The Curriculum Vitae

by Greg Faherty, CPRW
Long before the resume was popularized in the U.S., European countries used a document known as the curriculum vitae, or CV, when applying for jobs, academic admissions, or anything else where a background description was necessary. Over a period of decades, the CV has evolved into the resume, but there are still many countries, and professions, where it is the preferred career history document.

There are three basic CVs: International, Medical/Scientific, and Academic. All three share similarities, but they do contain small, important differences.

1. International CVs.  Often confused with international resumes, because outside of the U.S. the two terms are frequently interchangeable, while the documents are not. European CVs are used in France, the U.K., Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Latin America, while Germany, Sweden, and several other northern European countries use an international resume format. When in doubt, check the Internet or other resource to verify the type of document a country requires. Today more and more countries are switching from the CV to the resume format.

2. Medical/Scientific CVs.  Used in both the U.S. and overseas, primarily for medical and scientific research professionals. A regular MD doesn’t require a CV unless in Europe or Latin America, or unless he or she is moving into a research position. Besides format, the major difference here is that sections such as Publications, Seminars, Presentations, Patents, etc. may need to be added.

3. Academic CVs.  Similar to Medical/Scientific in that publications and other sections not normally found on resumes may need to be added. Most commonly used for university professors, performing artists, and academic executives such as deans, presidents, etc.

So, now let’s look at what the CV is.

The curriculum vitae predates the resume; in fact, the resume is simply a short form of the CV. While the resume has changed over time in terms of what formats are most effective, the CV has remained relatively unchanged. Where the resume is a short summary of the client’s background, the CV is a lengthy, detailed description. It is not uncommon for a CV to be five to eight pages long, especially if the client has publications to include. Much more attention is paid to the details of each job, as well as the accomplishments, and usually a paragraph style, or combination paragraph-bullet point style, is used.

Following the heading comes either personal information (for foreign CVs) or Education. For US CVs, this includes all post-high school education. For some foreign countries, such as the UK, it is common to go back to high school as well. In the case of physicians, or some scientific researchers, this section may be followed by hospital internships, residencies, fellowships, etc.

The next section, as in a resume, is the Professional Experience. As I mentioned previously, the format here is usually a paragraph style. Each paragraph describes a job function, and any accomplishments relating to that job function. Outside of Europe, it is acceptable to use bullet points at the end of each paragraph to highlight accomplishments.

While there is no length limit to a CV, most academic and foreign employers prefer to see the employment section kept to three or four pages at the most. While traditionally CVs are used in areas where only a few applications for each position are being processed, that is rapidly changing as the rest of the world catches up to America’s rapid job turnover and changing, unemployment, and larger populations.

The rest of the CV is comprised of Technical Skills, Training, Certifications, Licensure, Publications, Seminars, Languages, etc., with Publications always being the second-to-last section, and References, if included, the final section.