How to Write a CV

If you’ve ever read about how to write a curriculum vitae, you know that it takes an effort. In order to streamline the process while helping you to learn how to prepare a CV, Ginger has set up this guide. With CV writing tips, a sample CV that shows you what to do and what not to do, and more, it aims to answer the most common questions about how to write a CV.

Guidelines for Formatting and Writing a CV

As you may know, a curriculum vitae (CV) is an alternative to a resume. More detailed than a resume and usually longer than two pages, a good CV boasts a clean, streamlined look and is easy to follow. Here are important CV writing tips for format, length, font style and size, and more.

  • Most CVs are longer than two pages. Length should be determined by your education, background, and work experience. If you are new to the workforce, your curriculum vitae will naturally be shorter than someone who has been working for decades.
  • Be sure to look at the sample CV to see an easy way to organize your CVs sections.
  • Whichever way you organize, be sure to use a uniform format for each section of your curriculum vitae. If one heading is in bold print for example, all headings should be in bold.
  • Use plain font that is easy to read. Arial, Calibri, and Times New Roman are good choices.
  • Font size should be between 10 and 12. Your name and section headings can be in a larger font, if desired.
  • Keep your CV organized and make it easy to read by using bullets to create lists detailing accomplishments.

What to Include on Your CV, and What to Leave Out?

The perfect CV is one that provides just enough of the right information, and no “fluff.” This section focuses on writing a good CV that will get you noticed and make the right impression. You do not have to include all of the following sections in your CV; in fact, some are appropriate only for certain types of CVs. Choose the ones that are best and leave the others out.

Contact Information

At the top of your CV, place your name and contact information including physical address, telephone number, email address, etc. Outside the United States, many CVs include personal information such as date of birth, gender, marital status, and details about children, if any. These additions should be left off US curriculum vitae documents. Check to see what local customs dictate when preparing a CV for international use. List your visa status if appropriate.

If you are still using a cute email address that you’ve had since high school, now is a good time to get a new, professional sounding email address. An inappropriate email just won’t do.

Photograph

A photograph is not generally required on a CV. If a potential employer asks you to include a photograph, it should be about 1.5 inches square and should be positioned to the right of the rest of your contact information.

If you do include a photograph, choose one that depicts you looking your business best, preferably wearing a suit and not wearing casual clothing, a silly hat, or with a cocktail in your hand. A poorly presented CV photo is almost certain to result in all of your hard work going to waste.

Physical Description

Actors, actresses, hosts, hostesses, and some other professionals need to list a physical description on their CVs. If you have been asked to do this, be concise and be factual. List only the information requested and nothing else.

If you have not been asked to provide a physical description on your CV, don’t do it. With a few exceptions, it is viewed as tacky, unprofessional, and a good reason to toss the CV straight into the garbage bin.

Private Information

Private, personal information such as sexual orientation and religious belief have no place in a CV. Leave them out.

In addition, do not include your Social Security Number orNational Insurance Number. Have it on hand for later in the employment process but do not list it on your curriculum vitae.

Overview / Career Objectives

Begin with a two- to three-sentence overview that provides the potential employer with a quick snapshot of your skills and exceptional qualities, future plans and objectives. Make it realistic and keep it concise.

Education

Include college and any graduate studies in your CV. For each entry, include the school’s name, dates of study, and the degree you received.

Honors and Awards

Use the honors and awards section to list scholarships, dean’s list standing, any departmental awards, fellowships, and to mention membership in any honors associations.

Research Experience

If applicable, list your research experience. Include dates, locations, and with whom you conducted research. Be sure to include any publications that resulted from your research.

Work Experience

Relevant work experience should be listed in this section. This may include unrelated work that you feel is worth including. For each entry, name the employer and list your position and dates of employment. Include a brief summary of your duties and / or accomplishments at each job.

If you have held several positions and some have nothing to do with the job for which you are applying, leave information about irrelevant positions out and focus instead on jobs that relate to your current search.

List work experience in reverse chronological order.

