Skip to main content

Build your CV

CV is short for curriculum vitae. CVs include details about your education and experiences, including public presentations, academic writing and professional development. You can use a CV when you’re:

  • applying for work and/or contracts in academics, advanced research, post-secondary teaching and fine arts
  • applying for graduate school and scholarships
  • showcasing your background prior to a presentation 

Required information

Personal contact information: this forms the header of your CV and includes your name, address, phone numbers and email. Make sure you have a professional email address and voicemail message.

Education: a list of your educational credentials in reverse chronological order. For each credential, include the name of the degree/diploma/certificate, the institution and the year of completion for each of your credentials. Once you've started your university degree, it's common practice to remove your high school diploma from your CV (unless you've had an unusual or unique high school experience that links to your work goal).

Professional memberships or affiliations: professional associations or informal professional groups you're a member of.

Awards and distinctions: academic awards and related honours, as well as research funding like grants and fellowships.

Research experience: a description of your previous research experience, including personal research and research conducted on behalf of other individuals.

Teaching experience: a description of your teaching experience and responsibilities. This includes courses taught, TA and lecture experiences, curriculum development, experience running labs and tutoring.

Publications: a list of your published work, including the names of the publications.

Presentations: your professional presentation experience, including presentations at conferences, symposiums and in the community.

References: your references are 3 or 4 people who know you, generally from a work or educational setting, and who are willing to be contacted by a potential employer to comment on your contributions, personal qualities and work ethic. This section should appear at the end of your CV.

Optional information

  1. Objective: a brief statement at the beginning of your CV that focuses on how you can contribute to your field of practice.
  2. Summary or profile: a brief section near the beginning of your CV that includes 4 to 6 statements that strongly connect you to the work or educational experience you are seeking, often describing your specifically related competencies and accomplishments. Think of this as a summary of the key points from your cover letter.
  3. Professional service: a list of academic committees that you've belonged to, as well as your contributions to professional organizations (e.g., Graduate Student Society, graduate student representative on academic committees).
  4. Competencies: skills, knowledge and attributes related to the work you're seeking
    • best presented as bulleted statements beginning with action verbs  (“developed,” “created,” “supervised,” etc.) that describe your accomplishments in clear, concrete terms
    • traditionally, competencies are only listed minimally on a CV
  5. Relevant work experience: summary of work experience that is relevant to your current goal. Check the application to determine if this section is required or if it would add value to your CV. If so, include your co-op work terms and other experiences like internships, practicums or specific projects. Alternately, you could integrate this into your research and teaching sections.

Using references

Typically, you'll need to include the names of 3 or 4 references with your CV. References can include:

  • former or present supervisors
  • professors, teaching assistants, teachers, lab instructors
  • coaches, volunteer supervisors, mentors
  • colleagues who can speak to your abilities

References should not include relatives or friends.

For each reference, include their:

  • name
  • position title
  • organization
  • phone number
  • email address
  • location

If your reference has changed jobs since you worked together, indicate how your reference knows you (e.g., “former supervisor”).

Always ask your references' permission to use their information.

Update your references (or contact your existing references) at the beginning of your work search to let them know someone may be calling.

It’s a good idea to tell them about the kind of work you're applying for and send them your current résumé.

You may want to ask what they would say about you if someone called for a reference check.

You can either include your references at the end of your résumé or put “References available on request” at the bottom of your résumé.

It’s more efficient to include your references on your résumé, and it may boost your credibility if your references are well-known. However, you may prefer to opt for "upon request" if you don’t want to spread their contact information widely or you don’t want your current employer to be contacted until after an interview. 

If you're not including references on your résumé, bring them to the interview and provide them to the employer at the end.

Note: employers usually prefer to contact your references directly. Keep in contact with your previous employers, even if they change jobs or retire—potential employers may want to talk to them.

If you're providing your references on a separate sheet:

  • keep formatting consistent
  • if you have one name bold, bold them all
  • if you're including categories for each contact (name, position, email), use the same for all references
  • check capitalization for organization titles
  • use the same font throughout
  • if you're copying contact info from somewhere else, update the formatting
  • use the same style/formatting as your résumé and cover letter (same header with your contact information, etc.) so they look like a cohesive package
  • include your name in the document
  • save the document with your name in the title

Employers will usually contact your references after you've completed a successful interview and the supervisor wants to learn more about you and your work history. This could be immediately following your interview or several days after.

Usually, reference check questions will relate to your:

  • past responsibilities
  • work ethic
  • professional behaviour
  • skills
  • dependability


  1. What kind of work did ______ do for your organization? 
  2. This will be a busy position with multiple demands and changing priorities. Describe how _____ has worked under similar conditions
  3. Is _____ able to organize her work effectively to meet deadlines? 
  4. Does _______ generally arrive at work on time? Were there excessive absences? 
  5. Would you hire ______ again if you had the opportunity?

Graduate students

Early in your program, your CV may closely resemble your résumé. Creating a Research Interests section is the easiest way to quickly differentiate your CV from your résumé.

While in your program, you should look for opportunities to build these sections of your CV:

  • research experience
  • teaching experience
  • publications
  • presentations
  • professional affiliations

As you progress through your program, your CV and résumé should become clearly differentiated documents.

Building your CV

  1. Make notes about how your experience matches up with the posting by deconstructing the job posting.
  2. Choose the format that best suits your experience.
  3. Prepare your reference list.
  4. Decide on the general layout and appearance, including the sections, order, fonts, etc.
  5. Write your first draft—our action verbs list can help you write strong statements.
  6. Review and proofread.
  7. Ask 2 or 3 people to take a look and provide feedback (they should know you well and/or be knowledgeable about the field you're targeting).
  8. Make any changes and finalize your document.