What to include in your CV?
A well-written CV concisely conveys your main selling points to the hiring manager. For your CV to attract the recruiter’s attention, it needs to highlight your skills and work experience relevant to the role and what to include in your CV. This makes it crucial to know how to write a captivating CV to market yourself as the perfect fit for the job. In this article, we will identify the components of a CV and the writing process to set yourself apart from other candidates.
What is a CV?
A curriculum vitae (CV) is a document that provides a comprehensive description of your academic achievements, professional experience, and skills. A CV also highlights your awards, honors, research interests, publications, fellowships, speaking engagements, and grants.
In the United States and Canada, candidates use a CV to apply for overseas jobs or academic and research-related positions at universities, and in medicine and the sciences. The CV is used for all applications in mainland Europe, the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand. In Australia, India, Africa, and the Middle East, a CV is interchangeable with a resume. A CV is typically a few pages whereas a standard resume is on the shorter side, only 1-2 pages.
The following are the elements of a standard CV:
- Contact information including your name, phone, and email address
- Personal profile stating your CV summary or career objective
- Work experience including previous and current duties and responsibilities relevant to the role
- Skills relevant to the job
- Additional sections, including hobbies and interests where applicable
How to write a curriculum vitae template
Writing a CV involves organizing your content into six main segments. They include:
- Contact information
- Personal statement/profile
- Work experience
- Additional sections (targeted to your audience)
1. Contact information
Your contact information is the first element of the CV and serves as the header of the document. It sits at the top so that interviewers can contact you easily. The section should contain only the following elements:
- Your full name
- Phone number
- Job title
- Personal email address
- Social media handles (optional)
- Professional website (optional)
Do not include the following in your contact information:
- Date of birth
- Physical address
- Your current business contact information such as work email addresses or phone number
- Photograph (unless it is stated in the job posting)
- Personal social media handles
Provide only the information requested in the job description. Also, only include personal social media handles in your CV if it will boost your chances of landing the position. Consider using a professional email address, like email@example.com.
2. Personal statement/profile
A personal statement (or CV personal profile) is a concise statement at the beginning of your CV that describes your top skills and the capabilities you will bring to the role. Mention skills, experience, and achievements are relevant to the job. The personal profile is not mandatory sometimes. If you include it, keep the profile well-written and original. Include positive words such as confident, adaptable, self-motivated, and enthusiastic.
Your CV personal profile should:
- State who you are
- Outline top skills and achievements
- Mention the name of your target employer
- Your goals as a potential new employee
The following should not be on your CV personal statement:
- Why you are applying for the job
- Why you left your former employer
- Salary requirements
Example: “Self-motivated pharmacist with 10+ years of experience. Looking to leverage strong clinical research skills as a lead clinical test evaluator for Lupin Drug Co. Organized a 20,000 subject clinical study to assess the effect of estrogen supplements on ovarian cancer in women. Trained 20 clinicians on the use of big data for biopharmaceutical analysis. A leading figure in Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia.”
3. Work experience
The work experience section allows the interviewer to see your career path and its relevance to their role. Outline your expertise in reverse-chronological order (most recent first). If you have little or no practical knowledge about the job, education should come before this section.
Your work experience section can include up to 15 years of experience and state the following information:
- Title of the role
- A company with the city, state
- Dates of employment
- Three to five bullet points outlining your responsibilities and achievements for each job entry
- Research projects
- Lab work
- Field experience
- Volunteer work
- Numbers and metrics to prove your achievements
Your work experience should not include:
- Tables, charts, or images
- Gaps in employment history, if avoidable
- Company addresses
- Professional references or supervisors’ names
- Short-term employment, unless you have less than two years of work experience
- Irrelevant work experience
List your education and dates from the most recent to the oldest. You can include your class of degree, dissertation title, coursework, professional qualifications, and top academic achievements that relate to the role. If you have more than two years of relevant work experience, you can highlight all of your post-secondary educational qualifications, including the name of the degree and institution.
The skills section describes your accomplishments at previous jobs, like the key skills you developed and experiences that apply to the job. The skills to include in this section depend on the industry, position, and personal background. Research the skills relevant to the industry or position and read the job description carefully. If you have lots of relevant skills, consider writing a skills-based CV and What to include in your CV?.
List only 4 to 8 skills relevant to the role including job-specific skills, soft skills, and hard skills. Some examples include:
- Foreign languages
- Technical skills where relevant
- Certified skills
Consider also mentioning your proficiency level such as Basic, Intermediate, Advanced, or Expert for every skill on your list. To further illustrate your skills, list projects where you leveraged your talents and the results. For example:
6. Additional sections (targeted to your audience)
Additional sections targeted toward your audience can include professional certifications, publications, industry awards, and extra training—anything that is relevant to who’s reading your CV. This is a chance to stand out so use the space wisely to showcase your unique achievements.
If you are a student, you can list your volunteer experience and academic achievements. Mention things you can discuss in further detail at the interview.
It may be appropriate to include hobbies and interests on your CV if you have limited work experience. You can mention specific non-work activities in an entry-level CV if they portray you as a good fit for the employer, such as activities that demonstrate your dedication to a cause the employer works with or allow you to practice skills you use on the job.
Some employers may not need references, so their inclusion may not be necessary. You can give employers the option to ask for references, which can show them that you are willing to reach out to your network to those who can vouch for you.
Tips on writing an effective CV
Use these tips to improve your CV writing and formatting skills.
- Fonts and colors: Use legible and standard fonts such as Calibri, Georgia, Open Sans, and Cambria. Use font sizes 10 to 12 points and be consistent with the style and size throughout your CV. Use larger fonts (size 14 to 16 points) for section headings. This helps to break up your CV while making the sections stand out.
- Formatting: Be consistent with the use of italics, bold, bullet lists, and font style. Leave enough white space and maintain a minimum of 0.5-inch margins on all sides. This will improve the organization and readability.
- Structure: Outline your CV entries in reverse-chronological order so the first thing the recruiter sees is your most recent accomplishments. Use bullet points so recruiters can skim.
- Content: Make your writing powerful and concise. Use strong, active verbs throughout. Be sure to edit, revise, and proofread your CV before sending it.
- Verb tense: Use present tense for current jobs and past tense for former jobs. Proofread for consistency.
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