How to Format a CV or Resume


A curriculum vitae, or CV, and a resume convey the story of one's career, but in different ways. Universities and some companies outside the United States may require a CV. In the United States, companies looking for people with strong academic credentials may also ask for a CV, which includes details of education, publications and other scholarly and professional achievements. In contrast, a resume delivers a more concise story with a focus on professional accomplishments.

CV Format

  • Tell the employer how to reach you. The straightforward beginning--top of the page and centered--includes your name, physical address, phone number, and electronic contact information such as email and professional website. For applications overseas, state citizenship and visa status.

  • State why you know what you know. Formal education and work history, including responsibility and accomplishments, introduce the employer to your background. The order may vary depending on your profession. For example, medical doctors may lead with degrees and follow with a chronological presentation of positions. However, a senior corporate executive looking to make a lateral move may list the work history first, in reverse chronological order, followed by academic credentials.

  • Highlight awards and publications. Give ample white space because these sections must stand out for someone quickly reviewing the CV.

  • Give color to your identity. Professional memberships, community involvement, and strong interests complete the CV. For example, your coaching role with the local teen swim team could be the distinguishing factor that gets you a job interview.

Resume Format

  • Tell the employer how to reach you. At the top of the document, provide first and last name, physical address, phone number, email address and similar contact information.

  • Provide a one-paragraph summary. Below the contact information and as a preface to your work history, provide a summary of professional history and a brief statement of your career objectives.

  • Organize information according to experience and objective. A resume can assume a reverse chronological or a functional format. A reverse chronological resume lists a person's experience in reverse chronological order, whereas a functional resume lists experience and skills sorted by skill type. Experienced candidates generally benefit most from the reverse chronological approach, although a skills section can still be included to emphasize specific skills.

  • Show, don't tell, when conveying professional history. According to HR Solutions chief executive officer Kevin Sheridan, applicants tend to tell the reader about past accomplishments in simple facts, but that "it is better to show the reader specifically how you accomplished something and what the results were." Include statistics, such as percentage increases in revenue or increases in productivity, to make the accomplishments more meaningful.

  • State education, certifications, and related information. If a job requires a particular education or special skills, address the fact that you have them and how you got them, that is, through on-the-job training, a certification program, and so on.

  • Optimize the resume for the Internet. Resumes are often scanned by a computer before human eyes ever see them, and resumes that do not appear to match the job description are discarded, according to Sheridan. Include keywords from the job description.

Tips & Warnings

  • CVs tend to run longer than resumes. Keep resumes to two pages.
  • CVs and resumes need to look good in electronic and paper format, so do not use font sizes smaller than 10 or 10.5 points, depending on the font. Always use a simple font such as Arial or Times New Roman.
  • Minimize file size without sacrificing impact: Avoid using purely decorative images.
  • Allow sufficient white space to give the reader's eye a rest.

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  • "Job Search Tool Kit"; Kevin Sheridan; 2010
  • Photo Credit success folder image by Yurok Aleksandrovich from
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