What is a Curriculum Vitae or CV?

We're happy to have you!
••• PeopleImages / Getty Images

A curriculum vitae is a document one uses to apply for employment. It provides detailed information about an individual's educational and work history. Often called a CV, it is much more comprehensive than a resume and therefore it can be much longer. There is no limit to how long, but it must include only information that is needed to illustrate your academic and professional experience. A lengthy CV isn't better than a short one if it contains irrelevant data.

A job applicant who is seeking an academic job, for example, a teaching appointment at a college or university or a research position, should always use a CV. They are also used when applying for jobs outside the U.S., but in that context are quite similar to resumes. If you are unsure about which application document to send to a prospective employer, use the job announcement to guide you. It will usually state which document the institution wants.

What Should You Put on Your CV?

Like a resume, your CV must begin with your contact information, for instance, your complete name, address, telephone number and email address. You must also indicate your area or areas of academic interest.  

While a resume's focus is on an applicant's experience and has a bit of information about one's educational background, for example, schools attended and degrees earned, your CV should include a comprehensive account of your academic history, including the title of your dissertation or thesis. It must contain details about all publications, research projects and presentations to which you have contributed. You should also list all grants, academic awards and other related honors.

The employment and experience section of your CV should contain your teaching and research positions, both paid and unpaid. In addition to jobs, including internships and volunteer experiences here. Following that section, discuss your memberships in scholarly and professional associations and include offices you have held, if any.

Finally, you will also provide a list of references, along with their contact information, on your curriculum vitae. These are the people who have written letters of recommendation about you. Doing this is also in contrast to a resume, which would never contain this information.

CV Mistakes to Avoid

  • Don't get creative. Your resume should use a simple font, like Helvetica. Times New Roman is okay, but many people consider it "boring." Use white or another neutral colored paper with black ink for the hard copies of your resume.
  • Consult the job announcement to see what format an employer wants your CV to be in. If it isn't indicated there, use a standard one, like .docx.
  • Only include factual information. Lying on your CV will only result in horrible consequences. Given how small most areas of academic interest are, any inaccurate information will likely follow you throughout your career.
  • Stay away from personal information like hobbies and physical attributes.
  • Make sure you use an email address that sounds professional. A silly, vulgar or suggestive one could get your CV tossed.
  • Check and then double-check for any typos, misspellings, grammatical errors and other mistakes. Have someone who has an excellent command of the language, and an eagle eye, proofread your CV for you. A mistake-laden document will make you look sloppy and careless, and that certainly isn't the message you want to convey to a potential employer.