A CV often gives potential employers their first impression of your professional and academic credentials. It's essential for showcasing your accomplishments and experience. Tailoring your CV for the job that you're applying for is a good idea, but all CVs follow a similar format and structure. In this article, we discuss what the abbreviation CV stands for, the difference between a CV and a resume, how to write your CV and an example of a CV.
What is a CV?
CV stands for curriculum vitae, a Latin phrase that means “course of life.” It's a detailed document that highlights your professional and academic history. CVs usually include details about a person's work experience and any achievements, awards, scholarships or grants they earned. It can also include information about previous coursework, research projects and publications. A typical CV is about five pages long, but it can be much longer for senior or mid-level job applicants. It serves as a full outline of your career accomplishments, and it should describe your skills and qualifications. CVs often accompany a completed job application and cover letter.
CV vs. resume
A CV and a resume are both documents that summarize your professional history, education, skills and achievements. The word “resume” comes from a French term that means “abstract.” These documents are usually shorter than CVs, and they provide a brief overview of the person's background. In Quebec, India, South Africa, Australia and some other countries, people often use the two terms interchangeably. However, there's a difference between a resume and a curriculum vitae in most of Canada. While people use resumes more often when applying for most positions at private companies, CVs are more popular when applying for positions in academia, scientific research, education, or upper management.
How to write a CV
Follow these steps when you write your CV:
1. Add your contact information
Include your full name, your phone number and your email address. Adding your physical address is optional. However, if you do include it, you should only list the city and province.
2. Detail your academic history
Include postdoctoral programs, graduate school, university and secondary school, selecting your most recent two or three educational experiences. If you have a graduate degree, employers won't care where you went to secondary school. There's no need to include the dates when you attended, but you should start with the most recent educational programs and list the ones you attended earlier after that. Employers are usually more interested in your professional experience. That means this section should be relatively short unless you're applying for a role in academia such as a university professor.
3. Record your professional experience
Starting with your most recent job, list the job title, the dates when you worked at the position, the company or organization, your duties, the experience you gained and the achievements you accomplished. For each job, use bullet points that start with action verbs to demonstrate your responsibilities.
When possible, list statistics and concrete data that show your impact on the institution. Consider adding dollar amounts such as how much revenue you helped bring in every year or how much money you saved the company per year on average. You can also list percentages to demonstrate how much you increased the efficiency of a process, reduced errors, or exceeded sales goals.
Also, mention numbers like how many employees you managed, how many customers you served per day on average or how many other offices or locations you coordinated your actions with. For example, instead of writing “Responsible for writing proposals on muscle cell motility studies,” you could say, “Developed a research proposal for a muscle cell motility study. Collaborated with a six-person research team and secured a $20,000 grant.”
4. Include any relevant skills and qualifications
People usually put this information in a separate skills section. Reread the job description to find out which skills the employer is looking for. These can include hard and soft skills that make you the best candidate for the job. When possible, use the same keywords in the description. Many companies use automated applicant tracking systems, also called talent management systems, to screen CVs. If your CV doesn't have at least some keywords in the job description, the hiring manager may never take a look at it.
Read more: Words to Avoid and Include on a Resume
5. List any honours and awards you received
Use this section to outline your achievements. Start with the name of the award. Then, list the year it was awarded, the organization that gave you the award and details such as how often the institution gives the award and how many people receive it.
6. Include any relevant publications you contributed to or presentations you made
Mention any presentations, papers, studies or books that you helped create or contributed to in another way. For publications, include the name of the publication, the authors, the date published, a short summary or abstract, and the volume or issue number. Use the type of citation for each publication. You can also check to see if the employer lists a preferred citation style. Include the title, the date and the location of any presentations. It's also a good idea to mention the size of the audience and the number of industry experts who attended.
7. List your professional associations and affiliations
List the name of the organization, the location or chapter and your dates of active membership.
8. Proofread your CV
Before you send your CV with a job application, take a break from writing for a few hours and then reread it carefully. An error on your CV could make you seem less competent than people whose curriculum vitaes are without mistakes. This is especially true if you're applying for a position in academia like an English professorship. It's also a good idea to ask a friend, a trusted colleague or a mentor to review your CV and give you some suggestions for improvements.
Some employers offer their own CV templates and examples to help ensure that you include all the required information in the format that they prefer. Before you submit your application and CV, look for any guidelines that the employer outlined. For example, some institutions may ask you to list only coursework, fieldwork, dissertations and professional references that are relevant to the industry.
Read more: Guide to Writing a Professional CV
Most CVs share the same basic structure, but the organization and content depend on the position you're applying for. List the most relevant parts first to catch employers' attention, whether those are your work history or the publications you contributed to. Here's a CV template that you can reference when creating your own CV:
[The type of degree]
[Your major and minor]
[The name of the school]
[The title, the name of the publication, the date it was published and the issue and page numbers]
[The title of the presentation, the name of the conference or event and the month and year]
[The name of your most recent position]
[The start date and end date]
[The name of the organization or employer]
[A description of your duties and responsibilities]
Skills and certifications
[The names of your certifications and the organizations that provided them]
Awards and honours
[Any awards and honours that are relevant to the position you're applying for]
[Any relevant professional or academic memberships]
Here's a short example of a good CV:
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, University of Ontario
Bachelors of Science in Biology with a Minor in Chemistry, Quebec University
Professor, John Smith School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Toronto, 2012 – 2018
Taught multiple undergraduate and graduate courses in veterinary sciences
Fostered students' commitment to lifelong learning and excellence
Acted as an advisor to first-year students
Demonstrated surgeries and other veterinary procedures on cats, dogs, horses and exotic animals
Skills and qualifications
Fluent in English and French
Specialized in livestock science research and development
Awards and honours
CVMA Advocacy Award, 2018
CVMA Animal Welfare Award, 2016
Publications and presentations
Yang, J., Sanchez, C., Smith, J., Johnson, L., (2017) “A study of the cocoa product component theobromine and its danger to canines.” Journal of Modern Veterinary Medicine. 272: 1234-56789.
Smith, J., (2019) “Correcting behavioural problems in pets: how to help owners make life with a pet easier.” Journal of Veterinary Science. 335: 2231-88956.
Professional associations and affiliations
Canadian College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (2013 – Present)
Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (2011 – Present)