A curriculum vitae, also known as a “CV,” is a document that includes your academic and professional qualifications and experience, especially for a job application.
A CV can be a difficult document to write, and it’s important that it accurately represents your qualifications. This article provides tips for writing a CV that will help you stand out from the crowd.
Resume Versus CV
When to Use a CV
For the most part, a CV is often requested for positions within academia, research, science, and the medical field. However, a CV is not limited to these types of jobs as a recruiter or employer may still specifically request a CV over a resume.
What’s in a CV?
A CV gives a good overall view of your personal information as well as your experience and standout achievements and skills. Let’s take a look at what CVs typically contain.
Personal Information & Contact Details: It’s crucial to include your personal details including your full name, address, email address, and phone number so that you can be contacted for an interview.
1. Mission Statement:
While it’s not always included in a CV, some people decide to offer their personal mission statement at the top of their CV. It’s not so necessary for a graduate student or working professional, but for students entering the workforce, a mission statement offers more insight into your goals and gives an employer a glimpse of your personality early on. A personal statement can include a short introduction to who you are, what you can offer and your career goals in about 150 words or so, which is about four to five sentences.
2. Education & Qualifications:
One’s educational background appears near the top of a CV. Although it’s not always necessary to have a degree for a job, it certainly serves as a benefit, especially when you’re being compared to another candidate with equal experience. Degrees are designed to prepare you for practical experience, and importantly, the skills you learn while earning your degree are useful for work.
For example, skills like time management, organization and perseverance are honed while earning a degree, and the degree itself signal to an employer that you can stick to a task and accomplish a goal.
3. Work Experience:
If you have a long list of jobs held, only include the positions that are relevant to what you’re applying for. Under your work experience, be sure to include the company name, position held and bullets of your main achievements in the job.
4. Hobbies & Interests:
A hobby is something you do consistently that brings you joy during your leisure time. Interests are done on an irregular basis or are currently being pursued. Some good examples for a CV that also showcase your personality and skills include puzzles, creative writing, and partaking in competitive sports.
For interests, it can be anything from volunteering at a local animal shelter to working with children or learning photography. Hobbies and interests are particularly important for students to include on their CVs. When you include them, be specific, be honest and keep it short.
For your achievements, try to use the “so what?” method of answering the questions — “what did I do?” and “so what did it achieve?” An achievement is a skill, an action/activity, with a measurable result. An example of achievement would be implementing a program for a content creation team to collaborate and track the progress of work. The measurable result would be saving the team time, and therefore money.
There are different kinds of skills you’ll want to consider including, such as:
- Employability Skills: The skills that employers seek in employees, like a good attitude and strong communication
- Transferable Skills: Those that can be used regardless of the workplace, like customer service and accounting
It’s always a good idea to have a list of references ready to go should your prospective employer request one. Before you add people to your list of references, whether they are professors or previous employers, be sure to get the said person’s permission. Create a list separate from the CV and have it available upon request. The references list should include the contact’s name, email address, phone number, and job title and could also include how many years and in what capacity you know them.
What Not to Include
Although a CV requires a lot of information and is intended to provide a well-rounded picture of information and details for the hiring manager or recruiter, there are definitely items that you’ll want to leave out. These include:
- Your photo
- Salary history
- Reasons why you left jobs — leave this information for the interview!
How to Construct Your CV
Your CV should accurately represent both yourself and be relevant to the position you’re applying for. To accomplish this, begin by researching the company you’re applying for to understand what kind of skills they are looking for.
Like writing a resume, use keywords or synonyms from what they require in the job description throughout your CV and/or cover letter. For example, if you’re applying for an elementary school teaching job, you’ll want to include examples of your communication skills, patience, and keywords that highlight your teaching style.
Think about the connotations of the information you include. For example, for hobbies, each hobby can signal something about your personality, like if you put that you play sports, it’s implying that you can be competitive, but also cooperate well in a team setting.
For skills, you want to ensure that they are relevant to the needs of the job. For example, for computer science jobs, it’s useful to list the technical skills you have that will bode well for the job, like knowing how to code in CSS or HTML.
3. Format Your CV:
Choose an easy-to-read font, like Arial or Times New Roman. Section headings and your name can be a larger font, but for the general body, a font size of 10 or 12 is standard.
As with anything during a job application, be sure to spend time creating, editing, and proofing the content. It’s well advised to have someone you trust look it over as well because you may miss something. Another good idea is to read it all out loud as it’s easier to find errors that the eye could easily scan over while reading silently. If need be, test and change your CV with new job applications.
More Helpful Tips on How to Write a CV
1. Be Honest:
A CV is about you, so it needs to be honest because it’s the first impression and introduction of who you are. If you get to the interview phase, you’ll bring your CV to life!
2. Keep it Short:
There’s no need to be overly explanatory in a CV. Keep it short and to the point with the most important information because interviewers have to review dozens, hundreds, if not thousands, of applications at a time, so the keywords should pop.
3. Write a Cover Letter Too:
A cover letter offers more in-depth insight into why you are applying specifically for the job at hand and the company itself. In a cover letter, you can provide a brief overview of the factors that stand out from your CV, the keywords from the job description, and the reasons why you are interested in the company.
4. Use High Quality Paper:
A printed CV should be presentable, which means a thicker stock paper is a good idea.
Common Mistakes to Avoid on Your CV
1. Font is Too Small:
The CV needs to be easy to read, so don’t go lower than 10-point font size.
2. Not Specific for the Role:
If a CV isn’t relevant to the job, it won’t be useful or highly regarded. This is why it’s important to be honest and apply for jobs you truly are well suited for in the best interest of both you and the employer.
3. Buzzwords and Skills Hard to Find:
In order to showcase why you are a good candidate for the job, use the buzzwords that were included in the job description and include relevant skills like the technical ones.
4. Achievements Not Quantified:
If an achievement isn’t quantifiable, it doesn’t show what you’ve accomplished.
5. CV Sent to Wrong Person:
Applications include where to send CVs and resumes. Be sure to directly address the person you’re sending it to, and if a name isn’t given and can’t be researched, at least make sure it gets sent to the right general email address.
6. Not Enough Focus on Recent Roles:
Adding your relevant work experience happens in reverse chronological order, meaning that you put the most recent work on top. These positions should contain more information than older jobs because you’ve likely worked your way up and have more relevant skills in the recent roles for the next job you’re applying for.
7. Gaps in Your CV:
Try not to leave gaps in your CV’s history like missing years of experience. If you left work for some time but were volunteering, include that to show the story of your history.
8. Too Long:
For entry-level positions, a CV is generally 2 pages. Although there’s no right or wrong length to a CV, just include the relevant information and make sure everything written is useful information. If you feel like you can cut something out and it won’t impact your prospect of landing the job or leave the interviewer asking questions, take it out.
What Next? Cover Letters and Following Up
Along with a CV comes a cover letter. As mentioned before, a cover letter gives an employer insight into who you are, why you’re applying for the position, an overview of the work you’ve done and accomplishments that are relevant. It is the more detailed and conversational style of your CV.
After applying for a role, it’s a good idea to follow up to show an employer you’re still interested and on top of the communication. It’s standard to follow up about a week after applying to check in. Many employers are impressed when candidates follow up because it shows genuine care, rather than someone who applies to multiple jobs at once and isn’t carefully being selective throughout the process of finding a job.
Now you’re ready to get to writing or revamping your CV. With a properly formatted, honest CV and well-written cover letter, you’re likely to take your interview process to the next level and land the job you want!