How to Write a CV (+9 FAQ Answered)
If you want to get a job, writing a curriculum vitae is the first step. This document should contain your personal information, work experience, and educational background.
If you’re a first-time job hunter, you may be wondering how to write a CV that’ll increase your chances of being hired. The perfect curriculum vitae will help you stand out from the hundreds of candidates applying for the same job.
This guide will help you learn the golden rules of crafting a professional-looking CV. We’ll also answer some of the burning questions job hunters have.
How to Write a Curriculum Vitae
On average, around 250 people apply for a job opening. However, 9 in 10 applicants send in low-quality CVs. Approaching the CV writing process with the right mindset and knowledge will increase your odds of landing your dream job.
What can you do to write the best CV of your life? Here are some general tips:
1. Find good CV examples and templates to use as a guide.
There are loads of modern templates on the internet, and they’re pretty straightforward.
2. Use a clean and readable font.
Pick clean and professional-looking fonts, such as Times New Roman, Arial, Tahoma, or Helvetica. In general, it’s advisable that you set the font size to 11 or 12 pt with single spacing. For your name or titles, 14 to 16 pt size will do.
3. Keep your curriculum vitae format consistent.
Set a one-inch margin for all sides, keep headings uniform, and always use the same format for dates.
4. As for graphics, minimalism is king.
Don’t go overboard with colors, as recruiters will mostly print CVs in black and white. Avoid including a photograph unless the job posting requires one. Keep everything concise and direct.
If you stick to these writing tips, you can come up with a good CV to make you stand out from the competition.
What Is a CV?
CV stands for curriculum vitae, which is Latin for “course of life.” Your CV is a comprehensive document that shows your full educational background and work history.
In the US, Australia, and Canada, a curriculum vitae is generally used for academic purposes as it outlines your academic career. In other countries, such as the UK, it’s used for job applications.
What to Include in a CV?
Your curriculum vitae must always include the following:
- Full name
- Contact details
- Professional, volunteering, or community experience
- Qualifications and scholarly background
- Character references
While they’re not strictly required, a complete curriculum vitae can also include:
- Personal achievements
- Hobbies and interests
- Job-specific information
Lastly, you should never include:
- An informal email address
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Height and weight
How to Write a CV for Grad School?
Writing an academic CV is an important step when applying for grad school. Understanding what admission officers look for in this type of CV will help you go through the first step of the screening process.
1. Emphasize your academic background.
Since you’re applying for grad school, your academic achievements should take center stage in your CV. You can also mention any past volunteer work, internships, or work experiences related to your studies or skills.
2. Tell your story.
You can use your CV for a graduate school application to provide a narrative of your experiences and background to show how you developed your skills. Admissions committees look at growth and future potential in their prospective students.
3. Be consistent and include details.
Aside from being consistent, your CV should also be clean and easy to read. The first impression is important because admissions officers won’t have the time to read everything on your CV. You should include specific details to make your CV compelling.
You will find a lot of CV examples for students online, but here’s what it generally looks like:
- Personal details
- Teaching or research experience
- Honors and awards
- Grants received
- Technical competencies
- Academic and professional experience
- Community service and extracurricular activities
- Academic and professional memberships
- Research and teaching interests
- Any other relevant skills and experience
You may need to go through several revisions before coming up with a final draft that looks clean, organized, and professional, but it’s worth it if it gets you into the grad school you’re applying for.
How to Write a CV for PhD Application?
If you want to undertake a PhD, you must learn to write an academic CV. Here’s what the typical format looks like:
1. Contact information
This section includes your full name, address, contact number, email, or a link to any professional profile you have, such as ResearchGate or LinkedIn. In general, avoid including a profile picture unless specifically requested.
2. Research interests
This section is where you can provide a brief summary of the purpose of your CV, research interests, and relevant skills and experience. Tailor this section to each research project you apply for, keep it short, and be as specific as possible with the details.
The education section should be the highlight of your CV. Include every academic achievement and qualification you attained. For most, this will include a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree.
4. Research and work experience
Your relevant research and work experiences are requirements for a CV that will put you in a better position than the average candidate who will list similar educational qualifications. When listing research projects, explain what the project was about, the methods you employed, skills you learned, and the research outcome.
5. Relevant skills and experience
Highlight any soft or transferable skills, technical expertise, or courses you’ve taken. Mention all the languages you can speak and your proficiency level.
6. Publications and conferences
This includes academic publications, such as journal articles or published reports. If you’ve ever presented at a conference, list the name, location, and date of the conference, the title of the presentation, and a brief summary.
Even if you haven’t presented at any conference, a typical curriculum vitae example will list the ones you’ve attended to show your interest and dedication in the field.
7. Professional and academic memberships
State any affiliation with a society, professional body, or academic group to emphasize your enthusiasm and willingness to connect with more knowledgeable individuals in the field. List the group’s name, your membership date, and any position you’ve held or currently hold.
8. Character references
This last section is where you’ll list at least three references, two of which should be academic (past tutor, professor, or project supervisor). List their full names, professional title, and contact number. Keep in mind that before you list anyone to be your reference, ask for their permission so they can prepare to be called.
