This is a question many job seekers would always ask but quite a few actually find the answer they seek. Even throughout their entire career, most professionals would still not be able to answer this question because a CV is often used interchangeably with another word, the resume.
If you are reading this article then congratulations because you are about to be numbered among the few who actually understand what a CV is and can differentiate between it and a resume.
The meaning of CV is (Curriculum Vitæ), which means course of life in Latin. It is an in-depth document that can be laid out over two or more pages and it contains a high level of detail about your achievements, a great deal more than just a career biography. The CV covers your education as well as any other accomplishments like publications, awards, honours etc.
A CV document tends to be organized chronologically and should make it easy to get an overview of an individual’s full working career. A CV is static and doesn’t change for different positions, the difference would be in the cover letter.
A resume, or résumé, on the other hand is a concise document typically not longer than one page as it is assumed that the reader will not dwell on your document for very long. The goal of a resume is to make an individual stand out from the competition.
The job seeker should adapt the resume to every position they apply for. It is in the applicant’s interest to change the resume from one job application to another and to tailor it to the needs of the specific post. A resume doesn’t have to be ordered chronologically, it also doesn’t have to cover your whole career and is a highly customizable document.
From the above definitions, there are three major differences between CVs and resumes. They are the length, the purpose and the layout.
Length: A resume is a brief summary of your skills and experience over one or two pages, a CV is more detailed and can stretch well beyond two pages.
Purpose: The resume will be tailored to each position whereas the CV will stay put and any changes will be in the cover letter.
Layout: A CV has a clear chronological order listing the whole career of the individual whereas a resume’s information can be shuffled around to best suit the applicant.
Hence, the main difference between a resume and a CV is that a CV is intended to be a full record of your career history and a resume is a brief, targeted list of skills and achievements.
When Should I use a CV or Resume for my Application?
Many people are usually confused about this and although some employers are not conscious of what they want, most of them will let you know whether they expect a CV or a resume.
If you are still confused, then it is ok to ask.
It is advised that an experience job seeker should use a CV for high profile job applications as this will show how much experience and expertise he has.
If however, you are using a resume and feels that you need to convince the employer more about your qualifications and expertise then it is ok to include a cover letter with your resume.
Starting off the writing of a CV can be somewhat difficult. The reason is that there is really no one specific format for a CV and you will have to determine exactly the right CV for the position you are applying to.
You will always need to tailor your CV content to the individual jobs you are applying for, because one type of job might need you to emphasize a specific area whereas another might ask you to elaborate on a totally different area and knowing which is which is critical to making sure your CV is perfect for your discipline.
One of the best ways to know what CV is right for your industry is to look at examples of what others have done. You can do this by either researching them online or by reaching out and talking to either your mentor or peers who are already employed where you are applying.
Always remember though that these examples are only examples and you should make sure your CV is specific to you and not just a copy of what someone else has done. You’re an individual and your CV should reflect that.
With that being said, however, there are some common CV features you should keep in mind when writing yours.
Start by first listing everything you can about your background information and then building out from there.
To help you get started, here are a few of the most often seen sections of CVs that you might expect to include when writing your own.
1) Who are you?
A CV should always include your basic information starting with your name, address, telephone number and email.
Include a brief bio of yourself. Depending on the industry you are going into, a short blurb about who you are might be all you need to catch an employer’s eye and get called in for an interview. If you do decide to include a brief bio, make sure it’s well written and original.
3) What have you done?
As a CV is a thorough detailing of your history, that includes your educational history as well as your work experience and any training you might have received.
When detailing your educational history, you want to do it in reverse chronological order. Be sure to include the full list of your degrees, including those you’ve already earned and any you might be currently pursuing as well as where you received your education.
Be sure to list the years of your graduation. If you are the author of a dissertation or thesis, you would include that information here as well as the name of your advisor.
For your work history, you want to include not only where you’ve worked, but also any applicable experiences related to that work.
If you’re an educator and you’re not only teaching, but also working in a research lab or facility, you would want to include that here. Field experience, leadership experience, related volunteer work and any and all other experience that relates to your employment goes in this section.
4) What do you like?
Unlike a resume, a CV often includes a section that covers your areas of interest. While this might seem unusual, it can actually provide a potential employer with a lot of insight into who you are, which is why it’s so important to make sure you handle this section carefully.
While it might be tempting to just list your hobbies here and hope for the best, it’s actually a good idea to expand on what you do in your free time as well as why you do it. Are you a soccer buff who loves to go to watch soccer? Rather than just listing “Soccer” on your CV, flesh it out a bit.
