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How to Write a CV

Writing a CV is a challenging task, and Ultius is here to make it easier on you to craft the best CV you can. Check out the guide below on how to write a CV, and if you still need some help, we offer the following services and additional writing guides:


When considering how to write a Curriculum Vitae (CV), focus on making a strong impression and conveying an accurate work history. Carefully proofread your CV while you are writing it in order to resolve any lingering spelling or grammar issues. Poor spelling or other formatting errors raise an instant red flag for hiring managers, who will be quick to deposit a poorly written CV in the round file, rather than onto the boss’s desk. Writing a CV is like writing an essay-- except instead of a grade, you're competing for a job.

A Custom Work

A CV, like a research paper, should always be delicately tailored to the topic, job or career that you are applying for. A great CV must include your name, location, contact information at the top, followed by work experience and credentials. To assist you with learning how to properly write a CV, collect all supplementary information about other accomplishments or awards, skills, volunteering, and personal experiences. Remember, the main objectives of a CV are to explain who you are, why you are a good employee, and how your skills and experience will fulfill the employer’s needs; thus, a resume makes a first impression that ideally precedes the opportunity to sell yourself during an interview. Once the main information needed for a CV is present, editing it down to narrow your focus and target the desired job opening. Emphasize your strongest skills by explaining how they were applied at your most recent jobs. Provide useful personal information that pertains to your field, including hobbies or interests that are directly related to your potential job or that set you apart from other candidates.  

Do Your Research

In order to learn how to write a CV successfully, the first step is to research the job that you are applying for, including its requirements in terms of experience and necessary competencies. This information will empower you to write a strong resume that stresses how your skills and experience align with and exceed the job’s requirements. For example, a job as a line cook might require a food handler’s card or Servsafe certification, two years of experience, and prefer a culinary arts degree. When applying for this job, you should consider how to write a CV that will address these exact specifications. You should obtain the regulatory certifications, explain your experience in the food industry, and list any educational achievements that are relevant, like a degree in food science. Even if your background does not perfectly line up with a job, if you feel you are qualified for the position, then describe your experiences in a way that suggests proficiency.  If you want to work as a cook, have a degree in journalism, and also have experience preparing hors d'oeuvres as a caterer, focus on the latter skill rather than the former, tangential, qualification. Most employers value education to the degree that it enables success on the job. Academic CVs are different, in that they generally require a longer length (4-5 pages), and resemble a portfolio of achievements and the culmination of a scholar’s published texts and studies, rather than a brief description of previous work. 

Honesty is of utmost importance, but selling yourself may entail a colorful description of previous duties. For example, if you worked at a movie theater, tearing tickets might be better described as “customer relations.” Many duties fall under the bracket of sales, from referrals to retail sales and up through high level management of customer accounts – be sure to include sales as part of your work experience if it is relevant. Another important characteristic that employers look for is leadership. If your previous employment experience includes any leadership, management, or supervisory duties, it would be highly useful to include them in your CV. Ideally, your job history will demonstrate continuous growth and development over the course of your professional career. In the case of recent graduates, your job experience may be limited to internships, volunteer work, or summer jobs. After your name and contact information, place the most recent job experience first on the page, as that is the most important piece of information that hiring managers look for. Some people choose to write an objective describing their professional goal, though others indicate that this practice is passé and redundant or unnecessary. One strategy that can be used when figuring out how to write a CV properly is to begin with your work experience and write the objective later, once you understand how to tailor your statement to the audience based on your background. If you do choose to include an objective, make sure it is relevant to the job you are applying, and speaks to your aspirations and values. A profile is another form of briefly introducing your main skills by highlighting your career experience. Always use reverse chronological order on a resume, whether outlining work history or educational achievements. 

Don't Include Fluff

The jobs and educational achievements in the more distant past should drop off the resume as your career develops. A junior executive in accounting probably no longer needs to include his summer stint at the water park at age 15; similarly, a distinguished professor would not need to provide his elementary school alma mater. Hiring managers may read through hundreds of resumes for a single position, so yours should be bold, clear, brief, and unique – without deviating heavily from accepted standards. When describing work history, include the month and year of hiring and leaving (or present, if still working there), the job title, the company you worked for, and your main duties and responsibilities there. Relevant skills that might be included could be language aptitude, computer skills, or other technical skills related to the job.

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Notice how only the most relevant information is included: the name and vital information, work experience from the past five years, key educational achievements and skills. The structure of a CV should flow from more important information toward less important information. The most important piece of information, aside for your name, is an up to date work history. Recent graduates or those applying for academic positions might wish to include their GPA. When approaching the dilemma of how to write a CV, sometimes less is more. Brevity is the soul of wit, and it is also at the heart of a solid resume. Avoid verbosity and confusion by using brief, incomplete sentences to describe job duties. Also, overused or simplistic terminology like “team player” should be avoided if possible, and replaced with more accurate diction that reflects your unique skillset, such as “collaborative asset,” or “relationship manager.” Human centered skills are the most important aspects to emphasize when describing your previous employment.

Nothing Irrelevant 

Do not include irrelevant information, such as your favorite hobbies unrelated to work or the names of your pets. That being said, tailor your resume to fit the job. A job opening in the arts might call for a resume with a headshot, or a link to an online portfolio of your work. Most hiring managers prefer a simple, easy to read resume that succinctly details work experience, rather than a flashy, lengthy, or gimmicky resume. 

In some cases, volunteer experience may be highly important, as a stepping stone to a full-time career or an indicator of moral character. A nurse applying to work in a nursing home could include years of volunteer experience on her resume in addition to her professional clinical hours. An IT professional might include his participation in a volunteer IT outreach program that provides technology to low income families. In other cases, volunteer experience will clutter a potentially elegant resume with unneeded addenda, and should be avoided. 

Be Prepared to Answer Questions

Large gaps in employment will need to be explained during an interview, unless they are accounted for in the educational achievements or volunteer sections of your resume. If you served a religious or charitable mission, this could be included under volunteer experience to explain an employment gap. Gaps in employment become less problematic with steady employment within the past five years, as previous gaps can be omitted from your work history.

Always include a brief list of references at the end of your CV, two is the preferred number, but anything under five should be acceptable. Your references must be professional contacts, educational mentors, community members, or family friends that have firsthand knowledge of your skills and experience, and will report accurate, positive things about you if called upon to do so by a potential employer. Many jobs will follow up with your references to ensure that applicants are honest and able to maintain positive relationships with former supervisors and teachers, so choose references that are reliable and maintain a working phone number.

Creating a First Impression

Whenever asking how to write a CV and wondering if a certain piece of information about yourself should be included, remember your main goal: making an excellent first impression on the reader of your resume. Like a first date, or an initial handshake, a CV can be the difference between landing an interview that leads to a job and missing out on opportunities for further your occupational aspirations. Your resume should attract an employer’s attention by being honest, relevant, and impeccably written. Before submitting your resume on a job application, ask a peer, parent, teacher, or mentor to look over it and point out any mistakes or areas for improvement. After receiving feedback, edit your resume one last time for clarity and cohesiveness, aiming for one page of elegant content that perfectly describes your ability to succeed in the desired position based on your work history, experience, achievements, skills, and contacts.

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