How to Write a CV for an Internship?
Completing an internship will give you an avenue to practice your classroom-learned skills in the real world with guidance from professionals. As such, it’s important that you write a first-class internship CV to land the most beneficial internship for your career.
1. Add your contact information.
First, write your name. Ideally, it should be in bold and one or two font sizes bigger than the rest of your contact info.
2. State your objectives.
Highlight your willingness to learn, how you will apply the knowledge you’ll gain from the internship, and briefly share your career objective.
3. List your education and work background.
It’s one of the essential CV writing tips to list education and work experiences in reverse chronological order. Add bullet point lists for each entry, highlighting the skills you used, such as communication, organization, and customer service.
4. Add campus or community involvement, if any.
Include any volunteer work you partook in to show employers that you’re a team player. If you’ve also held any leadership positions in community or campus organizations, highlighting them will show that you’re a self-motivated person who can be a guide to others.
5. List essential skills.
Finally, list at least five of your strongest skills that are related to the internship you’re applying for.
How to Write a CV for Medical School?
A curriculum vitae for medical school follows the same general structure as any other academic CV. However, before you start writing your CV, make it a point to check if the school website mentions any professional formatting requirements that you should follow.
Here are some guidelines to make your CV look clean and professional:
- Use a font that’s easy on the eyes, such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Tahoma.
- Set 1 inch margins.
- List education and work experiences in reverse-chronological format.
- Clearly label your sections for a neat-looking CV.
- Use bulleted lists to make your CV easy to read.
How to Write a CV for a Job Application?
The goal of your CV should be to show a recruiter that you are the most qualified person for the position. Therefore, your objective is to write the most readable and relevant CV possible.
1. Choose the right template.
Your first step is choosing the perfect template. There are different ways you can structure your CV depending on what you want to emphasize:
- A chronological CV will highlight your professional experience, and it’s the best curriculum vitae format for those with an extensive work history.
- A functional CV is a good option for those that want to prioritize their skills. In addition, it’s popular among those who are switching industries or those with minimal work experience.
- A combination CV is the jack-of-all-trades option, perfect for those who want a balance between skills and experience.
2. List your contact information.
This includes your full name, address, email, phone number, and, if available, a link to your professional profile, such as LinkedIn.
3. Add an objective or curriculum vitae summary.
Your objective should sum up your career goals, while a summary is a short statement describing your skills and relevant work experience.
4. List soft and hard skills.
Your CV for a job application should also mention any transferable skills if you’re changing industries or careers.
5. List your work history in reverse-chronological order.
Utilize bullet points for this section. When possible, quantify your impact in previous jobs through numbers. You can also include some keywords used in the job description of the position you’re applying for.
6. Include an education section.
This is especially important if you don’t have much work experience yet. Also include any awards, certifications, degrees, or affiliations with relevant organizations.
Here are some additional CV writing tips:
- Pay close attention to the format of your CV. Ensure that font style, size, margins, and spacing are all consistent, so your CV is easy to read.
- Carefully proofread your resume, or better yet, let a trusted third-party review it.
- Tailor every CV for each position, considering the job description and the keywords used in it.
How to Write a CV With No Experience?
If you’re fresh out of college and have never worked in your life, writing a CV without experience will sound difficult. Fortunately, it’s still pretty doable. Here are some pro tips:
1. Emphasize your education.
The average CV includes a work history section. However, since you don’t have any, you can emphasize your education. If you studied in a well-known university, highlight this and mention it before your degree to get the recruiter’s attention.
2. Highlight your skills.
One of the many curriculum vitae writing tips for people with no work experience is to emphasize your skills. In this section, you can include either soft skills or hard skills. However, hard skills look more impressive on your no-experience CV. If you don’t know which hard skills to mention, refer to the job description.
3. Utilize sections to replace work experience.
If you’re worried because you lack work experience, don’t be. You can include other sections on your resume — internships, volunteering experience, projects, and extracurricular activities. If you haven’t done any volunteering yet, but have the possibility of doing so right now, consider it — it’s a perfect opportunity to update your CV for a job application. Be sure to include the title of the section, name of the organization, your role, time period, relevant tasks, and awards received (if any).
4. Include extra sections to fill the space.
What if your no-experience CV still has extra space after adding all the extra sections? In that case, you can include additional sections like languages you speak fluently, relevant hobbies and interests, and awards and certifications you received.
Like other types of CVs, you have to ensure that your no-experience CV looks neat and easy to read. Avoid profile pictures unless specifically required and steer clear of flashy and colorful graphics.
How to Write Publications in Your CV?
You should always include your publications in your CV. It’s best to add only the most relevant ones in a dedicated section. However, if you don’t have a lot of publications, feel free to add them in the “additional activities” section instead.
List all your publications in bullet point format, stating the title, year, and name of the journal, website, or magazine they were published in.
How to Write a CV: In Conclusion
Writing a CV always requires effort and knowledge. The purpose of your CV should be to impress and convince the recruiter that you are the perfect candidate, but that requires creating a spotless resume.
While it may be difficult to do, even for a job-hunting veteran, an attractive CV will be your best friend as you go hunting for your dream job. Keep your spirits high, and good luck!