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CV/Resume Guide

How to Write a CV

What Is a CV?

CV stands for curriculum vitae, which means ‘course of life’ in Latin. It is a summary of one’s education, work experience, and skills, and is used when applying for jobs.

The CV allows potential employers to learn more about you, and quickly filter candidates for the next steps which include interviews and assessments.

Its length is usually one or two pages, never exceeding two pages.

A CV should be clear, concise and up to date with all the relevant information.

CVs and Resumes are often used interchangeably, however, there are some differences between them.

CV vs Resume

Nowadays, these two are generally the same with some countries using the term resume, while others use the term CV.

The term CV is mainly used in European countries, countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, while the term resume is oftentimes used in North America, predominantly in the United States.

There is another difference, in the format and the fact that in the United States, CVs are usually used when applying for academic positions.

How Long Should a CV Be?

A CV should be about one page long, and should never exceed two pages. The reason for this is that potential employers have so many CVs to go through, that they don’t usually spend more than 30 seconds per CV, and as such, it is particularly important to include only the most relevant information in a concise form.

An exception to the rule applies to medical professionals, who may write as many as three pages.

What to Include in a CV?

There are several important points that you must include in your CV, with the rest being more flexible.

Contact Information

You should always start with your contact information, including your full name, home address, email address, and mobile number.

Personal Profile

The personal profile, or as it is sometimes called the ‘personal statement’ or the ‘career summary’ is a short, concise paragraph that highlights your best attributes. It is usually placed after the contact information, at the beginning of the page. In a word, it is a summary of your CV (which, in itself is a summary of your experiences).

Here you should pick the most relevant achievements and skills, and express your career aims and desires.

It focuses on the sector you are applying to and should be job-specific. A good length is between 100-150 words.

Education

Some will start with education first, while others will put their work experience. There is no right answer, and you should use your judgment when applying for a specific work. Do you want to highlight your education or your work experience?

Graduates would perhaps have less work experience, and thus will be more encouraged to put their education first, while someone who worked at a serious firm, would be more inclined to put it forward first.

Whichever way you go, this section should include all your education and include any professional qualifications you might have.

It should be arranged with the most recent achievements, and qualifications first and you should include the name of the institution, the qualifications, and the dates (years, months) you’ve attended.

Work Experience

This, together with education are the two most important sections in a CV.

Here, you should add your work experience in a reverse date order, and make sure that you mention the most relevant information.

Your instinct might be to add all of your work experience, but, not all of it might be relevant to the job you are applying to.

Let’s say you are applying for an accounting job, and you used to work as a cook at a pub a year ago. The two don’t necessarily complement each other, and your cooking experience may not add any benefit or valuable experience that may help you as an accountant. Therefore, it’s best not to waste the space for things that are irrelevant.

Skills and Achievements

In terms of importance, this comes after the education and the work experience, although some may even say that it’s on par with the other two.

Here you should talk about any skills you might have: languages, knowledge of certain software (Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Google Analytics, etc).

Again, make sure that you add only the most relevant skills to the job that you are applying to. If we take the cook’s example again and say that you are applying for a cooking job at a local restaurant or pub, then your knowledge of Microsoft Office is absolutely irrelevant.

Don’t make stuff up! Employers will test your skills, and if they find out you lied, they won’t hire you.

CV Format

In terms of format, here are a few things that you should keep in mind:

Font

For the font, you should choose something that looks professional. Don’t use fancy or childish fonts. Make sure that the font is easy to read. Usually, Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri are a good choice.

You should use an easy to read size. However, you should also take into account your CV as a whole, and if you see that you can make it fit to one page if you use font size 10, then you should. Otherwise, font sizes 11 and 12 are also good.

Just make sure that you have unity in terms of fonts. Don’t make one paragraph one size, then another paragraph, another size.

Headings

The same, of course, goes for headings. You should distinguish each section by making headings (Contact Information, Work Experience, Education, etc.).

Make these heading a little larger than the main text, and you could even make them bold.

Chronological VS Reverse Chronological Order

Here, it’s really your choice. It’s usually best to use the reverse chronological order, as it puts forward your latest accomplishments first, but sometimes, you may be required to use the chronological order. Try and find out if the company you are applying to has any preferences.

Bullet Points

It is recommended to use bullet points as they allow you to save space, and focus the sentence to its most relevant information.

CV Writing Tips

Use Active and Power Words

To make you sound more professional and like a person who takes initiative, use active words and power words. Use words like ‘oversaw’, ‘devised’, ‘implemented’, ‘created’, ‘improved’, etc.

Avoid Bad Grammar and Spelling Mistakes

Make sure that you check your CV for grammar and spelling mistakes, otherwise, you might come off as an unprofessional person. There different programs that you could use, or, you could simply as a friend or a family member to go over your CV.

Tailor Your CV

This is something that not many people know or do. You should have several CVs ready, each tailored to the specific industry you are applying to, and what’s more, if possible, to the specific company you are applying to. This will increase your chances of success.

Professional Email Address

While this may seem like a trivial issue, employers don’t like unprofessional emails. ‘hotschnitzel69@hotmail.com’ will simply not do it. Your email should have your name on it, or at the very least, not include profane or silly things.

Add a Cover Letter

It is highly recommended that you add a cover letter to your CV to increase your chances of landing a job. Read more on cover letters.

Keep It Concise

As we’ve discussed, keep it clean and keep it concise. Don’t add unnecessary information. Make sure that everything on the CV is relevant to the specific job you are trying to land. Remember, recruiters don’t spend much time on your CV, they usually skim it within 30 seconds or less. You’ve got to make a good impression and show them that they need you.

CV Sample

Contact Information Nathan Smith
Copywriter
Email: Nathan.smith@example.com
Phone: 123-123123
Address: Some street 11
Personal Profile A creative copywriter with 5+ years of freelance and agency experience. Created copy for Facebook ads, Google ads and numerous company website pages. Was responsible for developing an email campaign that generated $100,000 in a year. Great at writing sales content and coming up with creative ideas.
Education BS in Internet Marketing
The University of Zanzibar, Zanzibar
2000
Work Experience Senior Copywriter
Company X1
2010-present
Oversaw all copywriting in the company
Increased conversions from landing pages by 25%
Created automated email campaigns
Increased SEO traffic by 50%
Skills Email marketing
Google analytics
Adobe Photoshop
HTML and CSS