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Strengths & Weaknesses of the Curriculum Vitae Format

by Sara Mahuron

Your first impression with an employer often comes from a document -- whether it's a curriculum vitae or resume. Both are a direct reflection of who you are. However, a typical resume is concise, outlining your experience and skills as they relate to a particular career or position, while a CV is a more detailed overview of your life’s accomplishments, designed for an academic audience. You might use a CV when seeking a position at a university or when applying for graduate school, scholarships or grants. If you determine that you need to submit a CV, keep in mind that while there are no specific formatting guidelines, you should use common sense to produce a document that's comprehensive and well organized.

CV Strengths

The format of the CV allows you to extensively share your history and accomplishments; the reviewer can learn a lot about you from this single document. Compared with a one- to two-page resume, a CV can be as long as you want. A CV is also a living document, which you should continually update. It should grow as your career grows. In fact, when you're a seasoned professional, your CV can extend into the double digits. In addition to your education and past positions, your CV should include a detailed list of what you've published, conferences you attended, classes you taught, presentations you gave, scholarships you received, your research interests and awards. You can also include your references on your CV.

CV Opportunity

In the United States, individuals primarily in the field of education use the CV format -- and employers are interested in details. Professors, researchers and graduate students generally have a CV. Applicants applying for jobs in European countries also need to have a CV, as it's used by the general workforce instead of a resume. For your CV, you can use a reverse-chronological order format, listing your education and experience in reverse order with your most recent experience first, or a functional format, emphasizing your skills and accomplishments in order of importance rather than in chronological order, although the first option is more common.

CV Weaknesses

Employers typically spend more time looking over a CV than a resume, which they might just scan for key qualifications. When it comes to a CV, they will likely have to search for the information they want, since it's not targeted to specific employers or jobs. A CV is much less a sales or marketing tool than a resume. You'll need to include factual information -- and not just punch it up with a list of bulleted key terms like "Excellent verbal skills" and "Self-starter," which are appropriate for a resume. Since a CV is more of a historical account, it takes longer to create and needs more substance. Because it is so detailed, it is also more difficult to hide any gaps in education or work using this format.

CV Threats

Using a CV when the employer wants a resume can be a problem. In non-academic circles, where the hiring manager is looking for a candidate to fill a specific position that requires specific skills and experience, the CV format is clearly the wrong format. If the employer treats it like a resume, scanning for keywords and key facts, your CV could end up in the trash. If you're using a CV to apply for a job in another country, it is important to learn about the format common in that country. For example, the European Union developed the Europass, which has five documents including a standardized European CV form.

About the Author

Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.

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