Learn how to properly write a CV with our comprehensive CV Writing Guide.

A CV is a personal marketing tool that is used to present a candidate’s application to a job offer as well as the people who are in charge of the hiring and selection process. CVs aim to summarize a candidate’s contact information, work experience, education, and skills . Although the idea is simple, when it comes to actually writing a great CV many people find it quite challenging.

With this guide to CV writing we will help you through the writing process and give you professional tips on how to write a great CV that will land you more interviews and lead you to your ideal job!

Before getting started

Before getting started, it is important to first think about the purpose of your CV. Although it seems obvious, the objective of your CV is to advertise yourself and your abilities in such a way that catches the eye of the hiring manager, and for them to want to get to know you better in an interview. Even today, many candidates are not aware of this fact and as a consequence they continue to treat their CV as a mere formality. This is the reason why the majority of CVs look alike. This means you need to select the most relevant facts about your career history, achievements, and skills and present them in a unique way that shows off your strengths and disposition for the specific position.

Remember the purpose of a CV is to persuade the potential employer that you are worth interviewing, to meet the person behind the CV and learn more about how you can take on the responsibilities of the role at hand. The idea is to show the employer that you are the best possible candidate to tackle the job.

Don’t forget that everybody has a CV, so the only way to make sure that you will receive a callback is to make your CV stand out from the rest, capture the attention of the person in charge of the hiring process and clearly demonstrate why you deserve the opportunity to interview with them.

What’s the secret to a great cv?

The secret to a great CV, is actually no secret at all. It only requires two important elements: content tailored to the job position at hand and the correct format!

Content tailored to the job position:

The content is easily the most important part of a CV, but the content alone does not guarantee you will get an interview. Even with exceptional content, your CV can go unnoticed if it is not combined with the correct format.

Remember that when we talk about good content, we are referring to consistency between your CV content and the position. This cannot be said enough - By using the same CV for various applications you are essentially losing a significant opportunity to capture the attention of the recruiter. The key is to tailor your CV content to the specific role.

The first step is to thoroughly read the job description and research the company. After, you must come to an understanding of the qualities that the company is looking for in a candidate. Finally, the idea is to customize all of your CV sections in a way that demonstrates that you possess these exact characteristics.

List of recommended Sections to include in your CV

Each one of the elements included in your CV has to have a valid reason for being there. In other words, there is not one correct structure, with predetermined sections that should be on your CV. You must choose the ones that are most important for your job application, as well as the content that should be incorporated in these sections. Try to focus attention on your virtues and downplay any possible disadvantages of your professional profile. Of course this requires some in depth reflection and decision making. We can help you make this process a little easier with our Secret Formula for Crafting the Perfect CV, which gives you advice on how to construct each section, such as work experience, skills, interests, as well as real life examples.

Correct format for your CV:

As mentioned earlier, even if your CV is perfectly written and the content has been carefully researched in order to show your greatest achievements and full professional potential, it can easily by tossed aside if it is not readable. The readability factor is one of the most influential parts of what makes a CV grab the hiring manager’s attention. If there are errors, too much information in a small amount of space, or the layout is poorly formatted, your CV will be thrown straight into the garbage. The readability of a CV is an essential part of ensuring that the hiring manager considers you for the job.

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Another critical aspect of a great CV is its format. Your CV will certainly go unnoticed if it is too plain, without any color or style that would differentiate it from the rest. In fact, as most recruiters would agree, the vast majority of CVs look the same, with the same format including simple text with black and white monochromes.

In theory, your CV should not be overlooked, due to the fact that you have valuable content and correct spelling and grammar, however recruiters have many CVs to review and not much time to make the final decision. For this reason, we recommend selecting a design that contains elements in different colors, not just a simple black and white design. However, you should also avoid CVs with too many colors or with colors that are too gaudy or showy.

No matter whether you a preparing a professional CV, student CV, graduate CV, or if you’re writing a CV for a first-time job, it is important to remember that you are not the only one. Therefore you must make your best effort to create a detailed yet attractive CV that will make you stand out from the many other applicants.

CV page length

It is crucial to keep your CV as concise and to-the-point as possible. The fact of the matter is that hiring managers have a considerably short period of time to read over each CV that they receive. They often have up to hundreds of CVs to review in only a brief amount of time.

