How to Write a Standout CV

Curriculum Vitae is Latin for ‘course of life.’ To most of us, it’s simply known as a CV.

A CV is a summary of your skills, experiences, accomplishments and education designed to capture a potential employer’s interest. The primary purpose of a CV is to secure an interview so you can demonstrate your suitability for the job you’re seeking.

Whether you are in the market for a new role or not, it’s prudent to have a current CV, so you’re ready to pounce should that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity present itself.

In addition, it helps you keep track of roles, responsibilities and, importantly, your achievements. It’s much easier to tweak a contemporary document than to build from scratch, trying to recall your contributions.

A CV needs to be clear and unambiguous, outlining your work history, along with other relevant information. The most effective CVs are neat and attractive. They are interesting, well-organised and targeted to your objective.

There is no magic formula that ensures a perfect resume, but adhering to the following basic guidelines will allow you to send the right signals to readers in an effective manner.

What to include in your CV

  • Use plenty of space. White space is your friend in a CV.
  • Tailor it to the specific role you aspire to. Repeating keywords from the job ad or position description works well.
  • Present information in reverse-chronological order within categories. List education and career history starting with your most recent first.
  • List your key achievements for each role, presenting strongest points first. Be specific and quantify accomplishments wherever possible. $ and numbers are very impactful.
  • Start each sentence with a strong action word when describing your duties and accomplishments (e.g. Achieved, Designed, Managed, Led).
  • Make statements that indicate how you used your skills to solve a problem.
  • Add your skills, certifications, professional affiliations, volunteering etc.
  • Information should be factual and accurate. Use definitive terms, not vague descriptions.
  • It’s ok to use jargon and acronyms specific to your industry, but always wise to spell out acronyms in brackets as well.
  • Brevity is very important – be as concise as you can – review and seek opportunities to eliminate unnecessary words.

What to avoid in your CV

  • Remove the use of pronouns – you don’t need to use ‘I’ because it is implied. Definitely avoid using ‘we’ as the document is about you (this applies to interviews as well).
  • Do not include anything negative – make only positive statements about yourself.
  • Do not include information that is not relevant to your employment objective.
  • Do not include personal information such as age, gender, height, weight, marital status, number of dependents, religion, health status, or political inclination.
  • Nationality or visa status is relevant only if it affects your availability for employment.
  • Do not include salary requirements. If specifically requested, these details can be outlined in your cover letter.

When you’re finished

  • Proof-read carefully. Spelling errors and poorly constructed sentences convey negative impressions about a candidate.
  • Once you’ve proof-read it, have someone else review your CV (and your Cover Letter as well).

A professional CV indicates a professional individual. Not only does it summarise your personal history for a reader – it also helps you prepare talking points for your next interview, using the STAR framework.

Extra for experts

Want to know more about how to get your CV past ATS systems? ATS is the software that screens CVs for jobs advertised online. Find out all you need to know here.

Need some help?

These are proven tips to getting your CV in order. However if you feel you need help, it’s not far away. Contact the team at CV Writers and we’ll work with you to tailor your ‘course of life’ and help you land your dream job.