When it comes to writing a CV, we often get scared or think we’re unable to make a suitable personalised CV. What we forget is that EVERYONE has a CV, absolutely anyone in the professional working world has had to, at one time or another, write a curriculum, apply for jobs, go to interviews and negotiate terms of a new job with a potential employer.
So, why are we so scared of writing a CV?
Essentially it is very easy to create a CV but what counts is knowing how to make a good CV that’s worth sending as your job application!
What is a CV?
Some people have an outdated idea that your CV is a list of your past work experience and education and little else. In order to make an outstanding CV that really will land you a job interview for your ideal role, we need to forget this traditional view and embrace the ever-evolving modern world of CV writing.
Your CV is your personal presentation to the prospective employer. It needs to represent your professional profile as best as is possible by marketing you as a new asset for the company. It must be individual and customised to the vacancy you’re applying for and overall it must be convincing, because that is your ultimate aim – to convince the employer that you are the right candidate to invite for an interview!
The following guide will teach you how to write a good CV that will stand out in the application process and each factor that should be considered throughout.
How to do a CV?
When it comes to getting down to the basics of how to write a curriculum vitae, there are several elements that each candidate must bear in mind.
- A CV or curriculum vitae, often referred to as a resume in the US, is defined as an account of an applicant’s work experience, education and qualifications sent when applying for a job. This is a basic definition for something that must essentially provoke in the reader an urge to want to meet you, therefore learning how to write a CV for a job application must also embrace the notion of writing a story to intrigue the reader, in this case a hiring manager.
- When a candidate decides how to prepare a CV for their job search, he or she must begin by making a plan which encompasses their professional achievements, work history, education, qualities and skills that they can bring to the position and any extra qualifications that make them a suitable candidate.
- This information needs to then be presented in a descriptive but professional manner which showcases the strengths of each individual and their aptitude for the vacancy. You must approach CV writing from the perspective of your audience and treat each CV as an individual and new application, not copying and pasting the same material for every different job vacancy available.
- Research the company and the position, read up on what your duties would be and think about how you would tackle problems that might arise or how your accomplishments and skills would benefit the company you’d like to work for.
Tips for writing a good CV
Creating a personal brand, which is essentially what a CV is all about, requires certain strategies that can help you make an outstanding CV for your job search.
Put yourself into the shoes of the hiring manager at your preferred company and find a way to wow them! Take a look at these expert CV tips to help you get started:
- Keep in mind the needs of the prospective employer, you are writing an application to demonstrate that you are what they need in their business so keep your focus on what your experience and achievements can bring to the role.
- Do not lie! It doesn’t matter how many times we repeat ourselves – this is one of the biggest problems in CV writing and it will not do you any favours to invent skills, qualifications or experience you do not have!
- Keywords are essential, especially for companies who use Applicant Tracking Software to filter their job applications! Use the job description, company website and profiles from other experts in your desired field or industry to find pertinent keywords and phrases that relate to your professional profile and the necessities of the role.
- In addition to keywords, it’s important to use powerful verbs when describing your accomplishments and responsibilities in order to have a bigger impact and make a memorable CV for your job application.
- Finally, the best tool available to create a winning CV with the best expert advice for all industries and positions is an online CV creator which allows you to adapt your curriculum vitae easily and quickly using tips for each section.
It’s crucial to think carefully about your CV format when you write it. If you choose to do so from scratch you’ll have to plan carefully how to place each section, creating a layout which is easy on the eyes, making good use of white space and not cluttering the page with different fonts, sizes and typefaces.
It is essential to make a CV with a well-structured format that is visually pleasing and will attract the reader to the important information.
Readability is an element to be considered when structuring a CV. This means maintaining an easy-to-read document which is well constructed and using a layout that is comfortable for the employer to navigate to find the relevant information.
When considering the CV structure, candidates should be mindful of the margins and white space on the page as well as font sizing and types, never using more than 2 fonts in the whole document. Also italics and underlining should not be overused or the CV becomes overcrowded.
Another possibility to ensure an HR-approved CV layout is by using an online CV maker or resume templates which are ready-made and save the candidate time and energy. CV templates simply allow the candidate to introduce their information so as to avoid the need to learn about the best designs for your preferred position and in what order you should place each section etc.
Take at look at our full guide on how to format a CV for any job application to get the right instructions regarding page layout, alignments, fonts and more.
There are different CV types which have different advantages and disadvantages depending on your professional profile and the vacancy you’re interested in so it’s best to consider your options before diving into writing a CV and choose the most suitable application style for you.
The reverse chronological CV format is the most traditional of the 3 types of curriculum vitae that are widely accepted today. Even in the most creative designs and concepts that people send as their job application these days, they often revert back to this CV format to give a clear explanation of their previous job history.
Often preferred for professional CVs, the chronological curriculum vitae applies its main focus to the work experience section and requires candidates to give details and a description of each job role from their career history.
The functional or sometimes known as skills-based CV format is the dark horse of the three due to its reputation for being able to conceal career gaps as it does not focus on the work experience as its main feature. Instead as the name suggests, the functional CV demonstrates a candidate’s qualities and competencies that make him or her apt for the role.
This can sometimes be ideal for certain job seeker profiles such as student CVs or career changers who have the expertise or qualifications but do not have a long or relevant job history.