Hence, one page is always the best option. This is the most commonly expected length for a CV. Although, some employers are divided on this subject due to the fact that the page range may depend on a specific position or career field. For instance, two page CVs are often accepted for senior professionals (more than 6 years of experience). Certain roles, such as architects or doctors may need to showcase industry related projects, which can thus require more than one page. Despite this division, the most widely-accepted length remains to be one page.

For this reason, you must carefully choose the content that you put on your one-page PDF CV wisely. You need to select and only include relevant information for the job position at hand. Any extra details such as certificates, references, projects, conferences, seminars, or professional development can be included on your online CV.

This does not mean that you cannot write a longer CV, only that the general recommendation is to maintain 1-page. If you have a long and relevant job experiences, you may need to extend this section of your CV as long as the information is suitable to the application. The best advice is to follow the job post requirements. In other words, if it says to submit a one page CV, send one page. If the posting specifies otherwise, we still recommend one page (as you can always elaborate more on the online version of your CV), but as previously mentioned, depending on the circumstance, you may be able to submit more than one page.

Remember that if you are not able to express as much information as you would like to on your paper CV, cvonline.me provides you with an online CV maker. This enables you to go into more detail on certain subjects, elaborate on specific projects, relevant skills, achievements, or relevant experience, as well as include links and videos!

CV writing DON'Ts Checklist

Here are some of the DOs and DON’Ts - especially the DON’Ts - to keep in mind when writing a CV:

  • Don't include information or experiences that are irrelevant. Try to avoid incorporating unrelated details to the job position at hand. Even if your career history is not directly related to the role, try to write about it in a way that makes it relevant. List and describe the skills that helped you succeed within your past positions, as well as your greatest achievements, in a way that corresponds with the job position and company that you are applying to.
  • Don't use generic statements. Cliché phrases are also a big no-no. Instead, try to be creative and original. Show off your unique self by making your CV as personalized as possible.
  • Don't utilize informal fonts or those which are difficult to read. Remember, readability is everything! Similarly, DON’T use too many colors or colors that are extremely garish or showy.
  • Don't include references, unless the company/hiring manager specifically requests them. In general, it is not necessary nor is it recommended to put references on your CV. For one - it takes up a lot of valuable space that could be better utilized to emphasize your professional history and qualifications. We advise creating a separate document with your referees’ contact information that can be sent upon request. In addition, you can and should include references and recommendations on your online CV.
  • Don't keep anything from high school. Frankly, potential future employers are just not interested in what clubs or activities you participated in before undergrad. You need to keep your CV as up-to-date and to-the-point as possible. Unless it is clearly and specifically related to the role you’re applying to now, don’t include it on your CV. Employers want to see that you have taken on leadership roles and meaningful responsibilities, as well as made accomplishments in your most recent past and present. Luckily, high school doesn’t last forever, nor does the significance of your secondary achievements and performance.
  • Don't use your university GPA unless it is a 3.5 or higher. In addition, make sure to include any distinguishing honors you may have earned during your university career. Generally, it is advised to keep this information for 2-4 years after your graduation, after which we recommend focusing on more recent professional accomplishments and/or honors and awards.
  • Don't list your entire university coursework - that’s what a transcript is for.
  • Don't include your political or religious affiliations. Even if you have spent time volunteering for a specific political or religious group, it is best to leave this information off of your CV. The one exception would be if you are applying to a job that is directly related with similar political or religious institutions. In many countries, it is actually illegal to ask about this kind of personal info and including it could put yourself at risk of being tossed out of the application process.

If you’re not sure whether or not to include certain activities, seminars, publications, awards etc., or you simply do not have enough space, you can always include them on your online CV. Incorporate a call to action, as well as the link or QR code, on your paper CV, and motivate the hiring manager or potential employer to check out your extended professional profile online.

When it comes to writing CVs, it’s no easy task, but remember there are lots of materials and resources out there that can make the CV writing process a little more straightforward. Make sure you have the best CV possible by creating a CV with the help of cv templates, examples, and online CV builders.

With our online CV maker, guides for each CV section (including tips from expert career advisers), and one-on-one CV and interview coaching, cvonline.me can help you craft a winning CV, get more interviews, and ultimately land your dream job.