What is a Curriculum Vitae?

What is a Curriculum Vitae?

Curriculum Vitae (commonly abbreviated, of course, to CV) is the Latin expression for ‘the course of one’s life‘; but this can seem a bit misleading since no employer is interested in knowing every single detail of your life so far. It’s not an autobiography, after all.

The Oxford Dictionary defines Curriculum Vitae as ‘a brief account of a person’s education, qualifications, and previous occupations, typically sent with a job application.’

Your CV usually contains – in brief – the following information about you:

  • Personal details (name, address, telephone number and email address)
  • Education and Training
  • Work experience
  • Skills (or Achievements)
  • Hobbies and Interests
  • References

Personal Marketing Tool

The best way to look at a CV is to see it as a ‘marketing tool’ or a ‘sales brochure’ where you sell your skills, qualities, expertise and potential to a prospective employer.

Your CV will be the first thing a prospective employer will see about you. It is also the only part of the selection process that you have full control over; you are the only person who decides what any potential employer sees or reads about you.

Bright & Earl in their book Brilliant CV (2001, pg.1) state:

“Getting a job today can involve several steps, starting with a CV, followed by psychological tests and interviews. The CV is the only step where you have control over the information that you present. In every other step, the employer decides what questions to ask, what information to collect. The CV is your vital opportunity to present yourself at your best. CVs are important.”

Your CV tells volumes about you.

Within seconds of looking at it, you can tell whether a person is highly employable or;

  • Unprofessional
  • Unorganised
  • Clumsy with little attention to detail

Always remember the golden rule: you are what your CV tells people who you are!

The Purpose of a CV

The objective of the CV is not to get you a job!

No employer in their right mind will call you up the next day saying; “Hi, we have just looked through your Curriculum Vitae and based on what we have seen … you’re hired!

Unfortunately, it just does not work like that in the real world.

Rather, the key purpose of your CV is purely to convince a prospective employer of your employability and to arrange an interview or a meeting with you; it is primarily a gateway to an interview.

This concept has been nicely illustrated in the following diagram related to the job application process:

Martin Yate, a best-selling careers author, states in his book The Ultimate CV Book (Pg.3):

“Your CV must speak loudly and clearly of your value as a potential employee. And the value must be spoken in a few brief seconds, because, in the business world, that’s all the attention a CV will get. The CV takes you only the first few paces toward that new job. It gets your foot in the door, and because you can’t be there to answer questions, it has to stand on its own.

While it is true that it is during the interview stage that you have the opportunity to fully convince a prospective employer of your suitability for the job, it would be wrong to conclude from this that the expiry date of the CV is just until the Interview.

Rather, once all the short-listed candidates have been interviewed the recruiters will then go through all the notes, application forms, cover letters and CVs to make a final decision.

Hence, your CV will be your personal companion until you have secured the job that you seek and its importance cannot be overstated.