If you’re pursuing opportunities in academia or looking for work outside the United States, you may need to create a CV for your job search. This document provides employers with a detailed account of your professional and educational history to decide whether you’re a good fit for a job.
Formatting your CV correctly is necessary to make your document clear, professional and easy to read. There are three CV primary format options to choose from: chronological, functional and combination. In this article, we discuss how to create a compelling CV, provide formatting tips and examples.
If you aren't sure how to format your CV, check out Indeed’s professional resume review services.
Related: What Is a CV?
What is a curriculum vitae?
A curriculum vitae (CV), Latin for “course of life,” is a detailed professional document highlighting a person’s education, experience and accomplishments. A CV may also include professional references, as well as coursework, fieldwork, hobbies and interests relevant to your profession. You might also choose to add a personal profile that lists your skills and positive attributes to ensure employers have a well-rounded view of your personality and achievements.
CV vs. Resume
In the U.S., employers in certain industries may require a CV as part of your job application instead of a resume such as academia, education, science and research. A CV is typically longer than a traditional resume and includes additional sections such as research and publications, presentations, professional associations and more. CVs are commonly two or more pages while resumes are typically only one page in length.
Outside of the U.S., the terms “CV” and “resume” are often used interchangeably, meaning your one-page resume is typically appropriate for a job application when the employer requests a CV.
What to include on a CV
Your CV should include the following sections:
- Contact information: Include your full name, address, phone number and email address.
- Academic history: List all schooling from high school through postdoctoral (if applicable). Include the title of the degree you earned, the year you graduated and the name of the school.
- Professional experience: Include the organization where you worked, the job title, the dates you were employed and a summary of your experience and achievements.
- Qualifications and skills: List a combination of hard and soft skills you’ve developed throughout your career.
- Awards and honors: For each award, add the name, year received, the organization that gave you the award and any pertinent details (such as how often it’s presented).
- Publications and presentations: For publications, provide a full citation including your co-authors, date, summary, volume, page, DOI number. For presentations, provide the title, date and venue where you presented.
- Professional associations: List the organization’s name, location or chapter and the dates of active membership.
- Grants and scholarships: Provide the name of the grant or scholarship, date awarded and the institution that provided the award.
Licenses and certifications: Include the name of the license or certificate, the date you earned it and the institution that awarded it.
Read more: What To Include in Your CV
- Name and contact information
- Professional history
How to write a CV
When it comes to formatting your CV, there are four more factors you’ll need to consider:
1. Choose the right font type and size
Your CV should be legible and easy to follow. To improve readability, it's best to choose a sans-serif font between 10 and 11 points. It should be clean and simple without much detail or decor.
Here are several examples of good fonts for your CV:
- Proxima Nova
2. Check your margins
A good rule of thumb is to keep your margins between .5 - 1 inch. Margins that are too large will leave too much white space while margins that are too small can make the page look busy and overfilled. Both may be distracting or off-putting to recruiters and hiring managers.
3. Utilize your space effectively
CVs can become lengthy, especially if you’ve been in your industry for several years and have amassed a great deal of experience. To ensure you’re using space effectively and your CV is easy to read, consider using the following techniques:
Organize with bulleted lists: Make lists, (such as your collection of skills or awards) easier to consume by adding small bullets.
Use section headers: Distinguish section headers from the rest of your CV content by making them bolder, larger or underlined.
Bold keywords: In addition to section headers, consider bolding other important words, such as your name and job titles, to set them apart.
Remove irrelevant information: Use the limited space on your CV to promote only the most relevant and impressive information about your background. Remove experience older than 15 years and dates from your education section if you have five or more years of professional experience.
Related: Q&A: How Long Should a CV Be?
Before you send your CV to employers, take time to carefully check your spelling, grammar and syntax. A clean, error-free CV increases readability and demonstrates professionalism. Recruit a trusted friend, family member or colleague to review your resume. A fresh set of eyes often catches mistakes you may have missed.
A well-composed CV shares all the most essential information employers need when considering you for job opportunities. By making sure your CV is comprehensive, correctly formatted and easy to read, you’re one step closer to landing the job you want.
Read more: 27 Proofreading Tips To Improve Your Resume
Portland, OR I 503-555-0123 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Masters of Communication, 2017
University of Denver
University of Georgia Center for Computational Chemistry
Research Assistant 2009–2011
- Conducted physical and chemical laboratory tests to assist research scientists in qualitative and quantitative analyses.
- Operated experimental pilots and assisted in developing new chemical engineering processes.
- Maintained all laboratory equipment to ensure a clean and safe work environment for students and faculty.
Fluent in English and Mandarin
Awards and Honors
Wolf Prize in Medicine, 2018
Awarded to up to three individuals globally, each year, for achievements in medical science.
Publications and Presentations
Understanding Auditory Sensitivity Issues in Children with Autism
2016, World Autism Organization Conference
American Society of Journalists and Authors, New York (2010–Present)
Grants and Scholarships
The Oglesby-Snyder Grant for Equity and Cultural Diversity, 2012
Association for Applied Sport Psychology
Licenses and Certifications
Certificate in Sociological Practice, 2004
Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology
Tips for writing a CV
Here are some tips for creating a comprehensive CV:
Choose the right format
All three common formats—chronological, functional and combination—work for a CV, but an effective format is combination. This CV type is a hybrid of the chronological and functional formats and allows adequate space for details about both your professional and educational history, as well as your skills and accomplishments. The elements you place first depend on your experience, career goals and what you believe is most relevant to the types of positions you’re seeking.
Consider this order:
- Contact information
- Academic history (if you’re not in academia or a recent graduate this can be moved beneath Professional experience)
- Qualifications and skills
- Professional experience
- Publications and presentations
- Awards and honors
- Grants and scholarships
- Licenses and certifications
Consider including a concise skills and accomplishments section before work experience to showcase the key skills that align to that particular role. Then, use the bullet points in your professional experience section to reinforce these skills and provide examples demonstrating their use. This has two benefits: recruiters looking quickly at a combination CV will see the keywords they are looking for on the first page and the increase in the mention of keywords may rank your CV higher in an applicant tracking system (ATS) if the recruiter is using one to screen applications before reviewing CVs.
Tailor your CV for each application
Each section of your CV should be tailored to the position in order to make it through an ATS and pique the interest of a recruiter. Use the job description as your guide to identify the key skills the company is looking for that you have. Instead of abbreviating, spell out requirements like skills and certifications that you and mention throughout your CV in your skills, professional experience and education sections.
Make your CV ATS-friendly
An applicant tracking system is a common tool used by companies to quickly and efficiently identify qualified candidates. CVs built with both the ATS and role-specific keywords in mind rank higher than others even though your CV will likely be scanned with ATS software, you can use this to your advantage when you know strategies to ensure your CV is ranked higher:
- Incorporate ATS keywords. ATS keywords are specific words or phrases employers identify as requirements for a specific position. These can include words that identify qualified candidates based on education, skills, experience and the industry or position.
- Avoid complex formatting. Tables, columns, headers and footers might seem like great methods of organizing complex information on a CV, however not all applicant tracking systems can parse this information correctly. When an ATS translates this type of formatting, the information within such complex formatting can get scattered or lost and can result in missing some of your most critical information.
- Save your CV in the right file format. While a PDF format might seem like the best format for your CV to save your formatting, not all ATSs can parse this format correctly. To ensure that all of the information on your CV is able to be scanned correctly, choose a .docx format.