If you’re applying for a job for the first time, you may already know that the CV is a crucial part of the job application.
And, well, it is the truth.
Whether you’ll pass to the next round of the recruitment process depends solely on what you include in your CV. That being said, you must get familiar with the core components of this document and avoid missing any essential details.
So, what is a CV, how does it differ from a resume, and how can you create one that will help you land your dream job? Wonder no more, as you’ll uncover all the answers in this guide!
A CV is a thorough document containing everything you have achieved during both your career and educational journey.
To write a good CV, you should state your contact information, emphasize your most prominent skills, provide your education history, and make use of additional sections.
A CV should be no longer than one page if you’re applying for a job in Europe.
If you’re looking for a job in the U.S., there’s no CV page limit.
What is a CV?
CV—or curriculum vitae—is a Latin translation of “course of life.” It is a concise and in-depth document that emphasizes your educational and career experiences. In other words, it summarizes everything you have ever achieved during your studies and professional ventures.
What is the Difference Between a CV and a Resume?
Many people get confused when it comes to understanding the difference between a resume and a CV. Yet, it’s quite simple—these two terms represent the same thing. The only difference is that the term “resume” is mainly used in the U.S., while in Europe, the term “CV” is more common.
On the other hand, the term "CV" in the U.S. can also mean a full academic summary. It focuses on a person’s academic competencies and educational achievements. A CV in the US is usually necessary when you are applying for a job in the education or research fields.
How to Write a Job-Winning CV in 6 Steps
So, now that you know what a CV is, let’s see which steps you can take to create a flawless one!
#1. Start with Your Contact Information
You can be the most experienced person the world has seen, but no recruiter will be able to reach out to you if you don’t provide appropriate contact information. That being said, you should state the following in your CV:
What To Mention
First and last name. Avoid using just initials since they don’t look professional. (e.g., Chris M.) If you believe your full name is quite common, you can add the first letter of your middle name too (for example, Chris K. Miller).
Phone number. Make sure you type your entire number correctly because one wrong digit can easily prevent the hiring manager from getting in touch with you.
Email address. Just like with your phone number, ensure that each letter of your email address has been typed correctly. Also, don’t use unprofessional email addresses. You may think that email@example.com is funny and use it often, but it won’t send a positive impression to the recruiting team.
Professional title. This short part (made up of only a few words) should explain what your occupation is, e.g., Content Marketing Manager.
Location. It’s enough to state the city and state/country you live in, as well as your zip code. Providing a complete home address isn’t necessary. In fact, doing such a thing is risky, as you never know who will see your private information and how they may use it.
#2. Add a Compelling CV Profile
A CV profile is a short personal statement which should explain what you do and convince the recruiting team that you’re the right person for the role you’re applying for. This is the perfect place for summarizing:
CV Profile Summary
Your relevant experience
The applicable skills you want to highlight
The attributes you possess that make you a good fit for the role
Your future career goals
CV Since it occupies the top position, your CV profile is the first section the recruiter will notice as soon as they have a look at your CV. Hence, it’s necessary to make this part as attention-grabbing as possible.
Here are several tips you should follow to write a job-landing CV profile:
CV Profile Tips
Don’t make it too long. Most recruiters won’t take the time to read a CV profile that is way too extensive. Three to five sentences maximum is the way to go.
Double-check the document for spelling, grammatical, and other errors. If the recruiter sees any mistakes in this section, they may discard your application immediately. Hence, read this part over multiple times to ensure it’s well-written and easy to comprehend.
Tailor it for the role you’re applying for. The best way to do it is to check out the requirements for the desired position and think of how many of them you actually meet. Then, you should mention them in this section. You can also include some relevant keywords to increase the chances of your CV passing any ATS.
#3. List Your Top Skills
The skills section in your CV must be on point if you want your document to stand out among others.
The best way to choose the skills you can put in your CV is to have a look at the specific job description and see what the employer is looking for. Then, think about which abilities from the list you possess and add those to the skills section.
Keep in mind that you should include both:
2 Types of Skills
Soft skills, or the skills that show how you behave in specific situations or interact with people. These include empathy, creativity, leadership, good communication, problem-solving, etc. They are usually achieved through life experience and are transferable, which means you can use them in any type of job.
Hard skills, or the technical knowledge and competencies you need for completing specific tasks. These skills are usually acquired via education and training and are applicable only in specific career fields. They include computer skills, copywriting, search engine optimization, coding, etc.
#4. Detail Your Professional Experience
The experience section is one of the essential parts of a CV, as it gives recruiters a general overview of your employment timeline and shows them what you can do.
To create it properly, you should make a separate entry for each professional experience you want to mention in your CV. Each entry should contain the following details:
Work Experience Section
Job title (position),
Company name (location and description are optional),
The start and end date of employment,
Specific responsibilities and achievements in the mentioned role.
The best option is to use the reverse-chronological format, i.e., to start with the most recent position you had and finish with the least recent one. It’s the most popular CV format, and it can help your CV pass ATS more easily thanks to its orderliness. Also, note that you should only mention relevant experience that can actually help you land a job in the preferred field.