The last of the three main CV types is a modern take on the functional CV which, as per its name also, combines the previous two by using one section that displays a brief work history with short descriptions of the key achievements and the skills section which plays a big role, explaining examples of how the applicant’s top skills have helped them to accomplish goals.
The combination CV is often favoured by basic CV candidates who are looking for entry-level positions because they can rely on the many qualities they have gained through social, academic and athletic involvement or work placements and include internships, projects, event planning etc. in a work experience section without having to concentrate too much on either section.
Which sections should a CV include?
The sections featured on a standard CV can vary depending on the candidate, their unique professional profile, what they can offer a business, the type of vacancy they’re interested in, the company and the industry. However, there are certain CV sections that are nearly always established as permanent fixtures.
- Name, title and contact details – The initial part of any CV should include the candidate’s name, job title and contact details with their professional email address and telephone number.
- Personal statement – The second section includes a personal statement, sometimes called a summary statement or a CV objective depending on the applicant’s profile. This short paragraph should introduce the individual’s principle elements that make them a memorable candidate for the vacancy.
- Work experience – Depending on the CV type this may or may not be the main focus of your application however it should always be presented in a formal and professional manner. If you use a chronological CV format you will need to include more information and if you are using a combination or functional CV, there will be less details in this section.
- Education – This section also depends on what type of CV you choose to use because for certain candidates, especially students and entry-level job applicants, it will hold more weight than for others.
- Other – For many professions, job seekers will be more successful by including extra information relating to their experience in other areas or achievements that are pertinent for their application. The following are just some of the more common additional CV sections that can help you convince a prospective employer of the importance of your candidacy.
o Skills – Listing your core competencies with regards the position and sector including hard and soft skills and specialist knowledge is fast becoming one of the more important sections to include in an effective CV. Ensure to always only indicate skills you master at a professional level and ones that are relevant to the vacancy you’re applying for.
o Languages – Nowadays it is very valuable to offer working knowledge of a second or third language to secure a job interview so it is important to make your language skills available for the employer in a manner that is easy to understand such as following the European benchmark for language proficiency – A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2 or by simply indicating if the level you have for each language is of native, professional, intermediate or basic proficiency.
o Achievements – Any honours or awards that you have won which relate to the vacancy or industry or demonstrate specialist knowledge or abilities can be an excellent extra section for your CV to catch a potential employer’s attention.
o Voluntary experience – Volunteer work can either be included in a work experience section with other paid positions or in an extra CV section of its own. Volunteering is always considered a positive addition to stand out in a job application process as it demonstrates passion and dedication to your professional field.
o Publications – If you have any publications to your name either as thesis, essays, books, articles etc. these can also be included in an extra CV section or as part of a portfolio that can accompany the job application and professional cover letter.
o Hobbies – Finally, although sometimes debated by HR experts, it is becoming more and more common to again see hobbies included in a CV as a way of providing evidence for certain skills or expertise as well as a means of standing out as a candidate and especially for vacancies where the company culture is an important aspect.
CV length: how long should a CV be?
When it comes to deciding on the perfect length for a CV, employers and HR experts differ greatly as it can depend on the applicant, their level of experience and even the industry or role they’re applying for.
However, as a general rule in the UK, the ideal length of a CV is 1-2 A4 pages to contain all of the relevant information you need to include in your job application.
There are those who say that even 3 pages is acceptable in many cases but as relevance is the key to a successful CV, if you find you are padding out sections or adding information that is neither pertinent or useful, you should stick to the universal less is more rule!
In certain professions, it is likely that the job application requires extra information such as a portfolio in artistic pursuits or academic occupations however this information can also be added as a separate attachment to the curriculum vitae and need not be an integral part taking up valuable CV space.
It is advisable always to maintain each section as brief and clear as possible without missing out vital details or keywords whilst avoiding long paragraphs or endless lists as these often put employers off.
If there is a specific achievement or experience you wish to embellish on, you can use your professional cover letter which should always accompany your job application to do so. In a cover letter the candidate has the opportunity to give further explanations or details which could convince the hiring manager to add your name to the interview list.
What not to include on a CV
Once you’ve learnt how to write a good CV you still need to make sure you don’t make any critical errors which is when you must consider what NOT to include in a CV before sending off your application.
- In a European CV you may find it is common to include a photo however this is strictly a NO-NO in a British, American or Canadian CV.
- Also in a CV for the UK, there is no need to include any personal details such as date of birth, age, marital status etc. as this can be seen as discriminatory.
- You are only recommended to include your citizenship if you require a working visa which is connected to your national ID.
- Try to steer clear of using cliché phrases and certain words that have been overdone in applications in the past.
- Also due to the importance of maintaining relevant information throughout, it is vital that you remove any unnecessary details or qualifications, skills or experience which do not relate to the position or provide evidence of your aptitude for the role.
- Finally, as CVs evolve and the HR community changes, you are advised not to include references on your CV at any point unless strictly requested by the job vacancy. In some cases candidates can choose to add a line at the end of the CV to mention that ‘references are available on request’.
Any additional information that a candidate sees as significant to include in a CV but doesn’t fit or it requires further elaboration, can be added to a cover letter where applicants can explain in more detail the fundamental reasons why their experience and qualifications make them the ideal candidate.