Curriculum Vitae (CV) Format (Example Plus Formatting Tips)
If you’re pursuing job opportunities in academia or looking for work outside the United States, you may need to create a CV for your job search. Much like a resume, this document provides employers with a detailed account of your professional and educational history to help them decide on whether you’re a good fit for the position. Properly formatting your CV is necessary to make your document clear, professional and easy to read. There are three primary CV format options: chronological, functional and combination.
In this article, we discuss how to create and properly format a CV, compare CVs to resumes, review CV components, share a CV example and provide formatting CV tips for when building your own.
What is a curriculum vitae?
A curriculum vitae (CV), Latin for “course of life,” is a detailed professional document highlighting one’s education, experience and accomplishments. A CV may also include your professional references, as well as coursework, fieldwork, hobbies and interests relevant to your profession.
You might also choose to add a personal profile to your CV 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 in academia, education, science and research. A CV is typically longer than a traditional resume and includes additional sections such as for research and publications, presentations and professional associations.
CVs are commonly two or more pages while resumes are typically only one page in length. Outside the U.S., the terms are often used interchangeably, meaning your one-page resume is typically appropriate for a job application when the employer requests a CV.
Tip: In academia, a CV is used when seeking both teaching and research positions, but also when applying for a fellowship or grant.
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
How to format 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:
2. Check your margins
A good rule of thumb is to keep your margins between 0.5 - 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.
Tip: While the PDF format will save your CV’s formatting, not all ATS can parse this format correctly. To ensure all of the information on your CV is able to be scanned correctly, choose a .docx format.
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.
Tip: Before you send your CV, take the time to carefully check your spelling, grammar and syntax. An error-free CV increases readability and demonstrates professionalism.
Related: Q&A: How Long Should a CV Be?
Here's an example of a properly formatted CV:
Portland, OR I 503-555-0123 | email@example.com
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—will work for a CV, but consider the 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 position you’re seeking. When you format your CV, consider this order for your CV’s elements:
Academic history (if you’re not in academia or a recent graduate this can be moved beneath Professional experience)
Qualifications and skills
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 bullet points in your professional experience section to reinforce these skills and provide examples demonstrating their use.
This has two benefits: One, recruiters looking quickly at a combination CV will see the keywords they’re looking for on the first page. Two, the increase in the mention of keywords may help your CV score higher in an applicant tracking system (ATS) if the recruiter is using one to screen applications.
Tailor your CV for each application
Each section of your CV should be tailored to the role you’re applying for 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, and mention them throughout your CV in your skills, professional experience and education sections.
Make your CV ATS-friendly
An ATS is a common tool companies use to quickly and efficiently identify qualified candidates. CVs built with both the applicant tracking system and role-specific keywords in mind may rank higher than others.
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. To make your CV ATS-friendly:
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.
Forgo tables, columns, headers and footers. While these elements might seem like great methods of organizing complex information on a CV, not all applicant tracking systems can parse this information correctly and your information may be lost.
Label CV sections correctly. Similarly, you'll want to label your CV sections simply. Using fancy formatting may look nice but when an ATS translates this type of formatting, the information can potentially get scattered or lost and result in missing some of your most critical information.
Frequently asked questions
How do I make my CV look professional?
Review your CV carefully for any typos, misspellings or inaccuracies. Refrain from including any photos or graphics, and instead, focus your CV on career accomplishments and high-value information about your skills and achievements.
How often should I update my CV?
Update your CV every time you apply for a new role to ensure you include relevant keywords and skills. When maintaining a general version of your CV, update it each time you take a class, finish a job or have a major career accomplishment, like a publication or award.
Do CVs include professional summaries?
Professional summaries, sometimes called professional profiles, are optional on CVs. These brief two- or three-sentence sections detail your most relevant accomplishments, career specializations or goals. You might include a summary or profile if you're a recent graduate whose CV might benefit from some context or if you've made a career transition and want to explain how your skills transfer.
Does order matter on a CV?
It's advisable to prioritize the most relevant sections on your CV. For teaching positions, for example, include professional appointments at the top of your resume. For graduate school applications, list your academic history first.
Explore more articles
- 9 Top Undergraduate Majors to Prepare for Medical School
- Comparing Jobs: Executive Director vs. Managing Director
- What Is a Network Architect? Definition, Career Requirements and Sample Job Description
- What's the Job Outlook for Teachers in 2023
- 17 Jobs That Hire Teens
- How To Become a Casino Dealer
- 11 Careers in Basketball (Plus Primary Duties and Salaries)
- Law Firm Partner vs. Associate: What's the Difference?
- 18 Computer Science Careers in the Military
- Top 12 Highest-Paying Trade Jobs in Demand for 2023
- 12 Careers That Involve Debating
- 30 Digital Arts Major Jobs (With Salaries and Job Search Tips)