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CVs and Resumes: What are they and how can you craft them effectively?

Building a compelling resume or CV is your first step on the road to professional success

In the 21st century, evolving job culture necessitates a stellar resume or CV. While older generations prided themselves on staying in the same position their entire career, transitioning between multiple positions is now more commonplace. In addition, the internet has instigated a shift in the application process, with more people applying for every job. Thus, not only will the average worker apply for more jobs throughout their career, but they will be up against more, and often stiffer, competition. Therefore, a necessary part of job hunting is understanding how resumes and CVs work, what each is used for, and how to successfully write them. Learning these lessons will put you at a substantial career advantage.

What is the difference?

In Europe, the terms ‘resume’ and ‘CV’ (curriculum vitae) are used interchangeably. However, in America, resumes and CVs have different formats and serve different purposes. Because certain positions require one or the other, it is important to know the specifics of each document.

A resume is a one- or two-page document required by employers that offers a concise overview of an applicant’s qualifications. On the other hand, a CV is a multi-page outline of the entirety of a person’s professional and academic experience. A CV has no maximum page limit because it should contain all pertinent information rather than just a summary. In America, a resume is the standard for most job applicants. However, CVs are utilized in the field of academia.

Requirements for CVs and resumes also vary by country. For example, certain countries ask for more personal, biographical information like nationality or marital status. Some countries even request a headshot. Meanwhile, in other countries, these things are unnecessary. Before diving into the writing, it is important to research what exactly your potential employer expects to receive.

Once you have figured out what the position requires, the next step of the process is to craft a document that sells your qualifications effectively. Here is a quick guide through the ins and outs of CVs and resumes.

How to Write a Resume

Resumes have been part of the hiring process for decades and, as such, employers have certain expectations of what they want to see and where they want to see it. The first step is to choose an accepted resume layout that works best for you. Chronological format is the most common framework for a resume. In this traditional style, you list your job experience in reverse order, with your most recent job at the top. Functional format is a less used, more creative option for those having trouble populating their work experience section. This format places a job seeker’s skills and attributes center stage. These two approaches can also be combined into the combination format.

At the top of your resume, list your first and last name, phone number, and email address, all in an easily legible way. Make sure the email address you offer is a formal one with a professional sounding name. Beyond these necessities, other optional information can give potential employers more useful information. Consider including your address/location, your professional title, your LinkedIn handle, or links to relevant professional online portfolios that show off your work.

Next up, a Resume Summary/Objective section will be the first opportunity you have to pitch yourself to your reader. Whether you utilize a Resume Summary or a Resume Objective will be dictated by the overarching purpose of your resume and the amount of work experience you possess. A Resume Summary is a 2-3 sentence blurb about your career and achievements. A Resume Objective can be utilized by applicants who do not yet have the work experience necessary to populate a Resume Summary. In this case, it is more important to focus on the future. It is still crucial to insert all relevant work, educational background, or experience in similar fields here. However, you can also outline your goals and tell your potential employer how those goals coalesce with the company’s objectives. 

The Work Experience/Work History section is the nuts and bolts of your resume. Because this section is one that recruiters seek out, make sure the information is presented clearly and uniformly. The Work Experience section contains a list of relevant positions held, listed in reverse chronological order. Each entry on the list should include a header with the company name, the company’s location, your job title, and your start and end dates. Beneath the heading for each entry, create a short, bulleted list of your responsibilities and achievements in that position. Make sure each of these bullet points are engaging, relevant, and unique from the others. Start each bullet with an exciting, active verb, forgoing the “I”. For previous positions, make this section past tense. Your current position can be written in present tense. Pepper this section with keywords from the job description to draw a recruiter’s (or applicant tracking system’s) eye. Remember that this section should not be set in stone. With each new application, you can and should add relevant positions, remove what is not pertinent, and tailor bullet points to the specifics of that job.

In addition to work experience, educational background provides crucial insight into a candidate’s professional aptitude. Your Education section should include a list of degrees you received (such as B.A., B.S., or Ph.D.) and the school where you received them, all outlined in reverse chronological order. You should list each school’s location and your field of study or major, along with any honors or awards you earned.

With any extra space on your resume, take the opportunity to include other sections that tailor the resume even more uniquely to you. Possible optional sections include Skills, Hobbies/Interests, Languages,Awards, Certifications, and Volunteer Experience.


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How to Write a CV

Whereas a resume requires its writer to be concise, a CV encourages comprehensiveness. In academic jobs, employers want to see every piece of your professional puzzle. As such, CVs include many more sections than resumes and can stretch to a much higher page count, essentially displaying a list of your academic and professional accomplishments. The goal for a CV is not to be eye-catching with its flash, but to be attention-grabbing with the quality of its content.

Start with listing your contact information in a clear way, much like you would with a resume. Then tell the reader more about yourself with a concise but impactful research objective or personal statement.

Next, detail your Educational Background. This list should include all the schools you attended, in reverse chronological order, along with your course of study, the degree received, and any other relevant information. Include short bullet points about the research you conducted at each school to highlight your achievements in the field and suitability for the position.

List all previous or current Professional Academic Appointments. Provide short, exciting blurbs about what you did at each place and how it is important.

Next, provide a list of everything that you have written or published. This includes separate lists of Books, Book Chapters, Peer-Reviewed Publications, and Other Publications. In other distinct sections, list all Awards, Honors, Grants, and Fellowships you have received. You should also include any Conferencesattended.

Include a section that outlines your Teaching Experience prior to your professional academic appointments, along with all Research Experience, Lab Experience, and any relevant Graduate Fieldwork.

Finish up by outlining other potentially pertinent information, such as Community Service, Skills, Activities, and Language Mastery. At the very end, include a list of References for your potential employer.

Make sure to consistently add to your CV and keep it up to date. This will not only allow you to quickly send out your CV if someone requests it, but it also lets you keep a log of your professional trajectory.

An example academic CV can be found here

Another example, complete with helpful annotations from the UCSF Office of Career and Professional Development can be found here

Revise, Review, Recheck, Reread!

 Now that you have crafted your professional calling card, it is important to take necessary steps to set yourself up for success. Recruiters often spend mere seconds looking at each resume, always searching for a reason to say no and move on. Do not make this easy by leaving your resume filled with typos and grammatical errors. Check your resume, double-check it, and check it again.

The more eyes you can get on your resume, the better shot you have to succeed. This is also true before you even turn your resume in. Show your resume to friends, family members, and peers to get their critiques on design and content. They may catch errors or offer helpful suggestions. Perhaps even consider sending your resume to a professional editing service to ensure your resume receives detailed editing attention.


San Francisco Edit specializes in scientific editing in the United States and we work with scientists from all over the world.

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