Learn everything you need to know about what a CV is, the definition of a CV and how to start writing yours!
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Job seekers looking to progress in their career will need to convince a potential employer that they are the ideal candidate to join their team. A good CV is an important part of any job application, so it is a good idea to start there. This guide will help you to understand what a CV is, why it is important and how you can structure yours to make a strong first impression.
A curriculum vitae (or CV for short) is an introductory document that provides prospective employers with the information they need to decide whether or not to hire you. This short document should chart the course of your professional life, detailing your work history and skills. Your CV should provide all necessary personal information recruiters will require in order to make contact with you.
Your CV is important because it provides an overview of your professional experience and abilities, but also because it acts as an introduction to recruiters and hiring managers. When paired with a good covering letter, your CV can make a persuasive argument for why you are the perfect person for a particular job title. Without one, you won’t even get your foot in the door!
Of course, not all CVs are the same. Depending on your experience, the seniority of the role you’re applying for and the industry you work in, your CV could look very different. There are three primary CV formats that can be used: chronological, functional and combined.
The chronological CV, or reverse-chronological CV format, is the most commonly used and generally accepted type of CV for those with a significant amount of work experience. This CV format emphasises a job seeker’s employment history and is acceptable across all industries, but may be especially important in highly traditional sectors such as academia, medicine and law.
The functional CV focuses on a job seeker’s skillset and has a condensed, less prominent work experience section. This makes it suitable for those looking to get into entry-level positions, or those with short or fewer than three years of work experience. However, the functional CV format is used less often and can sometimes be seen as questionable by recruiters.
A combination CV evenly blends the work experience and skills sections to provide a comprehensive overview of a job seeker’s qualifications and competencies. This CV format is ideal for those who have more than three years of experience or are switching careers, but may not be suitable for those who can show extensive professional experience.
Whichever CV design or format you use, there are a number of core areas that should be included for it to be seen as comprehensive. These sections include:
The header should be situated at the top of a CV and should contain all the information an employer needs to identify and contact a jobseeker. When crafting your CV, add:
Note that including your professional social media links is optional, but many employers rely heavily on platforms like LinkedIn.
The CV summary section is located immediately below the CV header and should be an overview of your key capabilities, professional qualifications, and successes. If you are lacking in professional experience, you can rewrite this as an objective statement and talk about your career ambitions and aims.
The skills section usually appears just above or just below the experience section and should consist of 8 to 12 bullet points that detail key skills relevant to the job title in question. This section is the ideal section to place strategic keywords to help your CV rank well in ATAS applicant tracking systems.
For most job seekers, the work history section of a CV is the most influential. This section should contain up to 10 years of work experience presented in reverse-chronological order, with your most recent job listed first. Check the job advert to see if more than 10 years of experience are requested, and if so, include more in your work experience section.
When listing a previous role in the work history section of a CV, include the job title, company name and employment dates, as well as a brief overview of the key achievements and duties in each role.
You can also add optional sections as required. For instance, sections can be included for professional accreditations and honours, advanced qualifications, internships and voluntary work. Additional sections should only be added if they will provide unique value to your CV. If you need inspiration for writing your CV, look at relevant CV examples to see what type of abilities and successes are mentioned most often.
The ideal CV length should be one page unless you are applying for a senior or specialist role. A good CV should address the requirements of the job application, so if you have to include lots of work experience or specialist qualifications, a two-page CV is often acceptable. For instance, an academic CV will generally be longer than the average retail CV. Just ensure that all information included is relevant and necessary.
When you submit a CV for a specific job, you should always include an accompanying cover letter. The only exception to this rule is if the job advert specifies that you do not provide a cover letter. If you can make your cover letter and CV template match each other, this will bring an extra level of professionalism which will make recruiters take notice.
Yes. While an effective CV should be tailored to your field, it might be universally successful for each job application. If you want to give yourself the best chance of impressing a hiring manager, you should adjust your CV (and your cover letter) to match each job description before you submit your application. Use a CV builder to make the process fast and convenient, and to ensure correct formatting details.
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