Curriculum Vitae Tips

Curriculum vitae tips are general guidelines that can be applied to the art of writing a curriculum vitae. Keep in mind that different people will offer different curriculum vitae tips, based on their own preferences and what is popular in their academic fields. Rather than setting curriculum vitae rules in stone, the following article will present writing advice that should help the average professional improve their CV.

Before we start, if you don’t already know the basics, such as what an American curriculum vitae includes and  how it differs from an American resume, please read our introductory article on the curriculum vitae.

That said, here are 7 widely applicable curriculum vitae tips:

1. Do not include personal information such as age, marital status, or gender on an American CV!
If you search for “curriculum vitae tips” online, you will find articles that encourage you to write personal information on your CV.

This personal information might include:

  • Age
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Health status
  • Citizenship
  • Immigration status
  • Social security number
  • Gender
  • Religious affiliation
  • Marital status
  • Spouse’s name
  • Father’s name
  • Mother’s name
  • Children’s names

The websites that offer this advice are not talking about American curriculum vitae!

In some countries, not including information like this can actually hurt your chances of obtaining the position you want. In the United States, the opposite is true. There are many laws in place that make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of factors like age, sexual orientation, marital status, gender, religion, and disability. American employers are afraid of lawsuits. They do not want to see this type of information on your CV.

Including hobbies, on the other hand, may be OK, if they are relevant to the position.

2. Comply with the CV formatting guidelines of your future employer or school.
Some organizations and universities, such as Harvard University, have curriculum vitae tips or guidelines detailing their preferences for curriculum vitae formatting and structure. Obviously, you’re expected to follow them. Look for this on the university or company’s website first. If you’re still not sure what’s expected, check with them.

3. Separate your publications into sub-categories with appropriate headers.
If you have more than a handful of publications, it’s best to place them into separate categories. A huge laundry list of publications is a pain to read.

For example, Harvard’s School of Public Health looks for these sub-categories on a medical curriculum vitae:

  • Peer-reviewed publications
  • Books and monographs
  • Evidence of works in progress
  • Publication or development of educational materials
  • Relevant non-print materials
  • Published abstracts within the past 2 years (not mandatory)

Depending on your field, different sub-categories may be more appropriate. Come up with relevant curriculum vitae sub-categories that accurately describe your publications.

4. Make sure each category contains at least one item.
This is a bigger issue on a CV than on a resume, since a CV is supposed to be much more thorough. You don’t want to emphasize less developed aspects of your professional life, so try not to open a category for just one item, like a single award. Instead, try to place this stray item in a related category. You can change the names of categories to make it fit, as long as you stay within the boundaries of your future employer or school’s CV formatting guidelines.

5. Write out acronyms.
Using acronyms is also a common resume mistake, but it can get out of control on a CV, since so many acronyms are thrown around in academia. Unless it’s really obvious in context what an acronym stands for, spell it out. If you’re not sure whether it’s obvious, that means it’s not.

6. Keep jargon to a minimum.
Again, this is a common resume writing recommendation, but it’s even more important on the CV, since academic professionals use a lot of jargon. It is safe to assume people in your field understand technical terms, but heavy use of jargon on a CV can be confusing, not to mention obnoxious.

7. Update your curriculum vitae regularly.
Yes, this tip applies to the art of resume writing as well. However, since a CV is more detailed than a resume, you could set yourself back further by not updating your curriculum vitae regularly.

If you encounter an unexpected job opportunity, already having an up-to-date curriculum vitae will take some of the stress out of applying for the position. Plus, if you procrastinate when it comes to updating your curriculum vitae, you could forget important details regarding a lecture or committee responsibility.

So, update your curriculum vitae every three to four months, or at least whenever you achieve something significant in your field.

Again, these are general curriculum vitae tips that should help the average professional. It is up to you to understand the norms and expectations for CV writing in your specific field. Remember, if you don’t know, ask.


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