A Guide to Writing an Effective CV
“CV” stands for Curriculum Vitae, which loosely translates from Latin as ‘the course of your life’. It includes a brief account of your career objective, work experience and educational qualifications. This term is commonly used in British English, while “resume” (pronounced rez–oo-mey) is preferred in American English.
It’s important to acknowledge the importance of an effective CV and to put in the time and energy to create a CV that you are proud to share.
1. Things to include in your CV
Put your name in bold and centralise at the top of the page. Just below, add your contact details including your mobile number and email address. Add a professional portrait photograph. The latest trend is to include a link to your LinkedIn profile (ensure that this is up-to-date with current information).
Write about who you are and where you want to go in your career. In a short paragraph (3-4 lines), highlight your achievements and goals. Match your skillset to the particular requirements of the position. Prospective employers and interested in finding a person whose goals align with theirs. Do your research and find out about the organisation.
Experience / employment history
Start by mentioning your most recent experience and work your way back (reverse chronological order, in other words, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018). The layout should be as follows: job position, company name, year and months of employment. With every job, outline the key responsibilities, skills and achievements. Use strong verbs such as “managed”, “arranged”, and “organised” and list your responsibilities which are transferable skills.
For example: (Position) Sales Engineer, (Company) Green Solutions – (Dates) May 2017 to Feb 2020. Responsibilities included – research and data analysis, writing reports, meeting clients. Key achievements – Team leader on project 2019.
Education / qualifications
Start with your most recent educational qualifications. Include the name of the qualification, the school or university where you studied and the dates. If you have just finished school or university, you can list the specific subjects that relate to the position.
List your abilities, including the languages you speak and your ability with computer programs and systems. You can also include ‘soft’ skills such as communication, people management and problem solving. Don’t go overboard – only select the most important.
Hobbies / interests / volunteer activities
Include volunteer activities, especially if you are beginning your career, that show your ability to take the initiative, your contribution to the community, and the leadership skills you gained as a result. Share interests to show that you are a well-rounded person, with a balance of sport and cultural interests.
References are letters of recommendation from a teacher, professor, colleague or former manager. You could name references including the person’s position and contact details (but better to ask the person first). Alternatively, say “references will be provided upon request”, which means that if they need a reference, you will share their contact details at a later stage.
2. Things to Avoid
Writing “CV” at the top of the page
It is clear and obvious that this document is a CV. Your name at the top is enough.
Lying on your CV
This is a serious problem (in fact, it is committing fraud), which if found out will cost you the job.
Stick to two pages maximum, with essential information first. It’s alright for your CV to be one page, especially if you’ve just started your career. Employers probably have hundreds of CVs to look through for each position, so they don’t want to read an autobiography!.
Irrelevant information and experience
Your CV should speak directly to the job you are applying for.
Negative information that puts you in a bad light
Putting family members as a reference
Family are biased and therefore will not be able to provide an objective view of your performance.
3. Format and layout
There are some standards that you must adhere to when putting your CV together.
Font size 10/12 for text, and 14/18 for headings.
Font: Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman. Keep this consistent throughout.
Don’t use numbers with headings, this can create confusion.
Check the CV structure on templates on the internet. Find something that reflects your personality and suits your field.
Before pressing send, proofread the document. Proofreading allows you to reformulate your sentences, spot repetition and inconsistencies, and to identify grammar and punctuation mistakes. Mistakes show carelessness which could blow your chances of getting an interview. Show a strong work ethic by delivering a perfect copy.
Your CV should highlight your best characteristics and experience. Take your time and put in the work – you should feel excited and proud to share your CV with potential employers. Remember the purpose of a CV is to get you an interview. Your CV is in fact the very first impression you get to make. Get started and good luck with your job hunting!