16 – Applications

Curricula Vitae (CVs)

Matt McKinney

Just as résumés are typically used for job applications in most private sector and government positions, CVs (singular: curriculum vitae or vita, plural: curricula vitae or vitas) are typically used in academia. CVs are similar to résumés in their general form and function. Both genres provide a comprehensive overview of the applicant’s relevant credentials for a specific position. Additionally, both CVs and résumés need to be updated regularly throughout the applicant’s career, and both need to be adapted to specific audiences and rhetorical contexts. As with résumés, the arrangement of sections in a CV should reflect the audience’s values and emphasize the strongest credentials of an applicant (e.g., when deciding whether to put publications before teaching experience). However, CVs are also distinct from résumés in several important respects. Each of these distinctions is explored below.

Length & Scope

CVs are much more comprehensive than résumés, to the point where it’s generally understood that the lengthier your CV is, the more impressive it is, with virtually no upper limit. The CV of a well-established academic, for example, can easily exceed 20 pages. By contrast, while it’s fine to go over one page in your résumé, even lengthier résumés almost never exceed three pages.

The reasoning for this difference in length conventions is reflective of each document’s scope. A three-page résumé allows an advanced applicant to show the “highlight reel” of their credentials in multiple categories (education, employment, certifications, skills, etc.), whereas an entry-level applicant may only be particularly strong in one or two of these categories, and thus only needs one page. Remember that a résumé focuses on action verbs and task descriptors in these cases, so there’s no need to list five jobs that cover the same skill—just the most recent or relevant job.

A CV, by contrast, details every academic position and achievement the applicant has fulfilled throughout their entire career. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Every title and position they’ve held.
  • Every class they’ve taught.
  • Every article, study, or book they’ve published.
  • Every presentation they’ve given.
  • Every committee they’ve served on.
  • Every professional membership/organization they’ve belonged to.
  • Every training or workshop they’ve held.
  • Every grant or scholarship they’ve earned.
  • Every award they’ve won.

A CV does not add task descriptors to any of these positions or accomplishments. This is partially because there is more common understanding as what each one entails between the applicant and a faculty audience, since they are all part of the same professional community.

Audience

Though we typically think of CVs as written for academic faculty (since a faculty committee in the department will hire the applicant), they are actually written for more than one audience. While résumés are usually only submitted to specific employers, an academic’s CV is often posted on the department website’s online directory. In other words, an academic’s current students, prospective students considering enrolling in the program, and anyone visiting the department site has access to the CV.

Prominently displaying an academic’s CV provides transparency, in that students are able to better understand what makes them qualified as a professional. It also bolsters the credibility of the department as a whole to have prominent faculty members’ accomplishments on public display.

Adapting & Updating

In some circumstances, such as when a department or university is hiring for an internal position or offering a specific funding opportunity, an academic will need to condense their CV. In these situations, submitting a 20+ page CV would simply be too cumbersome for a review committee, especially since they may only need to see the applicant’s credentials in a specific area, such as teaching.

Consequently, it is good practice for academics to have shortened versions of their CVs that focus on specific sets of qualifications. For example, an academic could have a teaching CV, a research CV, or a service CV, depending on the audience’s needs.

Furthermore, while an academic’s CV should be comprehensive, it becomes appropriate for early credentials to be omitted when an academic reaches a certain stage in their career. For example, focusing on achievements during undergraduate years is appropriate for a graduate student. However, someone who has earned their PhD no longer needs to highlight they were a good student by mentioning how many times they were on the Dean’s List; simply having a doctorate demonstrates scholarly aptitude.

 

McKinney, Matt, Kalani Pattison, Sarah LeMire, Kathy Anders, and Nicole Hagstrom-Schmidt, eds. Howdy or Hello?: Technical and Professional Communication. 2nd ed. College Station: Texas A&M University, 2022. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.