A curriculum vitae (CV) is a document that lists your education, work experience and other professional details. It helps employers decide whether you’re the right person for the job, or if there are better candidates available. You may have worked in several different jobs or positions over your career, so it’s important that your curriculum vitae is clear and easy to read. To write an excellent CV, follow these steps:
The reason for writing a CV is to get an interview.
A CV is a marketing tool.
The reason for writing a CV is to get an interview. It’s not the be-all and end-all of your job hunt, but it’s an important first step in the process—so make sure yours is good enough to get you where you want to go.
Your CV should be one or two pages long.
If you have too much experience to fit on one or two pages, consider splitting it into separate CVs for different roles. If the amount of experience is too little for a curriculum vitae but too much for a cover letter, you can use both formats.
You should lay your CV out clearly with sufficient white space and clear headings.
You should lay your CV out clearly with sufficient white space and clear headings. Use a font that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman or Arial, at a standard font size of 10pt.
You should also use a standard colour for your text (black or blue), and a standard style for the headings (bolded). If you are choosing the bolded option then make sure you use it consistently throughout your document; don’t mix and match bolding with underlining or italics!
As well as being consistent in what you use, you should be consistent in where you place things too. For example, if someone has worked at one company for five years then it would be helpful if they didn’t have to scroll down through their CVs every time they apply for another job – instead they could just jump straight to where all their work experience is listed.
Start with the most recent experience first.
The first thing to consider when writing a curriculum vitae is deciding how you want to order your experiences. If you have only a few jobs or internships, you can list them in reverse chronological order (most recent first). However, if you have had many different jobs and internships over the course of several years, it may be better to use functional order—that is, listing your experience by function rather than by timeline. For example:
- Software Engineer (Jan 2018–present)
- Software Engineer Intern at Example Company (Jun 2017–Dec 2017)
- Software Developer at Another Example Company (May 2016–Apr 2017)
Include details of your education and any professional qualifications you have.
If you have any relevant qualifications or training, consider including them in your CV. This could include:
- A diploma or degree (such as a BSc)
- A professional qualification (such as an MSc)
- Training courses completed during your career (for example, if you completed a Microsoft Excel course in 2016). If you don’t have any relevant qualifications or training, don’t worry; there’s no need to make up information that isn’t true. You should also not say that you have qualifications that are unrelated to the job for which you’re applying for. For example, if applying for a job as an accountant and claiming that you have a Master of Philosophy degree from Oxford University when actually it was from Oxford Brookes would probably be seen as misleading and may even rule out all further consideration!
Use positive verbs to describe what you’ve done, e.g. managed, created, analysed, etc.
- Use positive verbs to describe what you’ve done, e.g. managed, created, analysed, etc.
- Use active verbs to show what you have done, e.g., lead or created instead of ‘was responsible for’ or ‘managed’. The reason for this is that passive sentences are less engaging than active ones (a topic of another article). They also don’t give as much information about your achievements as active sentences do because they lack a subject and a predicate (or verb). This can make it harder for the reader to understand what it was that you did or achieved at each point in your career history – particularly if they haven’t been able to see examples of your work before reading the CV.
- Avoid vague verbs such as ‘was responsible for’ when describing any specific tasks on previous jobs – this does not tell us anything about what it was exactly that you did! Instead try using more specific words like ‘led’ if talking about leadership roles; ‘created’ when talking about producing something new; ‘analysed’ if working with data; etc…
Double check your spelling!
It’s important to remember that spell check software is not always accurate. You’d be surprised how many people have made the mistake of spelling a word correctly but still having it flagged by a spell checker.
So before you begin writing your CV, make sure you use the spell check function on your word processor and edit any mistakes found. Then do it again! Once is never enough – the more times you do this, the less likely it is that there’ll be any errors in what you’ve written.
If you’re using Microsoft Word, for example, this can easily be done by going into Tools > Spelling and Grammar > Check Spelling (or just hitting CTRL+SHIFT+S). If there are any errors detected by this process then select them all and correct them manually (this saves time compared to clicking through every single instance on its own!).
Make sure your CV looks professional and is easy to read.
First, it’s important to make sure your CV looks professional and is easy to read. Use a font that is easy on the eyes, such as Garamond or Times New Roman. Avoid writing in cursive for this reason—the majority of hiring managers will have trouble reading it. The best way to ensure your CV does not turn into an endless list of bullet points is by limiting its length to two pages at most.
The second thing you need to take care of is how you organize your information: Be sure that each section flows logically and naturally into the next one; if there’s some overlap between sections, consider moving them around so they flow better together (for example, put descriptions of education under “Education” rather than under “Skills”). You want everything on your CV (including headers) bolded or italicized only when necessary—there should be no extraneous bolding or italicizing here!
I hope you have found this guide to writing a curriculum vitae helpful. Remember, the most important thing is to make sure it looks professional and easy to read. If you’re having trouble with any of these steps, get in touch with us at contact page and we’ll be happy to help!