What is a CV for a job?
A curriculum vitae (CV) is a document used to apply for a job that overviews your skills, work experience, and education.
Usually paired with a well-written cover letter, a CV shows employers that you’re qualified.
What is the difference between a CV and a resume?
You’ve probably heard the term “CV” and “resume” both used to refer to the document you submit to jobs. So what makes a CV and a resume different, and what are the benefits of using a CV vs resume under certain circumstances?
In most of the world, the words “CV” and “resume” both refer to the document you send to employers to apply for a job (although “resume” is less commonly used in the UK and Europe).
However, in the United States and Canada, a CV refers specifically to the lengthy document used to apply for roles within academia, such as research positions or grad school. This type of document allows you to go into more detail about your academic accomplishments, educational background, and publications and is often referred to as an academic CV.
Put simply, if you’re applying for jobs in the US or Canada, you should use an American resume to apply for most jobs, while a CV is a specific academic document. But if you’re from Europe or the UK, a resume and a CV are the same thing.
How to make a CV step-by-step
If you’re applying for work outside of North America, you’ll need a strong curriculum vitae to land an interview.
To help get you started, here’s how to make a CV that stands out from the competition:
1. Decide on a CV format and style
Now that you know what a CV is, you’re probably wondering how to format your CV.
Open a new document in Microsoft Word or Google Docs and use the following settings:
- Set ½ – 1” margins on each side
- Use a font size between 10 and 12 points
- Select a professional font such as Times New Roman or Arial
Additionally, whether you’re writing a CV for a job or an academic CV, you’ll need to include the following five sections at a minimum:
- Header with your name and contact information
- Work Experience
Any other information, such as volunteer work or hobbies, are optional additions to your CV.
Formal vs creative CV style
Once you’ve formatted your CV, you need to decide on a style for it.
If you’re writing an academic CV or applying for a job at a suit-and-tie kind of workplace (such as a law firm), your CV’s style should be highly formal. A formal CV features a minimal design, serif fonts, and dark colors.
On the other hand, if you’re applying for a job in marketing or design your CV can be more creative. A creative CV design includes graphic details like skill bars, brighter colors, and more unique layouts.
Here’s a comparison of a formal CV and a creative CV so you can see the difference:
2. Clearly list your contact information at the top
First thing’s first: employers need to know who you are and how to contact you if they want to offer you an interview.
Make it easy to find that information by including the following contact details in the header of your CV, at the top of the page:
- First and last name (in a large font)
- Telephone Number
- Email Address
- LinkedIn Profile (optional)
Make sure that your email address and LinkedIn profile are up-to-date and professional before adding them to your CV.
3. Open with a convincing CV objective or summary
Placed right below your CV’s header towards the top of the page, a concise and targeted CV introduction is the best way to immediately grab the attention of employers and convince them that you’re the right person for the job.
There are two types of CV introductions commonly used by job seekers:
- CV objective (also known as a career objective)
- CV summary (or professional summary)
The goal of both introduction styles is to quickly highlight your relevant experience and skills to convince employers to keep reading your CV. However, how they accomplish this goal differs depending on the introduction used.
4. List your relevant work experience in chronological order
This is the most important section on your CV if you’ve already begun your career. Your work experience section is where employers evaluate your qualifications, looking for information about your key professional achievements and previous responsibilities.
To write a strong work experience section, start by listing each relevant job you’ve held from the most recent at the top, to the least recent at the bottom. In most cases, you should list a maximum of four unique positions on your CV.
For each position you list, include the following information:
- Company name
- Job title
- Your start date and end date (month and year)
Then, include 3 to 5 bullet points for every position, outlining your key achievements and responsibilities while at that job.
When writing each bullet point on your CV, be sure to include the following details to make it as convincing as possible:
- An action verb that grabs attention and shows employers what you achieved
- Hard numbers (like dollar amounts or percentages) that provide context to those achievements
- An example of a specific and relevant responsibility
Here’s an example CV bullet point in action:
Enhanced conversion rates by 30% through A/B tested landing pages for a better performing conversion funnel.
Responsible for improving conversion rates. Performed A/B testing.
5. Highlight your education
A clear education section is an essential part of your CV, especially if you’re a recent graduate or have minimal work experience.
If you have less work experience, your education section should be highly detailed to help showcase all of your academic accomplishments. However, if you’re already years into your career, keep your education section short and to-the-point to keep the focus on your work experience.
If you have work experience, include the following information in your CV’s education section:
- The names of your university, community college, or technical school
- Location of the schools (city and state)
- Date of graduation (month and year)
If you’re a college student or recent graduate, you can also add the following information to your education section:
- GPA (if it’s above 3.5)
- Relevant coursework
- Honors or awards (such as summa cum laude or Dean’s list)
6. Showcase your skills
Employers are always looking for candidates who have a strong set of professional skills relevant to the jobs they’re hiring for.
While listing a bunch of skills in the skills section of your CV doesn’t prove that you’re qualified for the job, highlighting targeted, specific skills does show employers that you at least understand the job requirements.
There are two primary types of skills that you should include on your CV: hard skills and soft skills.
Hard skills are job-specific abilities learned through experience, education, or training. Typically, hard skills are either the technical skills needed to perform a specific job, or a general set of abilities, like project management.
If you’re applying for a job that requires specific knowledge like software development, adding hard skills to your CV is essential to landing an interview.
Here are some general examples of hard skills to include on your CV:
Hard skills to include on a CV
|Graphic design||Front-end development|
|UI/UX design||Social media management|
|Hardware troubleshooting||Photo editing|
Soft skills are innate character traits that positively impact how you work or interact with other people (like interpersonal skills or creativity). They’re naturally learned throughout your life and, unlike hard skills, can’t easily be taught in a classroom.
Some examples of soft skills for your CV include:
Soft skills to include on a CV
|Conflict management||Organizational skills|
|Critical thinking||Interpersonal skills|
7. Add additional information that emphasizes your qualifications
If you’ve read this far, then you’ve already assembled the basics of your CV. Now, it’s time to add the finishing details.
Including an additional section on your CV is optional, but the right information can help emphasize your qualifications or win over hiring managers (if it’s relevant).
Here are additional sections that you can include on your CV:
Candidates who speak multiple languages are valuable in a variety of industries. If you’re a polyglot, consider listing languages in a separate section on your CV to show off your skills.
Including interests or hobbies on your CV is a great way to stand apart from other applicants and show employers that you’re a good culture fit for their company.
However, before adding an interests section to your CV, consider whether your hobbies are relevant to the company you’re applying at and are work-appropriate. Also, consider the company’s level of formality.
For example, including your love for hiking is completely appropriate when applying to a casual startup, or an outdoorsy company like Patagonia.
However, highlighting how many hours you’ve put into Call of Duty when applying to a law firm would be perceived as unprofessional.
Adding a section for volunteer work on your CV is a great way to highlight some of your transferable skills and demonstrate that you’re involved in your community.
These two reasons alone make volunteer work a great addition to your CV, but it’s especially effective to include if you’re applying for work in the nonprofit sector or in politics.
Additionally, including volunteer work helps fill out your CV if you lack paid work experience.
3 good CV examples
To help you get a better idea of what your finished curriculum vitae should look like, here are three CV examples made using some of our CV templates:
1 page CV example (with no work experience)
First, here’s a CV example from someone with no work experience:
1 page CV example (with work experience)
Now, here’s an example of a CV with years of work experience:
Academic CV example
Finally, here’s an example an academic CV (the type you’d use in American universities) from a candidate just starting their academic career: