It can be very difficult to know where to start when it comes to writing your CV. It’s the first step in any job application process and, so often, it is where applicants let themselves down. Together with your cover letter, your CV is the first thing any potential employer sees, so you need to put your best foot forward when writing your CV.
Here's how to write a CV:
- How long should a CV be?
- What goes on a CV?
Don’t use the same CV for every job application. Instead, customise what information you include so that it fits with the job requirements. You might have done a course in animal husbandry, but that’s not relevant when applying for a job as an accountant.
Tailor your CV to the job.
Ideally, a CV should be between 1 and 2 pages long, but check the job listing! The recruiters might only want a 1 page CV and by sending them one that’s 2 pages long you’re showing that you don’t read or follow instructions very well.
Not too long, not too short.
This is where we get to the important stuff, to what makes a CV a CV. Curriculum vitae means ‘course of life’ in Latin, and that’s what you need to present to your potential employers.
- Start off with personal information: name, contact details, etc. Make sure they know how to get hold of you.
- Education - list your qualifications, including institution and (good) grades, in reverse chronological order (put the most recent first). Make sure to note any significant achievements
- Work History - this is what most recruiters look at in the most detail. List your previous places of employment in reverse chronological order, including what your position was, your responsibilities and any major achievements
- Skills - list any skills you have that may be relevant or make you an attractive candidate for the job. Your CV needs to sell you, remember? This would include things like computer skills, languages you speak, relevant talents you have.
The order of these may differ from CV to CV; if you have just finished studying and have little to no work experience, list your education first. If you have lots of work experience but little education, put your work experience first when writing your CV.
- Another major factor to consider when writing your CV is readability. You could be the perfect candidate for the job but if your CV is messy and impossible to decipher, no employer is going to hire you. Use bullet points to make things easier to read and make your CV attractive to readers.
- Stick with one font - going from Arial to Helvetica to Wingdings isn’t going to do you any favours.
- Spelling and grammar are significantly importance - get someone to proofread your CV when you’re done writing it to make sure you haven’t made any errors that could make you look unprofessional.
- Some recruiters will ask for a recent photo to be included. If they do, don’t choose one of you and your friends on a night out. A simple, clean headshot will do. Make sure you look presentable in it though.
- You should also include 2 references, people who can give positive feedback about you. Choose one academic (maybe a professor or teacher who liked you) and one professional (a recent boss) reference and include their name and contact details. But ask them first!
There you have it - how to write a CV. Just remember, a CV is designed to portray you as the ideal candidate for the job, so keep that in mind while you’re writing it.