Tips on how to write a Professional CV
Tips on how to write a CV:
- Make sure you know when to make use of a CV
- Ensure you choose the right CV format
- Add your contact information in the correct way
- Start with a CV personal profile
- List all your relevant work experiences & achievements
- Build your CV educational section correctly
- Include relevant skills that fit the job opening
- Include additional CV sections to impress the recruiter
- Organise all the information on a professional CV template
- Always complement your CV with a cover letter
Make Sure that You Know When to Use a CV
Let’s start with the basics to make CV writing easy
What is a CV?
In its full form, the acronym “CV” stands for curriculum vitae (Latin for: course of life). In the US, Canada, and Australia, a CV is a document you use for academic purposes. The US academic CV outlines every detail of your scholarly career. In other countries, CV is an equivalent of an American resume. You use a resume when you apply for jobs.
Because this document is named differently in different countries, a lot of people keep asking:
What is the difference between a CV and a resume?
Let’s get it straight, once and for all:
In the hiring industry there’s almost no formal difference between a CV and a resume. It really is the same thing. The British call it a CV and Americans call it a resume.
So, if you’re applying to a European company, you should create a CV. But if you’re applying to a US-based employer, you should create a resume.
In South Africa we use a CV for work applications.
And no, a CV is not a cover letter. A curriculum vitae is a detailed list of specifications, while a cover letter is a full-blown personal “marketing campaign”.
Choose the right CV format
the Best CV Format
Imagine you are the recruiter, and you must review 250 job applications. Do you thoroughly read all of them? Of course, you don’t.
Recruiters, on average, spend only 6 seconds scanning each CV. So, the very first impression is key. If you submit a neat, properly organised document, you are more likely to convince a recruiter to spend more time on your CV.
A poorly formatted CV, on the other hand, will get you discarded in the first-round review.
Here’s how to format a CV the right way.
Start with creating a CV outline divided into the following sections:
CV: Proper Order of Sections
- CV Header with Contact Information
- Personal Profile
- Work Experience
- Additional Sections
Pro Tip: If you’re fresh out of university and need to write a student CV with no experience, or if you’ve graduated from a very prestigious institution within the last 5 years, put your education section above your work experience.
When filling in the sections, always keep in mind the gold CV formatting rules:
- Choose clear, legible fonts
- Use one of the standard CV typefaces: Arial, Tahoma, or Helvetica if you prefer sans-serif fonts, and Times New Roman or Bookman Old Style.
- Use 11 to 12 pt. font size and single spacing. For your name and section titles, pick 14 to 16 pt. font size.
- Be consistent with your CV layout
- Set one-inch margins for all four sides.
- Make sure your CV headings are uniform—make them larger and in bold but go easy on italics and underlining.
- Stick to a single dates format on your CV: for example, 11-2017, or November 2017.
- Don’t cram your CV with gimmicky graphics
- Less is more.
- White space is your friend—recruiters need some breathing room!
- Plus, most of the time, after you send out your CV, it’s going to be printed in black ink on white paper. Too many graphics might make it illegible.
- Do not use photos on your CV
- Unless you’re explicitly asked to include your photograph in the job ad.
- If so—make sure to use a professional looking picture, but not as stiff as an ID photo.
- Make your CV brief and relevant
- Don’t be one of those candidates stuck in the nineties who think they must include every single detail about their lives on their CVs.
Pro Tip: Once you’ve finished writing, save your CV in PDF to make sure your CV layout stays intact. But pay close attention to the job description. Some employers won’t accept a PDF CV. If such is the case, send your CV in Word.
Add your contact information correctly
In the contact information section, enter your:
- Full name
- Professional title
- Email address
- Telephone number
- LinkedIn profile
- Home address
The contact information section seems straightforward, but here’s the one reason it might be tricky:
Recruiters will use it to research you online. If your social media profiles are unprofessional, or if your LinkedIn profile information doesn’t match that on your CV, you’re immediately out of the race.
Start with a CV Personal Profile
So, how to make a CV pop?
