September 19

Curriculum Vitae Tips: Use Principles of Good Resume Writing to Get a Better CV

A CV (Curriculum Vitae) is the longer, more detailed cousin of the resume. It delivers much more information than a resume and takes many more pages to do it. But whatever differences they might have, CVs and resumes both have the same function:  to get you interviews. If you have a curriculum vitae and aren’t getting the job interviews you want, borrow good resume writing principles to make your CV more effective. Use these curriculum vitae tips to make employers want to read your CV and get more interviews.

Who Needs a CV Instead of a Resume?

Outside of the United States, CVs are common. If you’re job searching in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, or Australia, you almost certainly need a curriculum vitae.

In the United States, where most people use resumes, you need a CV if you’re in academia, science, research, medicine, etc.  Especially if you have publications or other detailed work, you must have a CV.

What’s the Difference Between a Resume and a Curriculum Vitae?

The main differences between a CV and a resume are length and detail.

Resumes should always be limited to 1-2 pages. The only reason they ever need to be longer than that is if you’re a high-level executive (C-Level), and even that can be debated.

CVs are at least 2 pages and can easily hit double digits, especially in academic fields.  They discuss publications, research, training, and relevant experiences in detail.

Once you get outside the United States AND outside of academia, CVs can more closely resemble typical resumes.

Resume Writing Principles Give You a Better CV

1.  Market Yourself

Any job search is basically a sales process. You’re the product looking for a customer who needs you.  Think about your customer when you write your CV and “market” yourself to them.

That means that you should highlight things in your experience or background that you know would grab their attention. What do they need?

A very important marketing opportunity for you is in your headline statement, summary, or objective. Make it clear what it is that you do and what you can bring to them as a benefit.

2. Make It Clear Why and How You Fit This Jobcurriculum vitae tips

Just because you have the freedom to write a 20-page CV doesn’t mean you should do it. Someone has to read it, after all. Write out all your background and experience and then edit judiciously.

Be concise in your language and make it easy for them to find out what they need to know.

If something in your background has zero relevance to this position, don’t waste space on it. Don’t leave it out, because it will cause a gap, but don’t give it equal space as something that is relevant.

3. Use Action Words to Make Your CV More Interesting and Appealing

One of the cardinal rules of resumes is to never say, “responsible for” when describing what you did in your past jobs.  Instead, say what you did with powerful action words:  “wrote”, “managed,” “won,” “led,” “studied,” “found,” “spoke,” “discovered,” etc.

4. Use Bullet Points

In resumes, bullet points are an absolute MUST. As a society, we are being conditioned to consume things in bite-sizes (sound bites). We’re all becoming busier and busier and hiring managers (your future bosses) are no exception. For these reasons, never use paragraphs on your resume. Use bullet points instead, because they’re easier to skim and still absorb information from without missing something important.

5.  Quantify Your Accomplishments

Any time you can state your accomplishments in terms of numbers, dollars, or percentages, you will get more attention and seem like a much stronger candidate.

For example, what makes a bigger impression on you?

A) “Responsible for research team on a pancreatic cancer study”; or

B) “Led research team of 14 people studying pancreatic cancer cells, achieving 40% success rate in X, Y, and Z”  (not being a cancer researcher, I can’t finish that sentence)

The second one, of course, is stronger and more compelling.

Numbers are hard evidence that you can do your job and you know why it matters. They’re also a lot harder to embellish (unless you’re going to out-and-out lie). Hiring managers feel more comfortable with numerical evidence.

What if your numbers aren’t the biggest or the best? Don’t worry. Just the fact that you have them will be an advantage for you.

Every job must contribute to the growth and profit of an organization.  If it can’t make money, it will eventually die.  No one works for free, and someone has to pay you, don’t they?

You must show through your accomplishments how you can contribute to the growth or profit of that organization.  That tells them how you can benefit their organization and makes a case for interviewing you. It even gives you a halo effect that carries through your interview and hiring.

Find out more about how to quantify your accomplishments here.


The principles of writing a good strong curriculum vitae are the same as the principles of writing a good strong resume.  They keep the reader (your customer) in mind, they market you by representing you as strongly as possible, and they get interviews for you. If you aren’t getting interviews, your CV is not as effective as it could be.

I encourage you to study more on how to strengthen your resume, how to avoid the biggest resume mistakes, and adapt those principles for your curriculum vitae.

If you would like additional help, please look at our Extreme Resume Makeover kit.  It teaches all the resume principles we’ve discussed here, and more.

Best of luck.


You may also like

Should you have a career coach?

Should you have a career coach?
Leave a Reply
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to our newsletter now!