Teaching Experience

If applicable, list any teaching positions that you have held. Include the name of the school, course name(s), semester(s) and other pertinent information. Mention tutoring and leadership experience, if relevant. If you have no teaching experience but have acted as a mentor, create a leadership section to replace this one.

Skills

This section focuses on relevant skills that have not been mentioned elsewhere in your CV. Administrative skills, computer skills, laboratory skills, and other skills should be listed here.

Books, Publications, and Presentations

If any of your work has been published, list it here and include information on co-writers as well as a bibliography for each item. In addition, name any publications you currently contribute to or are working on. If you have authored presentations, list the name of the paper, the name of the association and / or conference where each was presented, and the location and date of each presentation.

Languages

List any languages you speak fluently, and mention fluency level. Be sure to use a bulleted list if you speak more than two languages.

Extracurricular Activities

Volunteer work, services provided at no cost, and participation in clubs or organizations should be mentioned in this section. Any experience you have had abroad can be mentioned here as well. Be certain not to repeat any information that has already been presented elsewhere.

Interests

If your personal interests are relevant, you may list a few highlights on your CV. A general rule to keep in mind for this section is “If in doubt, leave it out.”

References

If asked, include references. Be certain that the people you name as references know that you are including them. Two references should be adequate in most cases.

Choosing Paper and Ink for a CV

The paper used for CVs should be of good quality; neither shabby nor overly fancy. Choose a neutral color such as white, cream, or pale gray. It is acceptable to use black ink for the entire CV, or to use another neutral color for your name and headings, with the remainder in black. If at all in doubt, stick with black ink only.

Do’s and Don’ts When Writing a CV

The following sample may look like the perfect CV on the surface, but it contains some errors that could reduce the applicant’s chances of getting the job he wants.

Robert Free

300 Brookhead Lane

New York City, New York 48931

robertfree@msn.com

Mobile: 483-133-8876

Career Objective

Highly experienced and skilled professional in the banking field seeking employment as a financial strategist in an established corporation.

Professional Background

2005 – Present: Director at the Ruskins Institute in New York City

Responsibilities

  • Developed the companys promotional strategies – (Error, no apostrophe. Should be “company’s”.)
  • Signed up new clients and accounts
  • Oversaw company financial product presentations
  • Hired and managed suppliers and contractors
  • Trained and Supervised junior staff – (Error, capitalized Supervised. Should have used a lowercase s.)
  • Sourcing for new clients and customers by developing marketing campaigns

2002 – 2005: Retail Banking Manager at SC Credit Union in New York City

Responsibilities

  • Recruiting and trained junior staff – (Error, tense. All verbs should agree. In this case correct word would be “recruited.”)
  • Managed and supervised sales staff
  • Prepared banking reports weekly and monthly
  • Assisted in resolving customer disputes
  • Advertised the bank’s products

Educational Background

1998 – 2002: Degree in Business Management – Syracuse State University

1997 – 1998: Diploma in Banking – Marin Community College

1992 – 1996: High School Diploma – Barkley High, Wilmington, Delaware – Potential error: Unless you have no postsecondary education, do not mention high school in your CV.

Achievements

2001: Winner of the Dean’s Academic Excellence Award

2000: Chairman of the Business Students’ Association

Languages

Fluent in English and Japanese – (Potential error: It looks like Robert Free is a native English speaker. He should only list secondary languages in this section.)

Extracurricular Activities

Provide tax preparation seminars at no cost for local job center. (Potential error: Robert probably should have listed the name and city of the job center where he does taxes. Details like this transform a good CV to a perfect CV.)

Hobbies and Interests

Hiking

Skydiving

Reading

Cooking

Gardening

Horseback Riding – Potential error: When writing a CV, list three hobbies and / or interests at most.

References

Available upon request

The Importance of Good Grammar and Proper Spelling in a CV

When writing a CV, pay particular attention to grammar and spelling. Poor grammar and misspelled words are the number one reason CVs are not accepted.

Be sure to proofread your CV before sending it, and consider having a trusted friend or acquaintance with a good grasp on grammar rules review it as well. Ensuring that there are no mistakes is one of the most important steps toward writing a perfect CV.