What is a CV + How to Write a CV with Example for 2023

Stephen Greet
Stephen Greet February 10, 2023
What is a CV + How to Write a CV with Example for 2023

If you’re confused about the differences between a CV and a resume, we solve that mystery here. Cutting to the punch, we’ll unpack these key differences between a resume and a CV:

  • Length: A resume is usually one page while a CV can range from three to five pages or more [1].
  • Layout: Work experience is first and foremost in a resume, but in a CV, education is paramount.
  • Focus: Whereas a resume focuses on your skills and contributions, the CV focuses on what makes you an expert in your field.
  • Scope: A resume includes the past 10 years of experience, skills, and accomplishments that focus on each job for which you apply. With a CV, you add information as you go since quantity is considered to be equally as important as quality.
  • Purpose: Most employers will ask for a resume. However, if you’re applying for a job in academia, for a research position, or a Ph.D. program, you’ll want a CV.

Confusion stems from the fact that CV has different meanings internationally. We’ll clear this up, too, but for now, let’s take a closer look at a CV used in the US.

In-depth Look at a CV

A young man sipping coffee while looking through a CV on his laptop.

CV is short for curriculum vitae, Latin for “course of life.” There’s no limit on the number of pages you can use. Initially, your CV may be two or three pages. As you gain experience and qualifications, your document will grow [2]. It’s not unheard of for a CV to surpass 10 pages [3].

Sample Academia CV

(Page 1 of 3)

First page of a sample Academia CV

(Page 2 of 3)

Second page of a sample Academia CV

(Page 3 of 3)

Third page of a sample Academia CV

When should you use a CV?

There are some circumstances where you’ll want to use a traditional CV instead of a resume.

  • Academia: If you’re applying for a teaching, professor, or assistant position within higher education, the hiring team wants to know you will be a well-rounded and accomplished addition to the faculty. A prestigious instructor provides more validation to the school and may increase student enrollment.
  • Research: Whether in academia, science, or another field, your CV should show you already have extensive accomplishments in the area of preference. Recruiters don’t want to choose someone without a relevant background; they want someone with enough experience to advance their research without having to backtrack and start from scratch.
  • Ph.D. program: When applying for a doctorate program, many universities will require you to submit a CV along with your application. What you include in your document can set you apart from other candidates.

What information should you include in your CV?

When creating your CV, use reverse-chronological order in each section. After education, you can list other sections in an order that highlights your expertise with your most important information on the first page [4].

Include the following in your CV:

  • Contact information: Include your full name and contact info. You can use your contact from your current university or your personal information, including email, city/state, and links to any professional profiles.
  • Summary: You can use your research interests or a personal statement.
  • Core competencies: List keywords from the job ad that highlight skills you possess. 
  • Education: List the names of the schools and years of graduation. If applicable, you may include information about your thesis or dissertation. Don’t forget to include fellowships.
  • Research: For both paid and unpaid positions, include the organization, department, name of the director, and your position and title.
  • Teaching and relevant experience: Include the course name and all relevant information on your development and implementation of the coursework.
  • Publications: List these as you would in a typical bibliography.
  • Presentations: Include any presentations for conferences or seminars where you were invited to be a key speaker or presenter.
  • Memberships: If you are or were part of any scholarly societies or committees related to your discipline, add them here. You may also list any affiliations.
  • Achievements: Any awards, honors, grants, certificates, or patents should be included.
  • References: This may be optional, but check the job description carefully to ensure employers won’t be asking for your references. If you do include references, ask permission before including someone’s name, title, and department followed by the institution, address, phone number, and email.

In-depth Look at a Resume

A young lady looking through a resume on her laptop

Resume is based on a French word that means “to sum up.” Using clear and concise wording, you’ll create a document that sums up your work history, emphasizing achievements and skills relevant to the job for which you’re applying. A resume should be limited to a single page as recruiters don’t have time to riffle through multiple pages, and they’ll generally only give you a few seconds of their time.

Sample resume as compared to CV

Resume sample compared to CV

When should you use a resume?

