How to Format Your CV

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Curriculum vitae typed on typewriter
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In the tech industry, a curriculum vitae, or CV, may be used instead of a resume for professionals in academia or research. A CV may also be used by technology professionals that are in certain industries, such as medicine or bioinformatics. A CV or curriculum vitae is most commonly used outside of the U.S. Some US-based Ph.D. graduates use a short CV instead of a resume.

Different From a Resume

There are many differences between a CV and a resume, and these differences will help highlight the different formatting of a CV. A CV normally contains much more personal information than a resume does. CVs also are very education and research-focused, where a resume is much more focused on summarizing your work history. A CV will not contain an objective and will not have a narrative profile. CV’s often run on for many pages. It is different from resumes, which tend to be one to two-page summaries. A good CV, though, should be well organized with clear headings.

Since research and references are a highlight of CVs, you are much more likely to see "name-dropping" on a CV. For example, if you performed research under a certain professor, you would probably include the professor’s name and title on your CV. It is also common for CVs to contain a section of publications to which the candidate has contributed.

Typical Sections

CV’s often contain many more categories of information than resumes. Experience may be divided between headings for Teaching and Research; education may be divided between degrees and Continuing Education or Advanced Training.

Outside of the US, it common to include a photo and personal details on a CV. Personal information such as gender, date of birth, marital status, and even names and ages of children are not uncommon. Hobbies and outside interests are found on CVs much more often than on resumes. It is especially common to include hobbies and interests that either show what a well-rounded person the candidate is or that align with the candidate’s experience. For example, it is common for electrical engineers to build and fly model airplanes. Many computer science majors are also very interested in music.

General CV Format

Here are some general CV formatting guidelines, shown in order of how they would normally appear on a CV:

  • Contact information: At the top of every CV, you should include your name, the title "Curriculum Vitae," and your contact information (This could include your current address, your permanent address, your telephone numbers, your fax number, and your email address).
  • Professional or Research Objectives: This part of your CV states the reason that you have composed and are distributing a CV. Your objective can be as brief as one sentence (if it is general) or as long as a paragraph. This section should be an overview of your intellectual interests and expertise.
  • Education: The education section of the CV serves as a means of providing a more thorough picture of your education than a resume provides. If you are working towards a graduate degree(s), place this information prior to your undergraduate information. Some of the items that might be included here would be degrees and the dates you received them; names of universities, colleges, or professional programs that you have attended; the title of your doctoral dissertation, master's thesis, or undergraduate thesis; your degree program (in graduate school) and your major/minor (undergraduate); Diplomas or certificates.
  • Honors and Awards: Such as departmental awards, fellowships, dean's list standings, scholarships, and memberships in academic honors associations.
  • Thesis or dissertation abstract: A paragraph or two, including the title and the date of completion.
  • Research Interests: Consider your audience when phrasing the specifics of your research interests.
  • Research or Laboratory Experience: Detail the extent to which you have experience in the lab or other types of hands-on research. Include the title of each project and whether it's been published in any journal(s), as well as the names of the professors or other supervisors and whether the project is ongoing.
  • Work Experience: Any work experience outside a research or academic setting would also be included in here.
  • Teaching Interests and Experience: List any teaching experiences that you can document appropriately (include the class title and a brief description, if necessary). You can also include tutoring experience or group leader experience.
  • Specialized Skills: List all skills - interpersonal, leadership, organization, academic, analytical - and their applications.
  • Publications, Presentations, Works-in-Progress: Provide the appropriate references for any publications that you have contributed to, co-authored, or authored. If you have any works that are being considered for publication, include these as well. For papers that you have presented at academic conferences or professional associations, give the title, the name of the conference, the location of the conference, and the date.
  • Professional Associations or Memberships: Membership in professional associations should be listed as a separate component of your CV. If you are not a member of any professional organization, find out which one is important to your discipline and how you can earn eligibility for membership.
  • Background: This is usually personal information that doesn't fit into other parts of the CV, including citizenship status, prolonged residence or studying abroad, and uncommon work or educational experiences.
  • Community Service: If you have substantial volunteering experience or contributions to a community, put them in a section together apart from the Work Experience section. It can include membership in campus-wide organizations (generally those that are service-based).

Format Guidelines

  • Activities List all the clubs that you have been active in. If this includes officer positions, list those too.
  • Travel: Some of this may already be covered in the Background section. Don't include tourist visits here, but list study abroad experiences. Include the cities, states, or regions, and countries alphabetically. Briefly describe the experience and the duration of your visit.
  • References or Letters of Recommendation: This optional component is for listing the people who you asked to write recommendations for you. That is, you must have the permission to use people as references. Include the person's name and title. You may also use a general phrase here such as "references available on request."

Examples of Section Headings

Depending on your background and your area of specialty, there may be other sections you would want to include when you format your CV. It may also depend on what the purpose of your CV is. For example, if your CV is for job searching, you may include one set of information, but of the CV is for admission to a graduate program of study, you may want to include different information. Here is a list of other section titles that you may consider for your CV:

  • Degrees
  • Dissertations
  • Theses
  • All other college studies
  • Clinics
  • Training
  • Specialization
  • Expertise
  • Profession
  • Interests
  • Employment
  • Class projects
  • Research Study abroad
  • Teaching
  • Workshops
  • Continuing education
  • Seminars
  • Conferences
  • Symposia
  • Publications
  • Translations
  • Presentations
  • Papers
  • Lectures
  • Exhibitions
  • Volunteer experience
  • Service
  • Languages
  • Additional activities
  • Technical skills
  • Computer skills
  • Licenses
  • Credentials
  • Honors
  • Scholarships
  • Fellowships
  • Assistantships
  • Grants
  • Appointments
  • Consulting
  • Practica
  • Travel (non-tourist)
  • Laboratory skills
  • Sports
  • Awards
  • Bibliography
  • Addenda
  • Affiliation
  • Pro bono
  • Committees

If you have done any design work or artistic work of any kind, you would also include a link to your online portfolio on your CV. It is common for user experience designers and web designers, as well as human factors engineers and others that would have a design style they might want to showcase.

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