Writing an Effective CV

A CV includes your career objective, work experience and educational qualifications. Curriculum Vitae is commonly used in British English while resume is preferred in American English. It’s important to acknowledge the importance of a good CV and to put in the time and energy to create a CV that you are proud to share.

Cropped shot of a handsome young businessman sitting alone in his home office and talking on his cellphone

1. Things to include on your CV

Personal details

Put your name in bold and centralized at the top of the page. Just below, add your contact details including 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).

Professional objective 

Write one sentence about who you are and where you want to go in your career. Next, write a short paragraph highlighting your achievements and goals (three to four lines). Match your skills to the particular requirements of the position.

 Prospective employers are interested in finding a person whose goals align with theirs. Do your research.

Work experience
Start by mentioning your most recent experience and work your way back (reverse chronological order, in other words, 2020, 2019, 2018). 

With every job, outline the key responsibilities, skills and achievements. Use strong verbs such as ‘managed’, ‘arranged’, and ‘organized’ and list your responsibilities.

For example:
(Position) Sales Engineer
(Company) Green Solutions- (Dates)May 2017 to Feb 2020
Responsibilities included- managing research and data analysis, writing reports, arranging meetings with clients
Key achievements – Team leader on project 2019

Educational qualifications
Start with your most recent educational qualifications, and add the institution and the dates. If you have just finished school or university, list the specific subjects that relate to the position. If you have worked for some time, include professional training qualifications.

For example:
Masters in Business Administration, University of Cape Town, 2019

Skills
List your abilities, including languages and tech expertise. Don’t go overboard, select the most important.

Interests 
Share interests to show that you are a well-rounded person, with a balance of sport and cultural interests. Include volunteer activities, especially if you are beginning your career, which show your ability to take the initiative and contribute to the community. Volunteering is a great way to gain experience in the field and practice leadership.

References
References are letters of recommendation from a professor 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 on your CV

– Writing CV at the top of the page. It is obvious that this document is a CV. Your name at the top is enough.
– Adding your date of birth and marital status.
– An autobiographical account of your life. 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.
– Irrelevant information and experience. Your CV should speak directly to the job description.
– Negative information that puts you in a bad light. Use this document to shine.
– Putting family members as a reference. Family are biased and will not be able to provide an objective view.
– Lying on your CV. This is fraud. If found out, it will cost you the job and your reputation.

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 the font consistent throughout. Don’t use numbers with headings, as this can create confusion. Check CV structure on the Internet. Find something that reflects your personality and your field.

Final polish
Before pressing send, proofread the document. Proofreading allows you to reformulate your sentences, delete repetition, 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 document.

Your CV should highlight your best characteristics and experience. The purpose of a CV is to get you an interview, and it is your chance to make a strong first impression. Get started and all the best!

By Annaelle More

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