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“What’s a CV?” is a question job seekers and those new to HR and recruiting may find themselves asking. In this article, we’ll learn what a CV is, the differences between a CV and a resume and how to evaluate a CV.

What Is a CV?

A curriculum vitae or “CV” (meaning “course of life” in latin) is a document that highlights one’s professional and academic achievements. Like resumes, CVs are often a company’s first impression of a candidate and are usually several pages long. In fact, as CVs are meant to outline one’s entire professional history, it’s not uncommon for them to be as long as twelve pages or more.

CV Versus Resume

Resumes and CVs are similar but not identical. They are both documents which summarize one’s employment history, skills, achievements and education. Both a resume or CV can be provided to employers when applying for a job, however, there are some notable differences between the two.

Resumes are personal marketing documents intended to summarize a candidate’s experience, education and areas of expertise. Resumes are concise and notably shorter than CVs, with most being between one and three pages long. Resumes are also achievement-focused and tend to concentrate on one’s work accomplishments rather than on their academic achievements.

CVs are used mostly by those seeking postdoctoral positions, roles in research or teaching positions at universities. Unlike a resume, a CV focuses more on the credentials one has, as well as their contributions to the field as a whole. For example, someone applying to teach business administration at a university would likely submit a CV containing details on their publications, certifications and research relating to the field. In contrast, someone applying to be an HR Manager at a fortune 500 company would likely submit a resume to better highlight their relevant work history and accomplishments.

When it Makes Sense to Ask Applicants to Submit a CV

For job applicants based in the United States or Canada, a CV is most commonly used for medical, academic or scientific positions. In many European countries, however, a CV is often used in lieu of a resume. Below are three reasons why you might request candidates submit a CV in place of a resume:

  • Niche roles. If you are looking to hire for a highly specialized position, such as a college professor or senior scientist, you should consider asking candidates to submit a CV.
  • Executive positions. When recruiting for executive or C-suite positions in a company, asking candidates to submit a CV will be more comprehensive and may better showcase the experience and achievements of senior-level professionals.
  • International positions. If you’re looking to fill an international position, it’s often a good idea to ask candidates to submit a CV when applying. Internationally, CVs are often used in lieu of resumes, so it may make more sense to ask for a CV as opposed to a resume when hiring abroad.

How To Evaluate a CV

Did you know that, according to Glassdoor, the average number of applicants to a single job opening is 250? That’s a lot!

With so many CVs to review, the question often becomes: “How can I properly evaluate a CV to determine if the candidate is a good fit?” While applicant tracking systems (ATS) assist HR professionals in screening candidates, here are some tips for evaluating CVs on your own.

Determine the Absolute Must-Haves

Even if you’ve crafted the perfect job description, you’ll likely still need to filter through CVs in order to weed out unqualified candidates. Try making a list of the absolute minimum experience, skills and education required to successfully perform the job. Then, use this to filter CVs into “yes,” “no” and “maybe” piles. From there, you can take the “yes” and “maybe” piles and filter them into additional “yes” and “no” piles based on nonessential qualifications and “nice-to-haves.” Finally, interview candidates, starting with the finalist “yes” pile.

Scan for Red Flags

When evaluating a CV, it’s important to keep an eye out for red flags. Some common red flags include:

  • Excessive job hopping. Pay attention to the length of time candidates spend at companies. If candidates seem to leave roles after one year or if they have had many roles within a short amount of time, this indicates they may be a “job-hopper,” and not remain with your company long term. There are valid reasons for short tenure, however, so be sure to address this with candidates.
  • Frequent grammatical or spelling errors. One or two grammatical errors are typically forgivable. However, if a candidate’s CV is chock full of them, this indicates they are not detail-oriented. For many hiring managers, even one typo is enough to disqualify a candidate, so use your own judgement here.
  • Unexplained employment gaps. Gaps in employment should not disqualify candidates in themselves as there are many reasons one might take a break from working. If you find yourself evaluating the CV of someone who has a gap on their resume, ask them what happened in their gap.
  • Ambiguous Language. Pay attention to word choice when evaluating CVs. Crafty candidates may use ambiguous language to cover up a lack of experience or knowledge. If you see phrases such as “participated in,” “familiar with” or “assisted in,” this typically indicates a lack of direct experience. For example, if a candidate states they “assisted in” the implementation of a new program, try and clarify exactly how they assisted. If the candidate truly aided in the project, they should be able to provide specific examples. Lastly, watch out for buzzwords or industry jargon designed to make an applicant sound skilled but may, in fact, be a cover for a lack of experience.

Pay Attention to Details

When evaluating a CV, it’s important to pay close attention to the details and read between the lines. Great candidates don’t use a CV to  simply tell you about their experience, they show you through examples and quantified accomplishments. Intelligent job seekers also showcase exactly how they added value at their former companies, so watch out for resumes that are keyword-full but light on specifics.

Finally, if a resume and cover letter appear generic, it’s likely the applicant is sending the exact same document to multiple employers. Serious contenders customize their CVs and/or cover letters for each role.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About CVs

Red flags in a CV aren’t necessarily grounds for disqualifying a candidate, but they may give you more insight as to whether they would be a good fit for the position. If you encounter a red flag, consider speaking to the candidate.

A CV should include multiple pieces of information and range in size (usually from three to 10 pages in length). A curriculum vitae should include the following sections:
Candidate’s name and contact information,
Professional summary,
Summary of work history,
Educational background,
Certifications and licensure,
Professional memberships,
Details on written publications,
Details on speaking engagement and/or presentations,
Research experience,
Awards, honors and media recognition, and
Professional or scholarly memberships.

Preston is a senior talent partner with experience building and leading recruiting functions for healthcare, education, and tech companies. Presently, he is the head of talent acquisition at Parallel Learning.

Preston holds several certifications. In addition to sourcing and recruiting, Preston specializes in talent strategy, candidate experience, hiring process design, recruitment marketing, and onboarding.

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