What Is a Curriculum Vitae (CV) and Do I Need One?

Check out our guide to help you understand what a curriculum vitae is, when it's needed, its benefits, and what information to leave off it.
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  • CVs are best used when applying for certain jobs, and resumes for others.
  • There are advantages and disadvantages to using a CV to apply for jobs.
  • Even though CVs are longer, make sure to leave off certain pieces of information.
  • CVs have many benefits, even if you're not using them to apply to every job.

When it comes to applying for jobs, you know you need to present your skills and experience in the best way possible. Many places will ask for either a curriculum vitae (CV) or a resume. It is important to remember that these two are not the same thing.

Knowing which to use and making it as impressive as possible is key because, according to Indeed, employers, on average, look at resumes for only 6-7 seconds. That is an incredibly short time to gain someone's attention.

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Having a good CV or resume can help you at least get through that initial screening. Read on to learn more about the differences between the two.

CV vs. Resume

Understanding the difference between a CV and a resume will help you determine which to submit to employers to have the most success in your job search.

Getting past that initial screening is just the first step toward a new job. More will come later, but you need to get past that screening. So here's a rundown of CVs and resumes.

A CV and resume both should be tailored for the position you're applying for and show why you're the best candidate for the job. Despite what we may have tacked onto the bottom when we didn't have much work history, neither of these should include personal interests or hobbies.

Curriculum vitae is a Latin term that means "course of life." CVs tend to be longer than resumes, usually 3-4 pages. They can include education history, professional experience, skills, research projects, published works, coursework, awards, and other achievements.

Resumes tend to be 1-2 pages. They are more condensed versions of a CV. Either way, a well-written CV or resume is how to stand out among applicants. Instead of including everything in a resume, you focus on the skills and experiences relevant to the specific position to which you are applying.

Who Uses a CV?

Most of the time, you will submit a resume for jobs in the United States. Exceptions include when you are applying for positions in the academia, science, research, or medical fields.

If you are applying for a fellowship, a grant, graduate school, or a Ph.D. program, a CV may also be the right choice to fully showcase your skills and experience. If you are considering a position abroad, other countries tend to use a CV. So you will want to send one of those for jobs in those locations.

Benefits of a Good CV

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    Helps you stand out against other applicants: The biggest benefit of having a good CV is setting yourself apart from the other applicants. According to Glassdoor, each corporate job will draw, on average, 250 resumes. That is a ton of people to go through, so you need to do something to draw attention to your CV.
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    Reminds you of all of the experience you have: Thinking back through everything we've done can be a huge undertaking. You may find that you have more experience than you realized. Going back through your history to create a CV will remind you of all your skills and experiences. By listing all of these on your CV, you may attract the attention of more recruiters. All of this can also help you gain confidence as you move forward in your job search.
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    Gives a bigger picture of who you are: CVs offer a bit more freedom as you list more information about yourself. You can list all of your experience instead of focusing on relevant experience like you do for a resume. Not only can you list all of your professional information, but you can also show a bit more of your personality.
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    Saves time: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of November 2020, it takes an average of about 24 weeks to find a job. By creating one extensive CV, you will have all of your experience in one place. It also helps you optimize your LinkedIn profile more easily. According to Statistic Brain, of the 122 million people surveyed, 35.5 million were hired by someone they connected with through LinkedIn.

Things You Can Leave Off Your CV

Even though you can include more information on a CV, it doesn't mean that you can't trim it. You want everything to serve a purpose, and there are some things that you can leave off.

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    An objective: Since CVs are a larger look at all of your experience, it doesn't make sense to include an objective as if you were targeting a specific position. It is better to include information about yourself at the top.
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    Headshot: Including a headshot may take up space that you could use to highlight your skills. If a potential employer wants to know what you look like, they can always look you up on LinkedIn.
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    Hobbies: Personal hobbies that don't pertain to your professional life should be left off.
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    Personal information: You don't need to include information about where you live on your CV — although there are differing opinions on this. Your potential employer likely won't be sending you mail there anyway. However, be sure to include your contact information — phone number and email address.
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    References: Unless requested, do not include references on your CV. Potential employers may contact your references before you're even aware that you're in consideration for the job. You also want the chance to prepare your references for calls and/or email inquiries. So it's better to give this information later if it is requested.
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    Salary history: Potential employers don't need to know your salary history. It could put you at a disadvantage by revealing it too early.
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    Reasons for leaving jobs: Even though this may come up during an interview, you don't need to reveal reasons for leaving jobs upfront.

Bottom Line

CVs can be excellent for applying for specific positions and organizing your thoughts. Even though you may not submit one to every job you apply for, it is still helpful to have one.

When applying to some jobs, you will not need to submit a CV. In fact, it could be a disadvantage if you do.

Because of its sheer size, recruiters may not have the patience to find the relevant skills to a particular job in your resume. Therefore, they will have a hard time evaluating you against other applicants. Be sure to send in the right job/experience history — a resume or a CV — depending on the open position.

Frequently Asked Questions About a CV

Is a CV a cover letter?

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No, a CV is not the same as a cover letter. A CV is more like an extended resume. Cover letters address your experience and also specifics to the job description. They are used in conjunction with a resume. Cover letters are used to potentially impress hiring managers, tell the employer more about yourself, and address specific skills and how they relate to a certain position.

Is it OK to send a CV over a resume?

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It is OK to send a CV over a resume -- when the position calls for it. Otherwise, a CV may be too overwhelming for certain positions and harder to evaluate. CVs are typically required for positions in academia, research, science, medical fields, or if otherwise indicated. They should not be used in place of a resume.

How long should a CV be?

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CVs can be as long as you need them to be, but most of them tend to be 3-4 pages, depending on your career level. For those applying for a position in academia, it may go longer than four pages.

You want to be sure to include important background information, experience, educational background, honors and awards, skills and qualifications, and relevant contact information. Be sure to leave out personal information or hobbies.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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