One of the most important documents in your entire job search is your curriculum vitae (CV), sometimes called a resume. Your CV is an overview of your work history as well as any qualifications or skills you have.
By understanding what a CV is and what it should include, you’re in a much better position to create your own.
Below, we answer the question ‘what is a CV’ and provide examples that you can use when you build your own out.
What is a CV?
A CV, short for curriculum vitae, is a professional document used during your application for a position. It highlights your best attributes for the position you’re applying for.
You typically provide your CV when you initially apply for the role, alongside a cover letter. Both should be tailored to the role you’re applying for but this isn’t mandatory.
The majority of job roles will require a CV, regardless of experience level or position so it’s important to keep yours updated and have it on hand.
Why is a CV important?
A CV is important because it provides employers with a snapshot of your professional profile.
Since employers have to screen a large amount of applicants at a time, a CV is a great way of qualifying the applicants that make it to the next stage.
This is why it’s so important for you to have an engaging, personalised document. A good CV is essentially a great first impression and shows that you’ve not only read the job description but have the requisite skills.
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What to Include in Your CV?
While your CV can take any format you like, there’s several key sections that we advise you including.
When you’re mapping out your CV, it’s a good idea to write each section individually and then edit the whole document as one as this ensures a good flow.
The most important aspect of a CV is your contact details.
Without this information, an employer won’t be able to reach you to set up the next stage of the application process.
The contact information you should include is: Phone Number, Email and Home Address.
Make sure that you update your contact information if it changes.
The first major section of your CV is your personal statement.
This is the first thing an employer typically reads and provides a brief overview of you, your professional career and any major achievements or skills you have.
It’s vital that you don’t lost your employers interest at this stage so keep it brief and only mention the key points.
Providing examples of education, particularly higher education, is generally expected on a CV.
These examples demonstrate a fundamental understanding of certain topics and skills, usually related to the role that you’re applying for.
Showing past educational success also demonstrates to an employer that you are motivated, determined and have the right skills to excel within a role.
If you’re applying for a role in finance, for example, being able to show educational achievements in accounting, finance or statistics can highlight the right educational foundation.
The professional skills section of your CV is where you can highlight the main skills relevant to the job description.
It’s a good idea to split your skills section into two categories: hard skills and soft skills.
Hard skills are technical skills that are specific to the role you’re applying for. Soft skills are transferable skills that apply to any role, such as active listening, communication and organisation.
By demonstrating both sets of skills, you can build a complete picture of yourself as an employee.
The final part of your CV is your past work experience. Depending on the role you’re applying for and your past experience, this can either be a critical part of the CV or a way of providing more context.
One of the most important benefits of showing work experience is that you also demonstrate you have a fundamental understanding of how to behave in a professional setting.
As you explain your previous roles, don’t forget to include any responsibilities you held and achievements you had in your post.
The common way of formatting your work experience is in a reverse-chronological order – show your most recent position first and work backwards.
This doesn’t need to be a large section if you only have several highly-relevant past positions. Spend more time providing context for these than listing every single role you’ve ever had.
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Formatting a CV
When you format your CV, it’s a good to write each section individually and then bring these together into one document.
This gives you a better understanding of what it looks like as one entire document, which you can then edit down.
The two common formats include: reverse-chronological order and functional order.
Reverse-chronological order involves focusing on relevancy and work experience, starting with your work experience and skills before listing education after.
Functional order is a format that starts with your skills first before listing work experience. This is a better option if you have a lack of work experience or feel the employer is more focused on understanding your competency.
Tips for writing a CV
When you set out to create or update your CV, here’s some of the best practices you can use to help writing a CV much easier:
Use bullet points
Bullet points are a great way of summarising your CV in a way that is easy to read and understand. Full sentences and walls of text may mean the employer loses interest quickly.
Separate sections using formatting
It’s critical that sections such as contact information and skills stand out from the rest. Use different styling such as bold or colours to make it easier to distinguish where one section ends and another begins.
Maintain a professional tone
A CV is a professional document and may be your first contact with an employer. Make sure that you use a professional email address and style it in a professional way. Don’t use emojis, jargon or slang, unless you’re absolutely sure that it’s suitable for the company or role.
Highlight your strengths first
Remember, the point of a CV is to quickly and concisely highlight your strengths. If you have a lot of varied work experience and skills, make sure the most relevant ones are near the top.
Below we’ve laid out a CV template you can use when you create your own. It includes all of the necessary sections and is formatted in a way you can directly use – such as headings and styling.
[A brief, 4-sentence paragraph that provides an overview of your professional experience, you as a person and your working style, alongside any key qualifications or certifications to highlight]
[Employer 1 / dates of employment]
[A bullet point list of your responsibilities in the role]
[Employer 2 / dates of employment]
[A bullet point list of your responsibilities in the role]
[Educational honour 1 / dates of study]
[Educational honour 2 / dates of study]
[A bullet point list of your relevant skills for the role]
[A bullet point list of any professional certifications you have in place]
[A bullet point list of any awards you have earned during your professional career]