The success of your job application largely depends on the quality of your CV or resume. Even the slightest error can lead to it being rejected or, even worse, not even being taken into consideration. To prevent that from happening, the main catch is to learn how to write a CV in a proper way.
Crafting a stellar CV may not be as easy as people tend to think, yet it’s not a mission impossible either. With the right guidelines and strategy we’ve prepared, you’ll be able to polish your biography to perfection. So, keep reading to find out how to write a CV for a job!
A CV, or curriculum vitae, is a summary of your skills, education, and work experience that you submit when seeking employment opportunities.
In Europe and most countries, a CV is the same as a resume. In the US and Canada, however, a CV is a document you specifically use to apply for a job in academia.
When crafting your curriculum vitae, you should pay attention to a few things: the CV format, the information you include, and how you organize it.
Each CV has two main parts: mandatory sections, where you list your professional experience, education, and skills, and optional ones, where you can add your hobbies, awards, certifications, or personal projects.
When sending your CV, it’s recommended to add a matching cover letter to increase your chances of landing a job.
What Is a CV?
A CV stands for curriculum vitae, a Latin phrase meaning ‘a course of life.’ This document provides a summary of the education and professional background required for all job applications, regardless of the industry.
The purpose of a CV is to help you pitch yourself, i.e., persuade a prospective employer that you’re the right candidate for the position. As such, it offers an extensive account of your work experiences and achievements, as well as your relevant skills and qualifications.
Plus, in addition to being your elevator pitch, a CV is your opportunity to stand out from other candidates applying for the same role.
Though it is a comprehensive narrative of your professional life, a CV is not supposed to be too long—one to two pages at most. Additionally, you should focus only on the information relevant to the role you’re applying for.
The Key Differences Between a CV and a Resume
Outside the US, a CV and a resume mean basically the same—a document you submit to a potential employer—and can be used interchangeably. However, in the United States and Canada, things are a bit different.
In these countries, a resume refers to an account of work experience, accomplishments, and skills. Whenever you apply for a job in any industry, you’re expected to send a resume accompanied by a cover letter.
A CV, on the other hand, is submitted when you’re seeking employment in academia. It is a document that outlines your scholarly career, including your education, publications, conferences, presentations, and similar achievements.
Due to that, a CV is much longer than a resume, going up to even ten pages.
This is where your education matters more than your work experience, so it should be elaborated on in detail.
But how are you supposed to know whether you need a CV or resume for positions outside academia? The answer is pretty straightforward. If your career is evaluated according to your performance at the workplace and you’re not supposed to publish or present any research, you’ll need a resume.
How to Format Your CV Properly
The format of your CV is the very first thing that a hiring professional will notice. Thus, you need to submit a clean, sleek, and organized document to make a good first impression and compel a recruiter to continue reading until the end.
A well-formatted CV includes mandatory and additional sections. However, not all CVs are the same, so the fields included in the former may vary. Still, it typically lists the following:
CV summary or objective
Additional sections may or may not be listed; even if you decide not to do so, there will be little harm done. However, one of the CV tips says it’s recommended to include at least some, as they will add value to your document.
These sections encompass:
Courses and certifications
Hobbies and interests
Awards and publications
You should also mind the formatting rules to fill those fields in properly. A neat CV allows a hiring professional to find any information at a glance.
To achieve this, you need to pay attention to the type and size of fonts used, margins, line spacing, and overall design. All this matters more than you might think, as it directly affects the entire layout and coherence of your CV.
To format your document the right way, follow these rules:
CV Format Guidelines
Choose a professional-looking font and set the size to 10–12 pt.
Set one-inch margins on each side of the document.
Make headings visible by bolding and increasing the font size to 14–16 pt.
Set the line spacing at 1–1.15.
Avoid too many colors, graphics, designs, etc., as they may make your CV messy and unintelligible.
How To List Your Contact Information the Right Way
Listing the contact information properly is far more important than you might think, as it allows a recruiter to reach out to you. After all, what’s the point of creating a stellar CV if a hiring professional can’t get in touch with you because you failed to provide the correct contact information?
This section should include:
Contact Information Mandatory Details
Full name and professional title
Email address and phone number
Location (city and state will be enough)
Social media profiles or websites (optional)
This is what your contact information section should look like:
Contact Information Example
Jonathan Bach Video Creator email@example.com 510-375-6659 San Francisco, CA
Make sure that you list a professional email and a phone number that you use actively. Don’t include emails you’ve created out of fun or a number you don’t use anymore.
When it comes to social media, add only the profiles that are relevant to your job. If you’re a content or video creator and use Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok to showcase your work, listing them would make sense. Otherwise, don’t fall into the trap of including social media for the sake of filling out extra space.
Triple-check everything to see if you listed all the necessary information, and make sure there are no typos or any other errors.
How To Write Your CV Summary or Objective
Your first attempt to impress a recruiter starts with a CV summary or objective. To succeed in it, you need to make them strong and compelling.
