a resume. When in doubt, however, you can research whether it’s typical to send in a CV instead of a resume for the role you want.
How long should a CV be?
Your CV should be as long as necessary. Remember, contrary to a resume, a U.S. CV is an overview of your entire career accomplishments and educational background. When organizations request it, they want to see everything you have achieved in your field, from awards to publications. So if your curriculum vitae needs to be 10 pages long to show your expertise, it’s OK!
What makes a good CV?
The content of your curriculum vitae should be geared toward answering the most important question: why you’re the best person for the job. Call out educational achievements and training that tie in with the job’s needs, and make sure your CV is organized into clear sections, as our examples on this page. Take the time to double-check spelling, grammar and that your presentation is clear and uncluttered in the file format you choose to save your curriculum vitae (such as Microsoft Word or PDF). You can use our Resume Builder and leave the heavy lifting on many of these issues to us.
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