What is a CV (and does it matter for your job search)?

Posted December 10, 2020

The CV, formally known as a Curriculum Vitae (Latin for Course of Life) is one of those job search tools that most job seekers know very little about. It’s one of those terms you’ve probably heard throughout the course of your job searching, maybe since your college days, but you may never have actually known what it was. 

If you are one of the many people who nods their heads when CV talk comes up, pretending to know what it is only to rush to Google it after you get home (or maybe sneak into the bathroom to reference your phone)--well, you’ve come to the right place. And if you already sort of know what a CV is but aren’t really sure if you need one, or how to write one, we’ve got you covered too! 

Our CareerBliss team of experts has been at this a long time, and we know what job seekers like you need to know to land the job you want. Our goal is to help you find your careerbliss.

And it just so happens that a CV may be the thing that sets you apart from your peers vying for the same job. We say may because a CV, in fact, is a unique piece of the toolkit that isn’t required for every job. Its suited to specific types of job applications, which we’ll go into below.

One of the best ways to illustrate a CV is to compare it to the more familiar job search tool--the resume. Some people think they can be used interchangeably, but in fact, there are key differences that may make one more appropriate, depending on the situation. Before we get into all that, let’s delve into what a CV actually is, and parse out the main differences between a CV and a resume.

Are you looking for a job while still in college? Or looking for work post-graduation or during your gap year? You’re not alone.Read about How to write a college resume

What’s the difference between a CV and a traditional resume?

Depending on where you’re from, a CV can mean two different things. Outside of North America, a CV is basically synonymous with a resume. However, in America and Canada, a CV and a resume differ on multiple points; three of these main points are: the purpose; the length; the content it contains.

CV vs Resume

CVs are a detailed, chronological look at your professional and academic history. The term is derived from the Latin term, Curriculum Vitae, meaning course of life. While a CV showcases all the qualifications and accomplishments throughout your educational and professional life that make you uniquely you, it specifically hones in and highlights academic experience, such as articles published, etc. Thus, they are especially suited to jobs in the academic space. They are often also used when applying for professional service roles and consulting positions. 

CVs can range from a single page to as many as it takes to list out your chronological accomplishments and qualifications. Things you may include on a CV are professional affiliations, certifications, research, work experience, publications, and the like. Unlike a resume though, which provides a chronological order for your work experience.

Resumes, French for summary, are competency-based, and generally the preferred application tool in North America--unless you’re applying for a teaching role or one that places special emphasis and value on your academic history. They do not include everything you’ve ever done, but rather focus on your work history and achievements therein, and the specifics from previous jobs that make you a candidate for the job you’re applying for.

Resumes should be very concise, typically be no more than 2 pages; if they go over that, they risk boring the reviewer and ending up in the trash heap. Unlike a CV, resumes should be tailored to specific jobs you’re applying for, which means you don’t have to include every job you’ve ever held. Unlike CVs, which chronologize  your history, resumes (depending on the style you use) generally list your most recent job first, and move back in time.

Can a CV help you get a job?

Whether or not a CV can help you get a job really depends on the type of job you want. Since a CV is a high-level biographical look at your academic and professional life, it’s very conducive to showcasing the skills and certifications you possess that could set you apart from everyone else. The unique combination of skills, experiences, awards, licenses and more that you may possess help provide a very compelling case for hiring you. For North American’s applying for jobs abroad, a CV is a good idea to provide a detailed look at you. In the US and Canada, however, it’s typically not necessary for most jobs or most employers outside of Academia (and research-heavy fields). Still, when applying for a job or going in for an interview, you should always ask if they prefer to see your resume or your CV.

Do you need to add a CV to your job seeker toolbox?

While a CV is particularly important for academia and fields that need to see the accomplishments that qualify you as an expert, etc, most fields don’t actually require a CV. That said, it can still be a beneficial tool for your job search arsenal. By listing everything pertinent to your professional career life, you can use it as a reference tool when drafting and/or tailoring a resume to send to a new job. Instead of sitting back trying to recall what in your history could apply to a particular job, you can just pull out your CV, and pull from there.