A CV summary reiterates your professional experience and achievements, showcasing how these can contribute to the success of your prospective employer. Since it focuses on your expertise, you will include it in your curriculum vitae if you have at least two years of work experience.
An objective, however, illustrates your career goals. It doesn’t focus on achievements or experience, so it’s best to put it in your CV if you’re just starting out or changing careers.
Both the CV summary and objective shouldn’t be too long—two to four sentences will suffice. They should be clear and concise, written in simple language, so that the recruiter understands what you want to convey upon first reading.
To create a memorable summary, make sure that you mention not only your accomplishments and expertise but also how the company you seek to work for can benefit from them.
Here’s how to put it:
CV Summary Example
Experienced Video Creator skilled in translating concepts into visually stunning content. Proficient in all stages of production, from ideation to post-editing, with a keen eye for detail. Ready to bring creativity and technical expertise to elevate your brand's visual storytelling.
Regarding the CV objective, focus on the relevant skills and how you’ll apply them.
Here’s an example of a good CV objective:
CV Objective Example
Dedicated Video Creator seeking a dynamic role to blend my passion for visual storytelling and technical experience. Skilled at crafting engaging content from conception to post-production. Eager to contribute creative vision and collaborate with a forward-thinking team to elevate brand presence through compelling video content.
How To Showcase Your Work Experience and Achievements in a CV
The professional experience section is a key part of your curriculum vitae. Most recruiters will get straight to it upon receiving your CV, which makes it a determining factor in whether you’ll be invited for an interview.
The work experience section is also your opportunity to shine and showcase your expertise and accomplishments from previous positions. With that in mind, you should pay special attention to what you include here.
The standard elements listed here are:
Work Experience/Achievements Mandatory Details
Company name and location
Duties and achievements
Make sure that you don’t make the typical mistake of simply listing your duties and responsibilities. A hiring manager wants to learn what you achieved while you were in that position.
Thus, focus on your relevant accomplishments and support them by including percentages, KPIs, facts, figures, or statistics wherever possible. Also, instead of phrases such as ‘responsible for’ or ‘in charge of,’ use action verbs such as ‘coordinated,’ ‘organized,’ ‘enhanced,’ etc.
Here’s what this section can look like:
Work Experience and Achievements Example
Video Content Creator ABC Media Productions, San Francisco, CA
July 2020–November 2023
Conceptualized, scripted, recorded, and edited engaging video content for various platforms, including YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.
Managed end-to-end video production process, from pre-production planning to post-production editing and final delivery.
Successfully grew the YouTube channel subscriber base by 40% within the first year through strategic content planning and audience engagement strategies.
Utilized analytics tools to track and analyze video performance metrics, adapting content strategy to optimize reach and viewer retention.
How to Add Relevant Skills to Your CV
When adding skills to your CV, make sure that you list only those that are relevant to the position you’re applying for. There is not much point in including software development skills for the role of a content creator.
Before you start considering which skills to list, make the difference between soft and hard skills, as well as transferable skills.
Difference between Soft, Hard, and Transferrable Skills
Transferable skills allow you to transfer all that you know from one job to another, demonstrating that you’re qualified for the role, regardless of your lack of hands-on experience in the industry.
The most convenient way to list skills is to check out the job advertisement, look for the required skills, and add them to your CV if you possess them. List them in two subsections to separate hard skills from soft ones.
Make sure to focus on your soft rather than hard skills. Their importance has grown in the last few years—even 84% of employers believe workers should possess soft skills, as they allow them to adapt to changes in the environment faster.
Here’s an example:
Relevant Skills Example
Adobe Creative Suite
Camera and drone operation
How To Properly Include Education Information in Your CV
The education section is yet another essential part of your CV, particularly if you have just graduated or have little professional expertise.
If you were wondering how to write a CV with no experience or how to write a CV as a student, the key answer lies in this section. Detail your education by listing the academic achievements you made at your college or university. Add your GPA, relevant courses you attended, and honors or awards you gained.
However, if you’re a seasoned employee years into your career, keep the education part brief and to the point. The information you should list includes:
Education Mandatory Details
Degree and program name
The name of the educational institution
Location (city, state, or country)
Date of graduation (month and year)
Optionally, you can list:
Education Optional Details
GPA (if higher than 3.5)
Remember, if you have a college or university degree, don’t list your high school education.
Here’s how to do it:
Education With University Degree Example
Bachelor of Arts in Film and Media Studies San Francisco State University
August 2016–June 2019
Specialized in digital filmmaking, gaining hands-on experience in scriptwriting, directing, and post-production.
Developed a strong foundation in film theory, cinematography, and storytelling, laying the groundwork for a comprehensive understanding of visual storytelling techniques.
In case you don’t have a university diploma, add the high or technical school you attended.
Education With High or Technical School Example
Advanced Diploma in Digital Filmmaking San Francisco Film School
August 2016–June 2020
Completed coursework in cinematography, editing, and motion graphics, enhancing technical skills crucial for video production.
Acquired knowledge of industry-standard video editing software, including Adobe Premiere Pro and DaVinci Resolve.
What Other Sections Can You Add to Your CV?
