How to Build a CV
What is a CV?
CV stands for Curriculum Vitae, and basically it is the outline of your educational and professional history. CV’s are used worldwide as a tool for job applications. A CV is the most flexible and convenient way to make applications. It conveys your personal details in the way that presents you in the best possible light. A CV is a marketing document in which you are marketing something: yourself! You need to “sell” your skills, abilities, qualifications and experience to possible employers.
There is no absolute best way to write a CV. Different companies and different people will have different opinions and different tastes. However, there are basic principles you should follow, to make your CV more attractive and to better sell yourself. Basically, you can follow the motto, keep it simple.
You should use a CV whenever:
- An employer asks for applications to be received in this format
- The employer simply states “apply to …” without specifying the format
- When making speculative applications (when writing to an employer who has not advertised a vacancy but who you hope may have one).
What should you include in a CV?
A CV needs to include enough information for the recruiter to decide whether you are likely to be a suitable candidate, so you should include:
- contact details – name, address, mobile phone number, email address;
- knowledge – educational or professional qualifications, dates of institutions attended;
- skills and competencies – ability to work in a team, manage customers, specific IT skills, level of responsibility;
- work-related experiences – dates of employment, previous employers, job titles, examples of tasks, achievements;
- referees – two people who can comment on your work experience.
It’s important to tailor your CV to the needs of the recruiter and the particular job. So, if there is a job specification or job description, show how you are a good fit by giving examples of how your experience, knowledge and skills fit the requirements of the job, paying particular attention to the ones marked ‘essential’.
How long should a CV be?
Ideally, a CV should be no longer than two pages. CVs that are very long will not be read. Focus on the summarized and critical information. Everything else you feel you want to show, save it for the interview.
Do I need to include a personal summary?
It’s not essential but it is often used. It’s up to you. If you do decide to include one it should ideally be no more than four lines long and follow immediately after your personal details at the top of your CV.
Personal summaries should be written in strong, positive language and include information on who you are, what skills you can offer and generally what you are looking for in your next role.
Do I list work experience or education first?
This depends on the type of CV you are creating and how much work experience you have. Usually Job Experience comes first, as your current job is what will influence the most the Recruiter decision to interview you or not. If you have recently graduated and don’t have much work experience it is probably best to start with your education.
Should I include hobbies in my CV?
It’s not necessary to include hobbies in a CV but if you do, use them as examples of specific achievements, such as supervision of teams, organisation of rotas, collation and analysis of documents, etc.
How should I present my CV?
Aim to put your most attractive feature towards the beginning of your CV where it will be noticed by a recruiter. Similarly, construct a strong finish with a closing remark that is positive and enthusiastic.
Don’t be tempted to keep the length of your CV under control by using a small font or closely packed lines of text. Instead arrange text with space around it. Use tables or text boxes and an easy to read font such as Arial or Verdana to ensure a clear layout; use bold font and capitals only if really needed and avoid the use of underline.
If you’re not a confident speller, have your CV checked by someone you trust. Often computerised spellchecks don’t pick up every error.
Furthermore, if you need to post a hard copy of your CV, use good quality paper, staple rather than clip pages together and use an envelope large enough to keep the CV flat in transit. Unless you are advised otherwise by the recruiter, your CV should be accompanied by a cover letter.