“As a lover of soccer, I enjoy spending my weekends immersed in a world where I coach a team of teenagers in my locality on everything soccer.”
Do you have leadership skills outside of your work that you enjoy participating in? List those here as well.
This section is also a great place to list any interests that you have that relate directly to the job you’re applying to. Are you working on obtaining employment as a culinary specialist? List your interest in food blogs and magazines.
No matter what you list here, try to include a range of interests that demonstrate who you are when you’re not working at your job. Of course, try not to include information that would make it appear that you’re just stuffing things into your CV in order to give it length. It’s perfectly fine to list your interests, but keep it within reason. List the things that are the most relevant to what you are looking for work wise.
It’s not necessary to list every extracurricular activity you’ve ever participated in.
How many languages do you speak? Are you fluent in multiple tongues? What about computer programs? Are you an accomplished graphic designer who has an extensive knowledge of specific software? List that too!
6) Awards and recognitions
Have others recognized you for the work you’ve done? Do you have any awards or honors that you’ve received for teaching? How about for service or work? Have you applied for and received any grants or scholarships? Those go here! This is also where you want to include things like fellowships or patents.
Are you an author of any papers, articles or books? Are you an expert in your field and thus find yourself speaking at conferences, panels or symposiums? Make sure you list those and give a brief description of each so your reader knows what you’ve done and where.
8) Professional membership
Are you a member of any professional organizations, guilds or clubs? Make sure to include if you’ve held any offices or positions within those organizations and how long you’ve been with them.
A reference section is also something you might consider including in your CV. While it’s not always required, it’s not a bad idea to put down references if you know the person recommending you is going to be enthusiastically in your corner. (Of course it should go without saying you should only have enthusiastic references…)
If you feel your CV is running long for your level of experience, or you’d like more time to prep your references, it’s also perfectly acceptable to say “References available upon request.”
Other sections you might include in your CV (depending entirely on the job you’re applying for) include:
Remember, your CV should be specific to the industry or area of work you’re entering, so while much of the basic information should be fairly standard, always find examples that relate to the job you’re after to ensure that you’re including all the necessary things.
You want to make sure that your CV is clear of all grammatical and spelling errors.
You want to make sure that your CV is carefully and logically laid out and that it reads well. Yes, you’re including a lot of information in this document, but don’t try to cram everything in all at once.
Organize it using topical headings and be considerate in how you lay it out and how you order it. While the order of topics in a CV is flexible, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that what you list first will receive the most attention. Try to arrange your sections so that they highlight your strengths in relation to the position you are applying to.
Make sure your font is readable and that you are consistent with any formatting you decide to use.
Don’t include your salary history in your CV. You also shouldn’t include why you left your last position.
When you’re working on a resume, it’s common to use a type of formatting called “gapping.” Gapping is when you take a full sentence and cut it down to the most basic components in order to convey the most amount of information in the least amount of words.
However, when writing your CV, you will want to use full sentences. It’s also important to work in action words that help to not only draw in the reader, but keep them engaged in what they’re reading.
Here, let me show you the difference. Let’s pretend you were a Logistics Manager in a service department at a company. If you were writing a resume and utilizing gapping, you might note your experience like this:
Again, this example is perfectly acceptable for a resume. For a CV, however, you want to make sure you’re including more information and utilizing your action words.
I worked as a Public Relations Manager from 2008 to 2012. During that time I oversaw and lead a team of twenty employees committed to providing quality customer service.
Need another example?
Rather than saying you were just a marketing manager for five years (perfectly acceptable on a resume), make sure to include words that convey what you did.
I spent five years refining my abilities as a negotiator and motivator, using my skills as a problem solver to help persuade clients to try new and exciting products.
When printing your CV, always print your pages single sided. Yes, it’s longer than a resume, and it’s tempting to try to save paper by printing double sided, but resist that temptation!
As a CV is longer than a resume and can often run several pages, make sure you include page numbers on every page except for the first one.
And remember as well to always be honest in your CV.
A template? Errrrrm, here is one thing about CV’s…
They are large documents that contain all kinds of different information and vary greatly depending on who the job seeker is (and more importantly, what field they are in).
I really don’t know how to put it, but there isn’t really a “magic bullet” CV template that will allow you to just plug and play.
Your CV and Resume may or may not include the following:
Your CV and Resume should NOT include the following:
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