Creating an Effective CV

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CV targetingA curriculum vita, literally meaning “course of life,” is the primary document for persons seeking academic employment and positions within the medical field. CVs serve a purpose similar to a typical résumé; however CVs have unique structures, are much larger in scope, and are updated regularly to refocus emphasis on job-specific qualifications and accomplishments.

CVs are often several pages in length, though conciseness is key (tip: don’t make it any longer than it has to be). The goal of a CV is to craft a scholarly identity, not so much a professional one. Therefore, the bulk of the document should specifically reflect abilities such as teaching, research, or publishing that is focused within a specific academic discipline. There is no standard format dictating the construction of a CV and structure is largely determined by personal preference and intended purpose. There are, however, a set of conventions that help guide in the creation of an effective CV.

The front of a CV should include basic contact information such as full name, address, phone number, and email address. The remaining layout of a CV is largely dependent upon the job being sought and the background of the applicant. Typically, for recent grads, including a brief education summary in reverse chronological order is included first.  A dissertation summary is also often included in this section.

An important consideration to keep in mind during the writing of a CV is that the earlier a piece of information is listed, the more emphasis is being placed upon that information. For this reason, when determining which information to provide after educational credentials, it is necessary to consider job requirements and individual strengths. The bottom line here is that the most important information should be placed first.

For example, individuals seeking a research position at a university or private firm emphasis would best be placed in past research projects, presentations, and publications. Similarly, applying for a professorial position at a college implies an emphasis on teaching background and achievements. The best CV is one that gives prominence to points most relevant to a specific discipline.

Consistency in writing and presentation is another step in building a strong CV. Two useful strategies, known as gapping and parallelism, can make for an even aesthetic and concise presentation. Gapping is a technique that means simply avoiding the use of complete sentences when presenting information. Using incomplete sentences removes the use of unnecessary words and allows for the quick assimilation of the important data.

Parallelism is all about keeping the structure of the document consistent throughout. For example, if verb phrases are used within the descriptions in one part of the CV, they should be used throughout the entire document. Parallelism is especially important within individual entries in order to allow the reader to completely understand what is being said. Another aesthetic consideration directly contributing to consistency is the use of bullet points to accentuate information. While more frequently used in résumés, bullet points can more attractively separate a number of line-length statements within each section, though the presence of excessive white space is an indication that bullet points are not the best addition to a particular CV. The primary guiding ideal when determining structure is whether that structure adds or detracts from the document’s conciseness and readability.

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Joshua Bjerke, from Savannah, Georgia, focuses on articles involving the labor force, economy, and HR topics including new technology and workplace news. Joshua has a B.A. in Political Science with a Minor in International Studies and is currently pursuing his M.A. in International Security.