What Is a CV? Curriculum Vitae Definition and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

11 February 2021

When you're preparing to apply for jobs, you need to make sure you have a CV that impresses employers. Learning about what to include in a CV and how to create one ensures you create a document that hiring managers want to read. In this article, we describe what a CV is, guide you through steps for writing your CV and provide a CV template and example.

What is a curriculum vitae?

A CV, short for the Latin phrase curriculum vitae, which means “course of life." It's is a document that details your best qualities as they relate to the open role. It is standard practice to submit your CV when applying for any job, from entry-level to senior positions. A typical CV shows your professional history, academic background and key skills. You can add other sections to your CV if they are relevant to the position, including achievements and hobbies.

How to write a CV

Here are nine steps for writing a strong CV:

  1. Include your contact information

  2. Detail your academic history

  3. List your professional experience

  4. Include relevant skills and qualifications

  5. List achievements and awards

  6. Include relevant publications and presentations

  7. List your professional associations and affiliations

  8. Add hobbies and interests

  9. Review and edit

1. Include your contact information

Add your full name, location, phone number and email address. You can include your full physical address or just your city for basic reference. If you have a professional networking profile or website that displays your work, include the link in your contact information. That way, employers can review more information about your professional qualifications.

2. Detail your academic history

You can include your master's degree, postgraduate program, undergraduate program and secondary school, from most to least recent. It is not always necessary to detail your secondary school education, however. You will typically only detail your two most recent educational experiences. Include your graduation year if you graduated within the last five years. If you're working toward a degree, add your anticipated graduation date.

3. List your professional experience

List the company or organization, job title and dates employed, starting with your most recent job. List your job duties, experience gained and achievements for each role. Try to only list jobs that you had in the past 10 years to show hiring managers your most relevant work.

4. Include relevant skills and qualifications

Reread the job description to highlight the most important skills employers are looking for. These can include both hard and soft skills that make you the best candidate for the job.

5. List achievements and awards

Use this section to outline your achievements in the field related to your application. Start with the award name followed by the year awarded and the awarding body. You can use bullet points to give any clarifying details about the achievement, such as why you received the award or how many people earn it.

6. Include relevant publications and presentations

Include citations of presentations, papers, studies, books or other publications you've been a part of that are important to your professional history. For publications, include authors, date published, summary, volume, page and DOI number. For presentations, include the title, date and location of the presentation.

7. List your professional associations and affiliations

Include the name of the organization, geographic location or chapter and dates of active membership. If you hold a certain position, such as secretary or treasurer, include that information as well.

8. Add hobbies and interests

If you think your CV is lacking in some areas, you can add a small section at the end for hobbies and interests. A unique or relevant interest can help you stand out as a candidate or show that you are suitable for a particular job's industry. For example, detailing the fact that you are a climate change activist can help you land environmental work.

9. Review and edit

Before submitting your job application, be sure to thoroughly review your CV for any errors or inconsistencies. Consider asking a trusted colleague or professional mentor to review it as well—especially if they are experienced in the industry you're applying to. A second opinion can be useful in helping you craft a well-polished CV. Run your CV through editing software for typos or grammar mistakes.

You should also review the job posting to ensure you include all of the information the employer asks for.

CV tips

Here are some CV layout tips to make your document more readable and help recruiters identify the most important points:

  • Separate your sections with different font sizes and styles. To make each section stand out, make your headers a different style or size than your CV content. You can make them bold, put them in italics, or change the size by two points.

  • Add a summary or objective. Include an opening statement that sums up who you are as a professional in two or three short sentences. Focus on what your career goals are and what you can bring to the job you're applying for.

  • Use bullet points. Where you can, add bullet points to summarize your work and achievements. Bullets are usually easier to read than full sentences, which hiring managers appreciate. Try to use bullets for your work responsibilities, skills, achievements and professional memberships.

  • Keep your wording concise. Employers only have a short amount of time to read through each CV they receive. To ensure they gather the most information from your CV, be concise. Avoid using full sentences that take longer to read. You can omit articles like "a" and "the" to create shorter phrases that focus more on active words.

  • Present the information within each section in a logical order. Start with your most recent work experience, education and achievements and work your way backwards. That way, employers can see your progression and what you have learned throughout the years.

  • Lead with your strengths. For example, if you have an impressive educational background but you lack work experience, start with your education history.

  • Use a professional email address. Your email address should be some form of your name, and it may include numbers. Consider creating a professional email address if you don't have one yet.

  • Omit images like graphics and headshots. Unless the employer specifically asks for a headshot, leave it out. Graphics can distract from your qualifications, so it's best to leave those for your professional portfolio.

  • Use a professional font. Times New Roman, Arial and Calibri are all good CV fonts. An overly stylistic font could make your CV harder to read, so stay with professional fonts.

  • Check your margins. You usually want 2.5-centimetre margins all around your CV. The extra white space can make your CV more visually appealing.

  • Be consistent with your name. Ensure you use exactly the same format for your name across all application materials. Using a nickname or abbreviated version on your CV and your full name on the application can be confusing, and it might make it more difficult for employers to contact you. Use your full name on your application materials, and specify if you prefer to be called another name in the interview.

CV template

This template can help you include the right information in the correct spot:

[Your name]
[Address]
[Phone number]
[Email address]

Education

[Degree, year obtained]

[School]

Professional experience

[Employer]

[Job title | Years worked]

  • [A bullet list of responsibilities and achievements]

Skills and qualifications

  • [A bullet list of best skills and qualifications]

Awards and honours

  • [A bullet list of relevant awards and honours]

Publications and presentations

[The authors, (year) "Title or presentation name." Journal or publisher. Volume, page and DOI number.]

Professional associations and affiliations

  • [A bullet list of relevant memberships or associations]

CV example

Review this CV example when writing your own:

Stephen Patel
98 Guild Street, London, E6 3QY
07821 198765
joe.t.smith@email.com

Education

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree, 2018

University of London

Professional experience

University of Southampton

Professor, School of Veterinary Sciences | 2012–2018

  • Taught multiple undergraduate and graduate courses in veterinary sciences.

  • Fostered student commitment to lifelong learning and excellence in veterinary sciences.

  • Acted as a student advisor to first-year veterinary school students.

Skills and qualifications

  • Team leadership

  • Seminar instruction

  • Fluent in English and Spanish

  • Specialization in livestock science research and development

Awards and honours

  • PETA Advocacy Award, 2018

  • RSPCA Animal Welfare Award, 2016

Publications and presentations

Patel, S., Franklin, L., Sedaris, L., (2019) “Study of sustainable livestock practices and global economic impact.” Journal of Livestock Sciences. 139: 463-6532.

Professional associations and affiliations

  • UK of Laboratory Animal Medicine (2013–Present)

  • UK Veterinary Medical Association (2011–Present)