Use a resume to apply for any position neither in academia nor heavy in research. Because your document is likely to pass through an applicant tracking system, this single page is highly preferred over multiple pages that don’t have the sections this software is programmed to look for. Additionally, over half of recruiters are looking for industry-specific experience, and this information needs to be readily accessible [5].

Since employers are looking for someone who will be a good fit for the job, your work experience should take precedence near the top of your document with education toward the bottom. For most positions, employers don’t have the time to look through research, publications, memberships, or anything else that doesn’t directly pertain to your ability to perform the required job duties.

What information should you include in your resume?

When writing your resume, place the most important information in the top half of your document, and use reverse-chronological order in sections with multiple listings.

Include the following in your resume:

  • Contact information: Use your full name, phone number, email address, and any links to relevant social or job sites.
  • Job title: Place the title of the position you’re applying for beneath your name.
  • Summary or objective: You can either summarize your past success with the desired job or state how your previous work has given you the ability to perform the required duties. Alternatively, skip this altogether if you don’t have the time to tailor it to the job.
  • Work experience: Quantify your achievements from your previous positions, and demonstrate impact rather than just stating job duties.
  • Education: List degrees or coursework applicable to the specific role.
  • Skills: Include both hard and soft skills that show your competency for the job title.
  • Additional sections: If you have space and the information is relevant, include foreign languages, certifications, projects, or hobbies that relate to the job.

How to Write a CV or Resume

A young man at his laptop trying to figure out how to write his CV and resume

First, determine whether you need a resume or a CV. If in doubt, contact HR for clarification. No matter which document you submit, you’ll want to place yourself and your document in the best light possible.

Consider the following:

  • Formatting: Leave adequate white space for ease of reading, use clear, simple fonts, limit color, avoid images, and make sure your sections are clearly identifiable.
  • Finding a template: Save yourself the headache of starting from scratch by selecting one of our free preformatted templates. Your document will pass through the ATS and allow recruiters to find what they’re looking for with ease.
  • Including the right sections and details: Use the information we’ve provided to choose pertinent sections and the correct ordering within your document. Don’t simply list job duties, but leverage action verbs and quantifiable details to prove your value.
  • Tailoring your document to the job: Each company has different requirements for similar positions, so create a resume or CV for each specific job. It demonstrates you truly want that specific position rather than just any ‘ol job.
  • Editing and proofreading: Employers assume you’re showing your best in this document, so mistakes make you appear apathetic and incompetent. Edit and proofread multiple times, allowing some time to pass between each examination. Have a friend or coworker take a look with fresh eyes. Edit unclear or wordy phrases to ensure you convey information concisely and accurately.

International CVs: Clearing up the Confusion

A young lady with her laptop speaking in different languages.

Since CVs and resumes are distinctly different in North America, it can be brain-boggling if you’re applying for a job in another country. If an international company asks for a CV, does this mean the longer document, or can you send a resume? 

In Europe and New Zealand, CV refers to a document similar to a US resume. Go ahead and use your resume, but save your document title as CV since these areas of the world don’t use the term “resume.” However, in India, South Africa, and Australia, CV and resume are used interchangeably. South Asian job markets may ask for either, much like in the US, or they may require an entirely different document called a biodata. When submitting your document to other international employers, use your resume with the title they request in the job posting.

The Nutshell

3 colleagues exchanging thoughts about writing CVs and resumes

CVs and resumes differ in length, layout, focus, scope, and purpose. Whereas a resume gives a concise overview of your ability to perform the job based on your work history, a CV provides a lengthier, more-detailed version focusing on education and professional achievements within academia and research. 

In most of the world, a CV and a resume are considered the same, though in Europe and New Zealand, what we consider a resume is actually called a CV. When applying in the Asian market, terms are the same as in North America.

Whether you want to create a resume or a CV to apply for your dream position, we offer free resume examples for your inspiration and free resume templates that allow you to add or remove information and even add, rename, or rearrange sections if you choose to build a CV.