You’ve found the perfect job opportunity. You send your CV and you breathlessly wait for the call-back… but it never happens. Sound familiar? Yeah, it does for most of us. But how’s that possible?
Your CV has never been read. It wasn’t good enough.
Take heart, this nightmare scenario isn’t unfolding ever again. You’re about to learn how to write a CV no one will be able to resist reading.
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Read this guide and you’ll see:
- A CV sample better than 9 out of 10 other CVs.
- How to write a curriculum vitae even if you have no experience.
- Tips and examples of how to put skills and achievements on a perfect CV.
- Good CV tips and how to write a CV to get any job you want.
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Here’s how to write a CV:
- Pick the right CV format
- Add your name contact information
- Start with a personal profile and your title
- List your relevant work experience & key achievements
- Build your academic and education section
- Put relevant skills that fit the job opening
- Include pertinent information in additional sections
- Organize this all on a professional CV template
- Complement your CV with a cover letter
This is the most effective CV structure: the top of the document should contain important contact information, the summary is a great way to introduce yourself, and show your experience and achievements, while the rest of the curriculum vitae is there to provide as many relevant details as necessary to convince the reader that you’re the perfect fit for the position.
Have a job title or position in sight already? Here are how to write a CV examples for specific situations: 100+ CV Examples for All Careers.
We’ll explain how to successfuly go through each of the above mentioned steps in the following chapters of our guide.
CV, Curriculum Vitae and Resume… What are the differences?
What is a CV?
In its full form, CV stands for Curriculum Vitae (latin for: course of life). In the US, Canada, and Australia, a CV is a document you use for academic purposes. The US academic CV outlines every detail of your scholarly career. In other countries, CV is an equivalent of an American resume and is used to apply for a job.
A CV is therefore a curriculum vitae, and other than its length and purpose in a few English-speaking countries, a CV is a synonym for a resume. Confused? Read our full guide on what a CV is.
What are the differences between a CV and a resume?
Let’s get this straight, once and for all:
In the hiring industry, nowadays there’s almost no formal difference between a CV and a resume. It’s the same thing that Brits call a CV and Americans—a resume.
Just like they do with chips and french fries, football and soccer, or Queen Elizabeth and Queen Bey.
So, if you’re applying to a European company, you should write a CV. But if you’re applying to a US-based employer, you should make a resume. If you’re writting a CV for academic purposes in the US, Canada or Australia, read our guide on the differences between a CV and a resume.
And no, a CV is not a cover letter. A curriculum vitae contains your work history, education and skills, while a cover letter is a full-blown marketing campaign. These documents are completely different, and you can learn more about those differences in this guide on Curriculum Vitae VS Cover Letter.
If you’re confident now that you need a curriculum vitae, let’s get this writing guide started.
Here’s a disturbing thought:
Every time you’re looking for a job, you compete against 250 other candidates on average.
Yes, you read that right.
Imagine you are the recruiter and you have to review 250 job applications. Do you thoroughly read all of them? Nah, of course you don’t.
Recruiters spend only 6 seconds scanning each CV. So the very first impression is key. If you submit a neat, properly organised document, you’ll convince the recruiters to spend more time on your CV.
A poorly formatted CV, on the other hand, will get you discarded in the first-round review.
Here’s how to format a CV the right way.
Start with writting a CV outline divided into the following sections:
CV: Proper Order of Sections
- CV Header with Contact Information
- Personal Profile: CV Objective or CV Summary
- Work Experience
- Additional Sections
When filling in the sections, always keep in mind the gold CV formatting rules:
Choose clear, legible fonts
Go for one of the standard CV typefaces: Arial, Tahoma, or Helvetica if you prefer sans-serif fonts, and Times New Roman or Bookman Old Style if serif fonts are your usual pick.
Use 11 to 12 pt font size and single spacing. For your name and section titles, pick 14 to 16 pt font size.
Be consistent with your CV layout
Set one-inch margins for all four sides.
Make sure your CV headings are uniform—make them larger and in bold but go easy on italics and underlining.
Stick to a single dates format on your CV: for example 11-2017, or November 2017.
Don’t cram your CV with gimmicky graphics
Less is more.
White space is your friend—recruiters need some breathing room!
Plus, most of the time, after you send out your CV, it’s going to be printed in black ink on white paper. Too many graphics might make it illegible.
Get photos off of your CV
Unless you’re explicitly asked to include your photograph in the job ad.
If so—make sure to use a professional looking picture, but not as stiff as an ID photo.
Make your CV brief and relevant
Don’t be one of those candidates stuck in the nineties who think they have to include every single detail about their lives on their CVs.
