What is a Curriculum Vitae (CV)?


A CV is a written summary of a candidate’s skills, achievements and experience that is used in the initial stages of recruitment.

A CV is a written summary of a person’s skills, achievements, and experience. Often accompanied by a cover letter, a CV is used when applying for jobs. It provides the key opportunity for candidates to sell themselves to potential employers in the initial recruitment stages.  

History of CVs 

The history of the CV dates back hundreds of years. However, the CV wasn’t widely used during the recruitment process until the 1950s, and at the time, often included personal information such as height, weight, religion, and marital status. Over the years, CV content has evolved, and while modern CVs no longer include information such as marital status, much of the information in today’s documents has been around for decades. Interests and hobbies, for example, have been a familiar part of CVs since the 1960s.  

Due to the Internet, resources and guides have become increasingly accessible in recent years, causing CV content to become more uniform. While CVs are a personal document and can vary widely, they generally have five core sections: Personal Statement, Educational Background, Employment History, Interests and Hobbies, and References, and are often used in tandem with social networking platforms such as LinkedIn. 

Recent trends in CVs 

Social Networking Platforms 

LinkedIn, often thought of as a ‘digital CV’, has changed the way that CVs can be presented and consumed. Unlike the traditional CV, LinkedIn profiles allow for interactivity within the job application process, which can be extremely beneficial for candidates. An example of such is the endorsement function, which allows applicants to feature recommendations from previous employers on their profile.  

Additionally, ‘InMail’ and ‘Chat’ enable candidates to send messages directly to hiring managers or current employees, giving them the opportunity to tell potential employers more about themselves and their interests. Other features include the ability to write posts or take LinkedIn Learning courses, both of which can be displayed on a candidate’s profile and communicate their passion and work ethic. These functions allow candidates to present a more wholistic version of themselves, complete with endorsements, work samples, and traces of their personality. 

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) 

According to recent data, Application Tracking Systems (ATS), or ‘Resume Robots’, now reject up to 75% of CVs before they get to a company’s hiring manager. As such, it’s more important than ever for candidates to optimise their CV. There are a few ways candidates can achieve this, including conducting research on common keywords and using them throughout their CV, or by targeting and mimicking the wording used in a job description. For example, if analytical thinking or digital literacy is listed as a desired skill on an application, candidates should use those phrases, explain their experience in those areas, and provide relevant examples to back up their claims.  

Artificial Intelligence programs, such as ChatGPT and AI-powered CV builders, can also help candidates optimise their CV for Applicant Tracking Systems. These programs can write the various sections of a candidate’s CV while using keywords and maintaining a consistent tone of voice.  

Personal Statements 

While preferences may vary within the STEM sectors, recent data suggests that many STEM employers favour CVs that do not have a ‘personal statement’ section. Instead, many STEM recruiters suggest that candidates use the extra space gained from removing this section to provide tangible evidence of experience relevant to their field, such as working with a particular technology, database, or in a lab.  

Unconscious Bias 

Unconscious bias occurs when the brain makes an automatic judgement that is influenced by factors such as background, personal experiences, societal stereotypes, or cultural context. In the workplace, unconscious bias can impact decisions such as recruitment or promotion and can therefore contribute to inequality. Despite efforts to improve diversity, equality, and inclusion in recent years, research has shown that unconscious bias continues to influence the hiring process. As a result, researchers suggest that applicants remove any factors that may prompt unconscious bias among hiring managers, such as age, ethnicity, or gender. 

Advantages of CVs 


Disadvantages of CVs 


  • Provides a succinct list of a candidate’s skills and experience 
  • Shows that a candidate is qualified for the job in question 
  • Can include links to work samples and projects  
  • Lists references that hiring managers can contact for endorsements 
  • Doesn’t communicate a candidate’s full story 
  • Without face-to-face contact, a candidate’s enthusiasm and passion may be overlooked 
  • Candidates who have recently graduated may not have enough experience for their CV to stand out 


Use case 

The University of Leeds in the UK includes a page on its website of employers’ perspectives around CVs. It includes some useful insight, including that candidates should thoroughly research as company before applying and that spelling and grammar mistakes can result in CVs ending up in the bin.  

On the page, the Graduate Recruitment Bureau explains: “Avoid generalisations and unsupported statements. Ensure you back up your claims. Don’t say you are experienced without listing experience, a team worker with no evidence of team working, or accomplished and results driven with no proof of achievements. Make a list of what you have been involved with and achieved and go from there, only detail things you can back up confidently in an interview or you’ll fail at the second hurdle.”