Having elaborated on the mandatory sections, you may consider adding the optional sections as well. These are not obligatory and can be skipped, but listing them may let a hiring professional discover more about you and spark their interest.
Here’s what you can include:
#1. Awards and Certificates
If you’ve attended any courses outside of your formal education, add them to your resume. This demonstrates that you’re continually working on your professional development.
Likewise, awards indicate that you’re a master in your field, and listing them enables you to showcase your supremacy.
Both the awards and certificates should be added together with the date of reception and the institution that issued them.
You can list them this way:
Awards and Certificates Example
Certification in Color Grading, Colorist Certification Institute, March 2021
Certificate of Achievement in Sound Design, Sound Design Academy, June 2022
Excellence in Video Production Award, Media Excellence Awards, September 2023
Regardless of the industry, knowledge of foreign languages is extremely beneficial and is considered a huge advantage by recruiters and hiring managers. So, if you speak any language besides English, feel free to spread the word.
Note that you should list the level of knowledge as well—basic, intermediate, fluent, proficient, or native.
#3. Hobbies and Interests
Listing your hobbies and interests gives you an opportunity to reveal your personality outside of your profession. In addition to allowing a recruiter to get to know you better, hobbies indicate your discipline and dedication as well.
Hence, don’t be afraid that you’ll be judged for your love of photography, sports, or art; you may earn bonus points for your commitment.
Here’s an example:
Hobbies and Interests Example
Hobbies and Interests
Exploring other cultures
#3. Personal Projects
Similarly to your hobbies, personal projects demonstrate your passion and devotion; they can even compensate for the experience you may lack in a specific industry. Plus, they also hint at your strong dedication to work.
Personal Projects Example
Short film "Echoes of Eternity"
YouTube channel "VisualVibes"
Photography project "Urban Perspectives"
Should You Write a Cover Letter to Match Your CV?
How many times have you wondered if you need a cover letter alongside your CV, only to decide not to submit it? This is a huge mistake to make; even though it may not be clearly specified in the job ad, hiring professionals—even 72% of them—expect you to send a cover letter as well.
There are multiple reasons behind that. Firstly, this 250- to 400-word document allows a recruiter to learn more about your professional background and accomplishments. Submitting a cover letter is a perfect opportunity to elaborate on your achievements or even mention new ones that you didn’t include in your CV.
Moreover, it demonstrates that you’re willing to take an extra step and put in additional effort. Crafting a nice and compelling cover letter requires time and research. If you’re ready to carry it out, you signal to the recruiter that you’re highly motivated to get that job, boosting your chances of landing it.
Finally, a cover letter may be required in the job advertisement itself. If it is and you still refuse to submit it, you’re only showing that you don’t follow the instructions. As a result, you will only be rejected, as employers are not quite fond of employees who can’t or don’t want to obey clear instructions.
How to Write a Cover Letter With Your CV
Writing a cover letter isn’t as demanding as it may seem once you know what its purpose is and what to include.
To reiterate, a cover letter is a supplement to your CV, not a replacement. Therefore, make sure that you don’t only repeat everything you’ve already included in your curriculum vitae; you need to further elaborate on your professional background.
Every cover letter consists of three major parts: the introduction, the body, and the closing. In the opening paragraph, you should give a short recap of your work experience and skills.
In the body part, you should highlight your strongest achievements and elaborate on them, focusing on how they can help the company you’re applying for grow. Additionally, you should explain why you’re interested in the position.
You should end your cover letter with a strong call to action to encourage the recruiter to schedule an interview with you and thank them for taking your application into consideration.
3 Tips for Excelling in Your Job Interview
Now that you’ve aced your CV and cover letter, the next logical step is to ace your interview and finally land a job. While not everyone is a fan of being interrogated and assessed based on the answers they provide, the good news is that it’s definitely possible to excel in an interview without much hassle.
Here’s how to attain it:
Tips for Excelling in Your Job Interview
Prepare for the interview. Hiring professionals tend to ask similar interview questions, such as “where do you see yourself in five years,” “why would you like to work here,” or “tell us something about yourself.” Preparing in advance will help you provide answers that will impress a recruiter or hiring manager.
Have some questions ready. Prepare a few questions about the role or the company to ask the recruiter. This will indicate that you’re highly motivated to work for them since you took time and effort to research the company more thoroughly. Avoid asking generic questions, though, as they will only hint that you’re not quite interested.
Show confidence. Being confident demonstrates that you’re not only familiar with the responsibilities of the role you’re applying for but that you’re also aware of your skills and capacities. Besides that, your confidence may persuade a hiring manager that you can do your job effectively.
The quality of your CV can significantly affect the outcome of your job application. If you submit a well-written one, you can be invited to the next stage of the hiring process and, ultimately, be offered a job.
Creating a compelling curriculum vitae may seem daunting at first, particularly if you don’t know how to write a CV or a cover letter. Luckily, with detailed guidelines that will clearly highlight what or what not to include, you can master CV writing without hassle.
We hope this comprehensive guide helps you craft a stellar CV and land your dream job!