All it takes is a CV personal profile statement—a short, snappy paragraph of 100 words tops that tells the recruiters why you are just the candidate they’ve been looking for.
Your personal profile will either be a CV objective or a CV summary.
What’s the difference?
- A CV objective shows what skills you’ve mastered and how you’d fit in. It’s a good choice if you’ve got little work experience relevant to the job you’re trying to land, for example, if you’re writing a student CV.
- A CV summary, in turn, highlights your career progress and achievements. Use it if you’re a seasoned professional and have a lot of experience in your field.
List Your Relevant Work Experience & Key Achievements
Often, your work experience section is the most important part of your whole CV—the one that gets the most scrutiny.
If you’re thinking “Easy, I just need to list my previous positions, the dates worked, and my responsibilities,” think again.
All the above are must-haves in a basic CV. But “basic” won’t get you that dream job.
The thing is: recruiters know what you did. They want to know how well you did it and what you can offer your prospective employer.
Here’s how to make your work experience section illustrate that:
- Focus on your measurable, relevant achievements, not just your duties.
- Use action verbs: “created,” “analysed,” “implemented,” not “responsible for creating, analysis and implementation.”
- Tailor your CV to the job posting—read the job description carefully and check what tasks will be expected of you. If you’ve done them before, put them on your CV, even if those weren’t your primary responsibilities.
Pro Tip: To make sure your achievements on a CV shine as they’re supposed to, follow the PAR (Problem Action Result) formula to describe them.
Build Your CV Education Section Correctly
If you’ve got any post-secondary education, include only it on your CV. Don’t mention your high school unless it’s your highest degree of education. List:
- Graduation year (if you’re still studying, enter your expected graduation date)
- Your degree
- Institution name
- Honours (if applicable)
But what if you’re writing a CV with little or no work experience? What if you’ve just graduated and are looking for your first full-blown job?
If such is the case, you should do two things:
- First, place your education section above your work experience.
- Secondly, elaborate a bit more on your academic experience.
Include, for instance:
- Your dissertation title
- Favourite fields of study
- Relevant coursework
- Your best achievements
- Extracurricular academic activities
Put Relevant Skills that Fit the Job Opening
When it comes to skills for a CV, one issue is more important than any other: relevance. The skills you decide to include on your CV have to be relevant to the job you’re trying to land.
How to do it?
Start with a spreadsheet. In it, list all your professional skills. Then check the job description for the skills desired by your prospective employer.
Do they match some of the skills from your spreadsheet? Presto! These are the ones to put in your CV skills section. Include an appropriate mix of hard skills, soft skills, and anything in between.
Pro Tip: When you list your skills, add a short description of each to indicate your level of proficiency. For example, “Excellent,” “Advanced,” or “Basic.”
Include Additional CV Sections to Impress the Recruiter
On your CV, include an additional section in which you show off your unquestionable triumphs: things that prove your value as a candidate.
Such as the following?
Sample CV Additional Sections:
- Industry awards
- Professional certifications
- Professional affiliations
- Conferences attended
- Additional training
A well-crafted additional section can be the decisive factor in choosing you over another candidate with a seemingly similar background.
Don’t worry if you’re still studying and can yet showcase none of the above.
A good student CV will still benefit from an additional section. Here are some ideas:
Sample Student CV Additional Sections
- Volunteer experience
- Hobbies and interests
- Freelance work
- Academic achievements
- Personal blog
Complement Your CV with a Cover Letter
Because as many as 45 out of 100 recruiters won’t even get around to reviewing your CV if there’s no cover letter attached, according to our HR statistics report. True, the other 55 might think a cover letter for a CV is redundant. But here’s who does read cover letters:
Hiring managers. And, at the end of the day, it’s their decision on whether you’re getting the job or not.
Most people hate writing cover letters for CVs because they are clueless about how to write them properly. And writing great cover letters is much easier than it seems.
Plus, a great cover letter that matches your resume will give you an advantage over other candidates.