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How to write your Curriculum Vitae
The process of writing a resume or a Curriculum Vitae (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.
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.
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.
Online Resume Builder
You can also make use of our online resume builder to quickly design a CV/Resume for yourself.