A CV, or curriculum vitae, is a document that summarizes your professional and academic achievements, skills, and qualifications for a prospective employer. A CV is often required when applying for a job.
A well-written CV can help you stand out from other candidates and increase your chances of getting an interview. However, writing a CV can be challenging, especially if you are not sure what to include, how to format it, or how to optimize it for keywords.
In this article, we will guide you through the process of writing a CV for a job application in 2024. We will cover the following topics:
- What sections to include in a CV and what order to follow
- What information to put in each CV section and how to write it
- How to format a CV and make it look professional and easy to read
- How to use keywords and phrases that match the job description and show your relevance
- What to avoid putting on your CV and how to prevent common mistakes
By following these tips, you will be able to create a CV that showcases your best qualities and achievements and impresses potential employers.
What Sections to Include in a CV and What Order to Follow
A standard CV format should include the following sections:
- Contact Information
- Personal Statement (or Personal Profile)
- Work Experience
- Other Optional Sections
These are the basic sections that most employers expect to see on a CV. However, depending on your situation and the type of job you are applying for, you may also want to include some additional sections, such as:
- Professional Certifications
- Professional Associations
- Additional Training and Courses
- Conference Participation
- Blogging and Influencing
- Volunteer Experience
These sections can help you highlight your specific expertise, achievements, and interests that are relevant to the role. However, be careful not to overload your CV with too much information or irrelevant details. Only include sections that add value to your application and support your main objective.
The order of the sections on your CV should follow a logical sequence that showcases your most important and relevant information first. Generally, it is recommended to start with your contact information and personal statement, followed by your work experience and education. The rest of the sections can be arranged according to your preference, but usually skills come next, followed by any optional sections.
However, there is no one-size-fits-all rule for the order of the sections on your CV. You may want to adjust it depending on your level of experience, the type of job you are applying for, and the industry you are in. For example, if you are a recent graduate or have little work experience, you may want to put more emphasis on your education and skills than on your work history. Or if you are applying for an academic or research position, you may want to highlight your publications and conference participation before your skills.
The key is to tailor your CV to each job application and make sure that the most relevant and impressive information is at the top of your CV.
What Information to Put in Each CV Section and How to Write It
Now that you know what sections to include in your CV and what order to follow, let’s look at what information to put in each section and how to write it effectively.
This section should be at the top of your CV and include your name, phone number, email address, and optionally your location (city and country) and LinkedIn profile URL. You don’t need to include your full address, date of birth, marital status, or nationality unless specifically requested by the employer.
Your contact information should be clear and easy to find so that employers can reach you quickly if they want to invite you for an interview or ask you more questions. Make sure that your phone number and email address are professional and up-to-date. Avoid using nicknames or funny email addresses that may give a bad impression.
Here is an example of how to write your contact information on your CV:
John Smith +44 1234 567890 email@example.com London, UK LinkedIn
Personal Statement (or Personal Profile)
This section is a short introduction that summarizes who you are, what you do, and why you are suitable for the job. It should be no longer than three or four sentences and highlight your main skills, achievements, and career goals.
Your personal statement should be tailored to each job application and show how you match the requirements of the role. You should also use keywords and phrases from the job description that demonstrate your relevance and suitability.
Here is an example of how to write a personal statement on your CV:
An experienced project manager with over five years of successful delivery in the IT sector. Skilled in managing complex projects from inception to completion, ensuring quality, budget, and timeline. Proven track record of leading cross-functional teams, solving problems, and delivering innovative solutions. Seeking a new challenge in a dynamic and fast-paced environment.
This section should list your relevant work experience in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent or current position and going back to your previous ones. For each position, you should include the following information:
- The title of your position
- The name and location of your employer
- The dates of your employment (month and year)
- Two to three bullet points that describe your main duties, responsibilities, and achievements
Your work experience should showcase your skills, abilities, and accomplishments that are relevant to the job you are applying for. You should use action verbs and quantifiable results to demonstrate the impact and value of your work. You should also use keywords and phrases from the job description that match your experience and show your fit for the role.
Here is an example of how to write your work experience on your CV:
Project Manager ABC Ltd, London, UK January 2019 – Present
- Managed multiple IT projects from initiation to closure, delivering on time, within budget, and exceeding expectations
- Led cross-functional teams of up to 10 members, including developers, testers, analysts, and stakeholders
- Implemented agile methodologies and best practices to ensure quality, efficiency, and customer satisfaction
- Resolved issues and risks, communicated progress and status, and ensured alignment with project objectives and business needs
Project Coordinator XYZ Ltd, London, UK June 2017 – December 2018
- Coordinated various IT projects, supporting project managers in planning, executing, and monitoring activities
- Prepared project documentation, such as scope, schedule, budget, risk register, and status reports
- Liaised with internal and external parties, such as vendors, clients, and senior management
- Assisted in testing, quality assurance, and user acceptance of project deliverables
This section should list your educational background in reverse chronological order, starting with your highest or most recent qualification and going back to your previous ones. For each qualification, you should include the following information:
- The name of your degree or diploma
- The name and location of your institution
- The dates of your attendance (month and year)
- Optionally, your grade or score (if relevant or impressive)
Your education should highlight your academic achievements and qualifications that are relevant to the job you are applying for. You should also include any additional training or courses that you have completed or are currently pursuing that enhance your skills and knowledge.