So whether or not you’re looking for a job in the academic field, a CV can be very beneficial, regardless whether it’s in the foreground or background.

The job market is becoming ever-more competitive. While the Covid-19 pandemic affected far too many jobs.Read about The Top Must-Have Skills for Your Resume

Best practices for drafting your CV

Things to include on your CV

CVs don’t have to be complicated. They just take a bit of thought and recollection in the beginning, and then upkeep as you go through life. Your CV should follow a basic format and include the following:

Your contact information, such as name, address, email, phone number, linkedin profile and, if applicable, a web portfolio of your work.

Your academic history. While it may seem counterintuitive to go back prior to your college days, you want to be sure to present as accurate a history of your academics as possible. So be sure to include everything from high school to whatever level of university you’ve completed, along with years attended, graduation date, and degrees.

Professional experience

Don’t go into full-on resume mode here. Just list out the companies or organizations you worked for, the title you held, dates of employment, and a brief summary section showcasing your experience and achievements.

Qualifying skills

Hard and soft skills are all game here. Be sure to list out everything from computer, marketing or software skills, flower design, to communication, writing, listening, empathy--whatever it is you possess and have developed over the course of your career.

Honors and awards

List out any awards by name along with the year you received them, the name of the awarding organization and any other details that could lend to strengthening your CV.

Publications and presentations

Your citation skills learned over the course of your academic history will come in handy here, as you’ll need to cite every presentation you’ve given or article you’ve published. Be sure to include your name, co-author’s name, date, summary, volume, page number, DOI number for anything you’ve published. For presentations, include dates, titles of presentations, along with where you presented.

Volunteer experience

Whether you’ve been around the world with Doctors Without Borders, or volunteered at your local library or homeless shelter, be sure to include this information. List out organizations you volunteered with, a brief summary of what you did there, and the dates of service.

Licenses and certifications

List out any licenses or certifications you hold, along with dates you earned them, and the name of the institution that it came from.


List out the type of research you have worked on or been a part of, along with the purpose it served and the dates.

Professional or academic affiliations and associations

If you’re a part of any organization, either in high school, university or post-university, be sure to provide the organization’s name, location, and chapter, along with the dates of your membership.

Grants and scholarships 

Because grants and scholarships are competitive, showcasing these can further impress your abilities. List out the name of the scholarship or grant, the bequeathing organization and the date awarded.

Extracurricular clubs and activities


Prior to including any references, you should always get permission first from your potential reference-givers. Once given, you should include their full name and job title, along with their company and work address, phone number, email and how you know them.

What you include in your CV is completely personal to you and your own history. You don’t have to include every section if you don’t have anything relevant to it. Instead, just focus on amplifying what you have, or have done. 

Your resume is a potential employers window into you and your professional background and aspirations. When paired with a cover letter.Read about Skills Employers Want To See On Your Resume

A few words on formatting your CV

Keep in mind that your CV can be longer than two pages--in fact, it can be as  long as it needs to be to showcase you and your history. Like a resume, you should stick to basic fonts, such as Arial or Times New Roman, with a 10 or 12 point font size. Feel free to bold headers and names. Be sure to adhere to standard citation formats when citing publications, etc, by using quote marks or indentations as needed. One of the key things to keep in mind with your formatting is to keep it consistent. If you bold one header, bold all of them. If you include bullet points under a particular job or section, add a bullet point to everything in that particular section to draw out whatever you want to show such as achievements. At the end of it all, remember to run a spell check on it, and read through it several times to make sure it reads properly and cleanly. 

Remember that your CV is a living document. That means it will change over time as you change and grow and gain more experience. Update it regularly to ensure that you always have a timely version that accurately captures the uniqueness of you. 

The CareerBliss Team

Your career happiness is our #1 priority here at CareerBliss. To help you succeed in your career, we offer a wide variety of tools and resources to help you out along the way. Check out company reviews, salary information, career advice and, of course, millions of jobs on CareerBliss and choose happy today!

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