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A curriculum vitae (CV) provides an overview of a person's life and qualifications. The CV is typically the first item that a potential employer encounters regarding the job seeker and is typically used to screen applicants, often followed by an interview, when seeking employment.


Etymology and spellings

Curriculum vitae is loosely translated as [the] course of [my] life. A shorter alternative is simply vita, the Latin for "life". The plural of curriculum vitæ is formed following Latin rules of grammar as curricula vitæ (meaning "courses of life") — not curriculum vita (which is ungrammatical). The form vitæ is the genitive of vita, and so is translated "of life". In current usage curriculum is less marked as a foreign loanword, and so the plural of curriculum on its own is sometimes written as "curriculums",[1] rather than the traditional curricula;[2] nevertheless, the phrase "curriculums vita" is avoided, because vita remains strongly marked as a foreign loanword.


The first part of a simple CV used in the United Kingdom

The purpose of the CV is to inform prospective employers of a job seeker's qualifications and experience for a position.

In the United Kingdom a CV is short (usually a maximum of 2 sides of A4 paper), and therefore contains only a summary of the job seeker's employment history, qualifications and some personal information. It is often updated to change the emphasis of the information according to the particular position the job seeker is applying for. [3] Many CVs contain keywords that potential employers might pick up on and displays the content in the most flattering manner brushing over information like poor grades.[3] A CV can also be extended to include an extra page for the job seeker publications if these are important for the job.

In the United States and Canada, a CV is used specifically in academic circles and medical careers and is far more comprehensive; the term résumé is used for most recruitment campaigns. A CV elaborates on education to a greater degree than a résumé and is expected to include a comprehensive listing of professional history including every term of employment, academic credential, publication, contribution or significant achievement. In certain professions, it may even include samples of the person's work and may run to many pages.

In the European Union, there has been an attempt to develop a standardized CV model known as Europass (in 2004 by the European Parliament and European Commission) and promoted by the EU to ease skilled migration between member countries, although this is not widely used in most contexts. The Europass CV system is meant to be just as helpful to employers and education providers as it is to students and job seekers. It was designed to help them understand what people changing between the countries have to offer, whilst overcoming linguistic barriers. The Europass documents also provide recognition for non-accredited learning and work experience.

There are a few companies that prefer not to receive a CV at all in application, but rather produce their own application form which must be completed in applying for any position. Of those, some also allow applicants to attach a CV in support of the application. The reason some companies prefer to process applications this way is to standardize the information they receive, as there can be many variables within a CV and, therefore, the company often does not get all the information they require at application stage.[4]

Structure and design

A standard British CV is typically limited to two pages of size A4 paper and generally includes the following points[5].

  • Personal details at the top, such as name in bold type, address, contact numbers and, if the subject has one, an e-mail address. Photos are not required at all, unless requested. Modern CVs are more flexible.
  • A personal profile or career objective, instead of being written in either the first or the third person as commonly occurs, should be an impersonal statement, being a short paragraph about the job seeker. This should be purely factual, and subjective statements about the writer's qualities such as "enthusiastic", "highly motivated", are allowable in so far as the objective is to convince the reader of the desirability of arranging an interview. Buzzwords should be avoided, and focus should be placed on the individuals unique abilities which sets them apart from other job applicants.
  • A bulleted list of the job seeker's key skills or professional assets alone is somewhat unsophisticated.
  • A reverse chronological list of the job seeker's educational qualifications and work experience, including his or her current role. The CV may account for the writer's entire career history, recent jobs only, or those jobs relevant to the job being sought. The career history section should describe achievements rather than duties. The early career can these days be lumped together in a short summary but recent jobs should illustrate concept, planning, achievement, roles.
  • A reverse chronological list of the job seeker's education or training, including a list of his or her qualifications such as his or her academic qualifications (GCSEs, A-Levels, Highers, degrees etc.) and his or her professional qualifications (NVQs and memberships of professional organizations etc.). If the job seeker has just left the place of education, the work experience and education are reversed.
  • Date of birth, gender if you have an ambiguous first name, whether you have a driving license used to be standard - but nothing is required and you should not waste space on trivia. An employer requesting date of birth and gender needlessly could find itself on the losing side of recent anti-discrimination legislation.
  • The job seeker's hobbies and interests (optional) if directly connected with the job seeker's career and/or employment.

There are certain faux pas for CVs:

  • The CV being longer than two full sheets of paper. (This rule does not apply to academic positions, for which the CV normally includes a complete list of publications and major conference papers. CVs for positions in postsecondary teaching, research, and academic administration may be of any length.)
  • Writing anything pejorative about other persons or businesses.
  • Implying skills which one does not have.

As with résumés, CVs are subject to recruiting fads. For example,

  • In German-speaking countries, a picture was a mandatory adjunct to the CV for a long time.
  • Indian employers prefer lengthy résumés.
  • Including a photograph of the applicant is strongly discouraged in the U.S. as it would suggest that an employer would discriminate on the basis of a person's appearance — age, race, sex, attractiveness, or the like. The theatre and modeling industries are exceptions, where it is expected that résumés will include photographs; actors refer to such photos as head shots.
  • In Korea, résumés always include a picture of the applicant, and other information, such as religion, Resident registration number (South Korea), family information, military information (for men), and other information often regarded as personal information in the West.
  • When listing non-academic employment in the U.S., the newest entries generally come first (reverse chronological).
  • The use of an "objective statement" at the top of the document (such as "Looking for an entry-level position in stores") was strongly encouraged in the U.S. during the mid-1990s but fell out of favor by the late-1990s. However, with the avalanche of résumés distributed via the Internet since the late 1990s, an "objective" and/or "skills summary" statement has become more common to help recruiters quickly determine the applicant's suitability. It is not prevalent elsewhere.
  • In the 1980s and early 1990s in the U.S., the trend was to not allow a résumé to exceed one page in length. In the late 1990s, this restriction fell out of vogue, with two- or even three-page résumés becoming common.
  • In Canada, by Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, applicants may refuse to put down race, national or ethnic origin, colour, sex, age or mental or physical disability on the resume even if the employer instructed the applicants to do so.

See also


  1. ^ American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, Houghton Mifflin, 2009
  2. ^ OED, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press, 1989
  3. ^ a b "The Curriculum Vitae - General Guidelines". University of Exeter, UK. Retrieved 12 December 2009. 
  4. ^ Curriculum Vitae by UK CV Templates
  5. ^ McGee, Paul; Writing a CV that works, Dec 2002

External links



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