Hiring, nowadays, is one hell of a hectic business. Nobody’s got the time to care for what high school you’ve attended or to read 10+ bullet point descriptions of past jobs. We’ll get to that later on.
Pro Tip: Once you’ve finished writing, save your CV in PDF to make sure your CV layout stays intact. But pay close attention to the job description. Some employers won’t accept a PDF CV. If such is the case, send your CV in Word.
Learn more about CV formatting from this quick dedicated guide I’ve written recently: CV Formatting—The Ideal Structure for a CV
Alright, so you’ve got the best CV template ready for ya and you know the basic CV writing rules. Time to dive in!
You want the recruiters to get back to you, so you need to let them know how they can reach you.
In the contact information section, enter your:
- Full name
- Professional title
- Email address
- Telephone number
- LinkedIn profile
- Home address
The contact information section seems fairly straightforward, but here’s the one reason it might be tricky:
Recruiters will use it to research you online. If your social media profiles are unprofessional, or if your LinkedIn profile information doesn’t match that on your CV, you’re immediately out of the race.
Want to avoid it? Read our guide: How to Check Your Online Presence Before Recruiters Look You Up.
After listing their contact information on a CV, most candidates jump right into their work experience or education.
But you’ll do better than that. You will actually get remembered by the employer.
So, how to write a CV pop?
All it takes is a CV personal profile statement—a short, snappy paragraph of 100 words tops that tells the recruiters why you are just the candidate they’ve been looking for.
Your personal profile will either be a CV objective or a CV summary.
What’s the difference?
A CV objective shows what skills you’ve mastered and how you’d fit in. It’s a good choice if you’ve got little work experience relevant to the job you’re trying to land, for example, if you’re writing a student CV.
A CV summary, in turn, highlights your career progress and achievements. Use it if you’re a seasoned professional and have a lot of experience in your field.
Now, have a look at some examples. Let’s say there’s a posting for a nursing job. Here are sample nursing CV objectives and summaries.
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Example of a CV Objective
|Newly licensed Nurse looking for a challenging nursing role in a medical facility where I can put my skills to the test.|
Not awful, right? The problem is, in this CV objective, the bottom line is basically “I want a job because I learnt for the job.”
Have a look at another CV objective sample.
Objective for a CV—Example
|Dependable licensed NMC Registered Nurse trained to work in high-stress environments and stay calm under pressure. Seeking to leverage meticulous record-keeping and analytical skills to help St Francis Hospital with your upcoming challenges|
See the difference? The latter candidate focused solely on what she can offer her future employer. She also mentioned the name of the specific hospital to which she’s applying.
And yes, name-dropping is something you, too, should definitely do in your CV objective.
True, it means you won’t be able to spam your CV out to every company that’s currently hiring but, then again, when was the last time you replied to a “Dear User” email?
As we said before, if you’ve got some relevant job experience under your belt, begin your CV with a CV summary instead of an objective.
Check out these sample CV summaries.
Sample CV Summary
|Bilingual (English and Dutch) Pediatric Nurse with 15+ years of experience in the intensive and neonatal care units of a community hospital. Seeking to leverage management experience as Chief Pediatric Nurse at General Hospital, helping to implement new staff training programmes.|
The General Hospital Director just picked up the phone to call this candidate.
What’s so great about this CV summary?
Above all, it’s super-specific on how to write a cv. It gives a complete outline of the candidate’s background and shows how her experience will help her tackle particular problems the hospital is facing.
Here’s another example of a CV summary.
|Pediatric Nurse with years of experience supervising the medication and health records of newborns.|
This one, on the other hand, says little more than “I am a nurse.” It presents nothing but generic responsibilities all nurses have.
In your CV summary, don’t ever go for meaningless buzzwords.
When making a resume in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building a professional resume template here for free.
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How to write a CV for my first job if I have no experience?
Whether you’re writing a graduate CV or executive resume, there are universal rules to follow. So, don’t worry about having little or no experience. There’s a smart way to get you a job.
- Mark resume keywords in the job description. The keywords are words and phrases that repeat and describe a particular quality or qualification.
- Find such a quality or qualification in your arsenal. That can be anything from taking part-time jobs to doing an internship or taking up volunteer work. Or even from your academic years, such as running a student’s club, tutoring, or relevant hobbies and interests you picked up.
- List soft and hard skills that speak to your employability. In other words, think of any transferable skill you’ve gained throughout various stages of your life.
- Add additional sections that’ll give you the chance to score bonus points for engagement, curiosity, and communication.
- Write an objective statement to give your employer a sense of dedication and show your thought over the application.