If you’re applying for a new job, you’ll be expected to create a CV as part of your application. Sometimes called a resume, a CV is a complete overview of your working life – from the qualifications and skills you’ve developed to your previous job responsibilities. If you understand what a CV is, you’re in a much better place to start creating one.
Below, we explore the answer to the question ‘what is a CV’ and provide examples of a CV that you can use when you’re building out your own.
What is a CV?
CV stands for ‘curriculum vitae’ and is a professional document that you’ll use during your job application. You’ll typically create a CV when you apply for a new job alongside a cover letter and a task or presentation. A CV is mandatory and not having one will negatively affect your application. Depending on the job you’re applying for, it’s usually a good idea to tailor your CV to match the job description for the role.
You can format your CV in any way you like and the layout you choose may change depending on the industry you work in. How you format your CV may also change based on what the employer is looking for. For example, you may concentrate on skills and qualifications over past experience for certain roles.
Why is a CV important?
A CV is important as it allows an employer to quickly see an overview of your professional career during the screening process but also provide more detail if they’re considering you for the role.
It’s a one-stop document for you as a worker and helps you highlight your suitability for a particular job. In a competitive application process, your CV should also help you stand out from the crowd and grab the attention of an employer.
The right CV can show that you’ve properly prepared for the application process, which can contribute to a positive first impression with an employer.
Take a Look at Our Ready-Made CV Template
What should you include in your CV?
When you create a CV, it’s a great idea to split the document up into various sections that you can re-arrange if you ever change your layout. While your CV should link together to create a cohesive document, splitting it into different parts also makes it easier to write. Below is a breakdown of the various parts that make up the best CV template:
Your contact information is the most important part of the CV as it ensures that any potential employers can get in touch with you. In the contact information section, you should note down your phone number, email address and home address. This means you’re easy to get in touch with and employers can see where you’re based, which is important during the screening process. The contact information usually goes at the top of the CV along with your name.
Your personal statement is usually the first part of the CV that the employer sees. This is a brief breakdown of your professional career and you can think of it as an ‘elevator pitch’ for hiring you. It should mention your skills, qualifications you’ve earned and any past achievements that are relevant to the role you’re applying for.
While you want your personal statement to be as complete as possible, it should still be concise and engaging. You don’t want the reader to get bored before they’ve even managed to go through the full document.
Educational / Qualifications
The importance of having your educational background depends on the role you’re going for. Some employers require a university degree or specific qualification, which you’d obviously want to highlight. That said, having your past qualifications or certifications on display also shows that you’re motivated, knowledgeable and determined. How much space you allocate for this section (and thus take away from others) entirely depends on your judgement and should be a consideration for each individual role you apply for.
Often considered one of the most important sections, the professional skills section of the CV is a chance for you to show off a little. Here you can demonstrate the various skills you have as an employee – whether they’re ‘hard’ technical skills or softer skills such as organisation and communication. This approach allows you to build a complete picture of yourself as an employee.
Hard skills are technical skills that you’ve picked up during your career. Unlike soft skills, hard skills are usually very specific to a single role or industry. You may simply list the skills you have and how proficient you are or you may decide to provide more context around a smaller number of skills to reinforce your aptitude.
Work experience is a key part of a CV as it helps employers understand several things. Firstly, work experience shows that you understand how to operate in a professional environment. Second, it highlights responsibilities you’ve held in the past that may apply to your current role. Having a consistent example of work experience shows that you’re committed and in many cases, employers will ask you to explain gaps in your employment.
When you lay out your work experience, it’s common to choose a ‘reverse-chronological’ order. This means listing your most recent role first and then working back through previous roles. Aside from demonstrating your most recent experience first – which is usually the most useful – it makes screening much easier.
Related Content – What is a Cover Letter: Definitions and Examples
Formatting a CV
How you format a CV is an important decision as it can impact readability and the reader experience. You want to make sure you choose a layout that results in a cohesive and understandable CV.
There are two common layouts for a CV – one that focuses on relevant experience and one that focuses on skills or qualifications. A ‘reverse chronological’ order is the first format and focuses on work experience that is relevant to the job description. The second layout is ‘function based’, which focuses on skills and qualifications over experience. This is useful if you don’t have a lot of experience but plenty of technical knowledge.
Tips for Writing a CV
If you’re creating a CV for a new role, there are several fundamentals you’ll want to understand. This can help you create a more effective CV and make the document better for recruiters or hiring managers. Below are our top tips for writing a CV:
Use Bullet Points
Remember that you’re trying to make use of limited space on a CV. Nobody wants to read a 5-page CV and you should aim to have two sides filled at most. Instead of using full sentences and paragraphs, use bullet points within your skills and responsibilities sections. This way you can include more information in a much more concise way.
Space Out Your Sections
Each part of your CV should stand out from the others. You want to make sure that readers know one part has ended and another began. You might do this by using different fonts, colours or text styling. This is especially important when you list your contact information, which should be the most visible part of the CV.
Maintain a Professional Tone
Your CV isn’t just your chance to build a first impression with employers, it’s also a professional document. This means it shouldn’t have grammatical mistakes or use jargon. Use ‘professional’ styling and avoid fonts such as Comic Sans or garish colours. If you have a less-than-professional email, you might think about changing it before you list it out.
Highlight strengths first
Remember that your CV is a chance to demonstrate your strengths and they should be near the top. Don’t rigidly stick to a template if it’s not selling you as a professional. If you have lots of different technical skills, they should go first. If you have more experience than skills, run with that instead.
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Explore Our CV Template
Below is a template you can use when you’re building out your own CV. The template includes all of the necessary contact information and then splits out each section depending on the qualifications, experience and skills you have to hand. This template is an example of a reverse-chronological CV but you may switch sections around to focus on skills:
[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]