#5. Add Your Education History
Once you've described your professional experience, it’s time to highlight your educational achievements. This can be particularly useful for new graduates or people in general who don’t have professional experience yet.
Here’s what you need to state in the education history section:
Name of the program/degree
Institution name (location is optional)
Dates of attendance
(Expected) graduation date (GPA is optional)
Honors, accolades, relevant courses, and student awards & achievements (optional)
It’s advisable to use the reverse-chronological order in this section, too.
#6. Utilize Additional Sections
If you have space left on your CV after completing the education and skills parts, you can complete your document with some of the following optional sections:
Courses and certificates
School and university projects
This is an excellent opportunity to mention some extra achievements you’re proud of and give the recruiter a few more reasons to hire you among all the candidates.
How Long Should a CV Be?
The European CV shouldn’t be longer than one page, as everything it needs to contain will usually fit on one page. However, if you have much more relevant experience that you can’t fit into a single page, it’s possible to extend your CV up to two pages.
The U.S. CV version is used for slightly different purposes and must contain all important academic and educational achievements. For this reason, there’s no specified limit when it comes to its length.
How to Format Your CV
Not only will a well-formatted CV be easier to skim through, but it’ll also allow you to organize the information in a concise, digestible manner.
Here’s what can help you achieve this (besides sticking to a single-page CV format):
Save your CV as PDF unless the job application requires you to do otherwise. When saving your CV in a PDF format, the formatting won’t change, and none of the sections will move around.
Don’t overdo it with page margins. Your CV space is already limited—don’t reduce it further by setting large page margins. One inch on each side of the page is absolutely fine.
Use a font that doesn’t stand out too much. Stick to the ones that attract attention but aren’t too bashing, such as Arial, Calibri, Cambria, or similar. Avoid hard-to-read fonts and ornate fonts such as Comic Sans.
Use the same font size in the entire document. This will make your CV look neat. The best option is using 11-12 pt font size for regular text. Section titles and headers should be larger—using 14-16pt font size.
If you still have trouble figuring out what your CV should look like, you can use this template to effectively organize the information inside it. Just copy and paste it, and then replace the blanks with your own information:
[Full name] [Job title] [City and state] [Phone number] [Email address] [Additional contact information: the link to your LinkedIn profile, social media profiles, etc.] [CV profile]
[Degree/Name of the program] [Institution] [Date of attendance—start and end date] [Additional information: relevant courses, achievements, awards, etc.]
[Your role in the volunteering program] [Company/Organization] [Location] [Start and end date of volunteering] [A short bullet point list containing the crucial achievements and contributions within the role]
[Your role in the volunteering program]
[Start and end date of volunteering]
[A short bullet point list containing the crucial achievements and contributions within the role]
[A bullet point list containing your most prominent soft and hard skills]
[A bullet point list of languages you speak along with proficiency levels]
Certificates and courses
[A bullet point list of relevant courses and certifications you’ve achieved]
Awards and honors
[A bullet point list containing all relevant awards and honors]
Example of a Well-Written CV
Now that you’ve seen the template, let’s see what a solid CV example looks like:
Mary Hopkins Customer Support Specialist Everett, Washington 425-301-5446 firstname.lastname@example.org linkedin.com/in/mary_hopkins Dedicated and well-versed customer support specialist with 7 years of work experience and outstanding technical and communication skills. Proficiency in Sprout Social and Zendesk, as well as a demonstrated track record of addressing customer queries via phone and email, solving them with a success rate of 98%. A cheerful and empathetic attitude toward customers and a willingness to go the extra mile to tackle the issues they report.
BA in Communication and Society Washington State University 09/2010—05/2014 Relevant courses:
Writing in Communication
New Communication Technologies
Foundations of Persuasion
Social Media Support Agent Grab Group 09/2018—07/2022
Communicated with 60+ U.S. customers per day via social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter)
Successfully solved a wide range of issues related to missing or damaged orders, wrong delivery addresses, and order payment processes.
Customer Support Agent Cosmetic XZen 01/2015—08/2018
Answered 50+ customer queries per day via phone, email, or chat, in English and in Spanish.
Communicated with the client’s local branches to check the availability of specific products.
Customer Service Volunteer
Citizens Advice Huffington, Everett, WA
Welcomed 30+ clients to the organization’s local office on a daily basis.
Addressed 20+ customer issues via phone and email per day.
Informed clients of the estimated waiting time and answered all of their questions.
Managed client data by creating spreadsheets and updating them regularly.
Ability to Remain Calm
Inbound and Outbound Calls
Awards and Honors
Excellence Customer Service Award (2020)
Certificates and Courses
Customer Service Refresher Training (2014) Business Training Works
And that’s everything you need to know to create a jaw-dropping CV!
Knowing what a CV is and what it needs to contain will help you understand what recruiters look for. On top of that, you can also learn how to improve your existing CV to land the job of your dreams more easily!