How To Write A CV or Curriculum Vitae (Example Included)

By Mike Simpson

In the job hunting market, there are lots of ways an employer can learn about potential hires; from business cards, to personal websites, to job applications.

Of course, no little piece of paper is better known than the resume. But what if an employer asks you for a CV?

What is a CV?

To really figure out what a CV is, we first have to talk about what CV means. The letters CV stand for curriculum vitae which is Latin for “course of life.”

When used in a job seeking context, a CV (also sometimes referred to as just a vita) is a detailed accounting of not only a person’s pastwhat-is-a-cv(1) history of education, experiences and qualifications but also related accomplishments and is generally used when an individual is looking for a job.

So basically a resume, right? Basically…yes…but really it’s so much more than just that.


Let’s go back to what a resume is…or actually, what it isn’t.

A resume isn’t very long.

Ideally a good solid resume is about one page in length and can be submitted for almost any type of job on the market. When you type up a resume, you’re usually just covering your work and educational history.

FREE BONUS PDF CHEAT SHEET: Get our "CV" Cheat Sheet that gives you a Step-by-Step Process that will help you produce a perfect CV.


You might include certain professional affiliations and possibly highlight specific major awards that relate to the job you’re applying for, but it’s usually a concise document. Short and sweet.

A Curriculum Vitae on the other hand, is much longer and covers much, much more information.

A CV is a thorough and comprehensive document, detailing not only your education and work history, but also your achievements, awards, any honors you’ve been conferred and any and all of your publications.

Depending on how much you’ve accomplished, the full document can range in length from two to three to ten pages, or more!

Is a traditional resume what you actually came to this article looking for?  Don't worry, we've got you covered! Head over to our article "How To Make A Resume 101" to find out exactly what your resume needs to get you a job offer!

When Do I Use a Curriculum Vitae?

But why would someone use a CV…and more importantly, who would need to use a CV?

Individuals who use a CV format when applying for a job are generally applicants who need to convey a large amount of information which will not only help to tell an employer who they are but help define them and their work within a specific discipline.

To put it simply, CVs are traditionally used for individuals who are looking for employment in academic, research, or scholarly positions. Many PhDs, educators and teachers working at the university level (and above) will use a Curriculum Vitae rather than a resume to outline not only their work history, but their published academic papers and professional accomplishments as well.

Let’s break it down even further:

Resumes are used by individuals looking to define themselves in professional terms, showcasing the specific skills they have.

A CV is used by an individual looking to define themselves in scholarly terms and showcases their education and areas of expertise.

Okay, I’m a grad-student and I’m getting ready to move into the world of academics…so a CV is something I should have. Are there other people who use CVs?


While people in academics and education are the most likely to be asked to produce a CV for a job, there are other job seekers who need to have a solid CV as well, including individuals who are in medical and/or scientific fields as well as people in research or looking to work abroad.

Both United States and Canadian citizens who are interested in traveling overseas (most often to the U.K.) should be prepared to have potential employers ask them for a thorough CV.

In fact, in certain countries, like mainland Europe, Ireland and New Zealand, as well as the Middle East, Africa or Asia, a CV is a standard request for any job!

A Curriculum Vitae can also be requested when an individual is applying for grants, scholarships, and in some cases, internships as well.

You should start by downloading our “CV Cheat Sheet”, which will show you how to build your CV with a handy crib sheet. Click here to download the cheat sheet now.

resume-vs-cv(1)CV vs Resume

How are resumes and CVs alike?

As we said above, both are used to obtain an employment position and both are an ever evolving ‘living document’ (by living document we mean it’s a document you constantly update and keep current based on your own work history and experiences…not that you have to feed it and take it for walks daily. That would just be weird.)

How are resumes and CVs different?

Well, for starters…and certainly most obviously, the length.

Again, just to reiterate, a resume is generally one page long, whereas a CV is as long as you need it to be to thoroughly cover all the information you will be including.

Another way it’s different is how it’s written.

A good resume is specifically targeted (or as we like to say, “tailored”) to the job you’re applying to.

You make sure to highlight the relevant skills and experiences you’ve had that align to the position