Do you want to quickly land a rewarding new job in your field? If you answered yes (and of course you did!), then you must apply with a well-formatted curriculum vitae (CV) that shows the hiring manager you’re a quality candidate.
Formatting a professional CV is hard work, but you’ll be glad you put in the effort when the invitations to job interviews start pouring in. Read the following sections to ensure your CV format is optimized for an efficient and successful job hunt:
Types of CV formatting
The first step to formatting a CV is verifying whether you need an academic CV, job-seeking CV, or resume. Here’s how to decide which application document you need:
Academic CV: If you’re applying to an academic or scientific position, use academic CV formatting. CVs have no page limit, so you can include all of your research experience, publications, and other academic or scientific qualifications.
Job-seeking CV: If you’re applying to a non-academic job in most places outside the US, use a job-seeking CV that proves your qualifications in 2–4 pages.
Resume: If you’re applying for a non-academic job in the US, don’t make a CV (unless the company specifically requests one). Instead, use resume formatting to present your relevant achievements in 1–2 pages.
If you need a resume, reference several professional resume samples for inspiration. But if you need to use a CV, here are a few well-formatted samples to get you started:
Curriculum vitae format samples (3 free Word document downloads)
Below are three templates that use professional CV formatting. The first two samples are academic CVs, and the third is a job-seeking CV that works as a US resume or as an international or European CV:
Sample academic CV (university teaching emphasis)
This sample’s organization emphasizes university teaching experience. Use a similar format to apply for a lecturer or professor position.
The sample is adapted from the original 24-page CV of Dr. G. Richard Scott, a Professor of Physical Anthropology at the University of Nevada with nearly five decades of experience. (For privacy, the contact details are made up.)
Sample academic CV that emphasizes research experience
This sample rearranges Dr. Scott’s information to emphasize his research experience. Follow this example to apply for an academic or scientific position:
Your name goes at the top, formatted in bold text and set in a larger font size than you use for the rest of the text on your CV. Making your name stand out helps the hiring manager notice your application and then easily find it again.
Your mailing address can go below your name, but it’s not compulsory these days.
Institution name, institution location, graduation date
GPA, honors (optional)
If you’re a recent graduate applying for your first professorship or research position, adding your GPA (if it’s 3.5 or higher) and any honors you received is a good idea. If you already have university teaching experience, there’s no need to include your GPA and honors.
Here’s an example of a properly formatted CV education section:
How to format a CV work experience section
Start each heading in your work experience section with the name of the institution or company, followed by your job title and employment dates.
Under each heading, list your most relevant accomplishments — supporting them with hard numbers when possible — in a few bullet points. Here’s what a work experience section looks like when you use professional CV formatting:
If you’re writing a CV that covers a long career, you can also list your work experience without bullet points to highlight your career’s progression:
How to format a CV research section
Adding research experience to a CV isn’t an exact science. If you have limited experience, you could include research in your work experience section, following the same formatting as you used for your employment history.
However, if you’ve worked on many projects and want to highlight relevant qualifications for a research position, create a unique section for your research experience.
Here are two examples of how to format research on your CV:
How to format a CV publications section
When you list publications on your CV, simply apply the formatting your discipline uses (e.g., MLA formatting for humanities or APA formatting for sciences).
Here’s a CV publications section format example that uses APA formatting:
Here’s an example of a CV publications section that uses MLA formatting:
How to format a CV honors and awards section
If you have honors or awards (including grants and scholarships) to list on your CV, follow this format:
The title of the honor, the name of the awarding organization, and the date you received it
Here’s an example of a professionally formatted CV honors and awards section:
How to format a CV’s optional sections
Depending on your field of work and what job you’re applying for, you may also need to include the following optional sections on your CV. Click on each section to view a correctly formatted sample:
Sample CV presentations section:
Sample CV certifications and licensures section:
Sample CV professional affiliations section:
Sample CV skills section:
Curriculum vitae format: Job-seeking CV tips
A job-seeking CV is for non-academic or scientific job applications, and it includes the following sections:
How to format a job-seeking CV header
Your job-seeking CV header must include your name and contact information. To format your header, set your name apart with bold text in a larger font size than the rest of your CV. Doing so ensures the hiring manager doesn’t confuse your qualifications with another applicant’s information.
After your name, add your mailing address, email address, phone number, and links to relevant online profiles.
Here’s a sample job-seeking CV header:
How to format a job-seeking CV introduction
Format your job-seeking CV introduction as either a short paragraph of 2–4 sentences or a list with 2–4 bullet points. Here’s an example:
How to format a job-seeking CV work experience section
Format your work experience like this:
Company Name, Location
2–4 bullet points
Each bullet illustrates your achievements, using hard numbers when possible
Feel free to switch the company name/location with the position title to emphasize your experience, but remember to use the same format for every position you list.
Here’s an example of a job-seeking CV work experience section:
How to format a job-seeking CV education section
Under your education header, write your school name and graduation date. Add a new line for your degree title, GPA (if it’s 3.5 or higher), and any honors you received (e.g., summa cum laude).
Next, add relevant coursework, dissertation titles, and other relevant information.
Here’s what a job-seeking CV section looks like:
How to format a job-seeking CV skills section
Place your relevant skills in a bullet point list, as illustrated in the following sample:
Set your margins between ½” and 1” on all sides. Margins that are too big squeeze your information together, making it hard to read. Margins that are too small lead to less white space that makes your CV appear cluttered.
The best font size for an easy-to-read CV is between 10.5 and 12. If you need to reduce pages on your job-seeking CV, using a 10.5 or 11 font size is often the solution. Use a size 12 font for an academic or scientific CV, because it has no page limit.
Curriculum vitae format: PDF or Word?
Submit a PDF CV to the hiring manager whenever possible. Here’s why:
PDFs preserve your formatting: If the hiring manager opens your CV in an old version of Word, there may be formatting issues that make it hard to read.
PDFs don’t include red underlines: Word’s spellcheck function redlines words and phrases it doesn’t know (e.g., names of people and places). When you save your CV as a PDF, the red lines disappear, making it easier to read.
Although it’s usually best to submit a PDF CV, there are instances when you should send a Word file instead:
When the job posting specifically says to send a Word CV, don’t send a PDF. Always follow the employer’s instructions.
When the employer uses applicant tracking software (ATS) to vet applications, send a Word file. ATS software is better at scanning Word documents than it is at reading PDFs.