Here is an example of how to write your education on your CV:
Master of Science in Project Management University of London, London, UK September 2016 – June 2018
- Graduated with distinction (4.0 GPA)
- Completed a dissertation on agile project management methodologies
- Awarded the Best Student Prize for academic excellence
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science University of London, London, UK September 2013 – June 2016
- Graduated with honors (3.8 GPA)
- Participated in various extracurricular activities, such as coding club, hackathon, and student council
This section should list your relevant skills that are required or desired for the job you are applying for. You can divide your skills into two categories: hard skills and soft skills.
Hard skills are technical or specific skills that you have learned through education or training. They are usually measurable and can be demonstrated by certificates or examples. Some examples of hard skills are:
- Programming languages
- Software applications
- Data analysis
- Project management methodologies
Soft skills are interpersonal or transferable skills that you have developed through experience or personality. They are usually harder to measure but can be demonstrated by achievements or feedback. Some examples of soft skills are:
Your skills should showcase your abilities and competencies that are relevant to the job you are applying for. You should also use keywords and phrases from the job description that match your skills and show your fit for the role.
Here is an example of how to write your skills on your CV:
- Proficient in Microsoft Project, Excel, PowerPoint, Word
- Experienced in Java, Python, C#, SQL
- Familiar with Scrum, Kanban, Waterfall
- Certified Project Management Professional (PMP)
- Excellent communication skills (written and verbal)
- Effective teamwork and collaboration skills
- Strong problem-solving and analytical skills
- Proactive leadership and management skills
Other Optional Sections
As mentioned earlier, you may also want to include some additional sections on your CV that highlight your specific expertise, achievements, and interests that are relevant to the role.
How to use keywords and phrases that match the job description and show your relevance
Using keywords and phrases that match the job description and show your relevance is a good way to optimize your CV and increase your chances of getting an interview. Keywords and phrases are words or expressions that describe the skills, qualifications, and experience that the employer is looking for in a candidate. They are usually found in the job description, the job title, or the company website.
To use keywords and phrases effectively, you should:
- Read the job description carefully and identify the main keywords and phrases that relate to the role. For example, if you are applying for a project manager position, some possible keywords and phrases are: project management, agile, Scrum, budget, timeline, stakeholders, etc.
- Incorporate these keywords and phrases into your CV sections, especially in your personal statement, work experience, and skills. Use them naturally and avoid overusing them or stuffing them. For example, instead of saying “I have project management skills”, you can say “I managed multiple IT projects using agile methodologies and delivered on time, within budget, and exceeding expectations”.
- Use synonyms or variations of the keywords and phrases to avoid repetition and show your diversity of skills. For example, instead of using “communication” multiple times, you can use “written”, “verbal”, “presentation”, “negotiation”, etc.
- Use keywords and phrases that are relevant to your industry and profession. Avoid using generic or vague terms that do not show your specific expertise or value. For example, instead of saying “I have excellent skills”, you can say “I have proficient skills in Microsoft Project, Excel, PowerPoint, Word”.
- Use keywords and phrases that match your level of experience and seniority. Avoid using terms that are too high or too low for your position. For example, if you are applying for a senior project manager position, you can use terms like “lead”, “manage”, “implement”, “strategize”, etc. If you are applying for a junior project manager position, you can use terms like “assist”, “coordinate”, “support”, “learn”, etc.
By using keywords and phrases that match the job description and show your relevance, you will be able to create a CV that showcases your best qualities and achievements and impresses potential employers.
What to avoid putting on your CV and how to prevent common mistakes
There are some things that you should avoid putting on your CV and some common mistakes that you should prevent to make your CV more effective and professional.
Here are some tips on what to avoid and how to prevent them:
- Avoid lying or exaggerating on your CV. This can damage your reputation and credibility and lead to rejection or dismissal. Instead, be honest and accurate about your skills, qualifications, and experience. Use facts and figures to back up your claims and show your achievements.
- Avoid using a generic or outdated CV template. This can make your CV look boring and unoriginal and fail to catch the attention of employers. Instead, use a modern and customized CV template that suits your industry and profession. Use a clear and consistent layout, font, and color scheme. Make sure your CV is easy to read and scan.
- Avoid making spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors on your CV. This can make your CV look sloppy and unprofessional and create a bad impression. Instead, proofread your CV carefully and use a spell-checker or grammar-checker tool to catch any errors. Ask someone else to review your CV for feedback and suggestions.
- Avoid including irrelevant or personal information on your CV. This can distract from your main message and take up valuable space. Instead, focus on the information that is relevant and important for the job you are applying for. Leave out any information that is not required or requested by the employer, such as hobbies, references, salary expectations, etc.
- Avoid making your CV too long or too short. This can make your CV look incomplete or overwhelming and lose the interest of employers. Instead, aim for a CV length that is appropriate for your level of experience and the type of job you are applying for. Generally, a CV should be no longer than two pages, but this may vary depending on your situation.
By avoiding these things and preventing these common mistakes, you will be able to create a CV that showcases your best qualities and achievements and impresses potential employers.