A CV is a detailed history of a person’s educational history, work experience, skills, achievement, and qualifications and it is majorly used when one is applying for a job. A CV has to be properly written so your account of yourself if professional, concise and straight to the point and at the same time, potent enough to grab the attention of the recruiter. Writing a proper CV entails proper attention to details. There are some things to keep in mind when writing a CV and they are;

  • What the use of a CV is
  • What to include in a CV
  • The difference between a CV and a resume
  • How long a CV should be
  • The proper CV format

What the use of a CV is

As a CV gives details about all your academic and professional accomplishments, the main purpose of it is to make the recruiter interested in interviewing you. It is the first stage for job applicants and it is very important because this would be your first contact with your potential employer and you have to make a good impression. It can facilitate the possibility of you getting a job or not. This is why your CV should be properly thought about and written according to standards.

What to include in a CV

Your CV is supposed to be an informative tool as it influences the very first opinion the recruiter would have of you. There is a standard set of information that should always be included on a CV and they are;

Who you are?

A CV should always include basic information about yourself like your name, address, telephone number, and a professional email address. If you are applying for a job in either the US or Canada, that is all you need. For some other countries like France or Germany, a small passport photograph is to be included in the top right corner of the CV. This information should be written in bold fonts and placed at the very top of your CV. In fact, it should be the first thing a recruiter would see upon checking it.

Details about who you are

This is also known as the personal statement section. It is more or less a summary of yourself in a professional and concise manner. In this section, you should talk about your most recent work experience, what you gained from it, and what you look forward to career-wise. Your personal statement should also be a reflection of yourself so it is important that you choose your words well when writing it. It should not be more than 150 words, however.

What have you done?

Your potential employer would most definitely want to know about your education background, the jobs you have done in the past and the skills you possess that would make you better suited for the job.

For your education background, your qualifications and degrees should be listed from the most recent to the oldest. If a degree is still in view, you can also include it. It gives the recruiter an idea as to what important skill you’ve obtained so far.

When detailing your work experience, you should list out previous jobs starting from the most recent also. There is no need to include why you left the previous job so this should not make it into your CV.

Listing out your skills involves taking note of the ones mentioned in the job description by the recruiter and tailoring your skills to align with it. If you have skills that match the ones listed, you should emphasise and highlight it.

This would set you apart from other candidates as it shows the recruiter that you paid attention to the job description and the CV is not generic. If you also have other skills that might be useful to the job for example, if you speak another language, or use a software that can be used to increase productivity at the job, you can include it.

What do you like

Although this part of the CV is not that important, it also gives the recruiter an idea of who you are outside work. It is, however, advisable that you do not include the common and generic hobbies. Think of something you like doing and phrase it properly. Don’t use cliches.

If after including the important details, you still have space on your CV, you can go on to include other information about yourself ė.g. If you have served in a club or professional body, you can include this. It is an added advantage as it shows leadership skills.

CVs vary from country to country so it is advisable that you make research on what is expected from you in a CV in the country you are applying for a job in.

Some countries might expect you to include more details.

What you should not forget however is that your CV should be specifically tailored to meet all demands in the industry you’re applying to.

What not to include in a CV

There are things that ought not to make it to your CV and some of them are:

  • Date of birth, age, marital status, religion beliefs
  • Photographs: If you are not applying for the position of a photographer, a model or an actor, a photograph of yourself is absolutely not needed in your CV.
  • Short term employment: Don’t list short term employment so the recruiter would not see you as flaky and unreliable
  • Lies: Always endeavour to produce genuine information on your CV.
  • Social media links not related to the job: ė.g. Instagram and Facebook handle. These are not important.

The difference between a CV and a resume

Both words are sometimes used interchangeably and can be confused for one another but they are not the same. Although subtle, there are quite a few differences between the CV and the resume and some of them are:

  1. Length:
    In terms of length, the CV is lengthier than the resume as it includes much more information about details of the candidate’s history. The resume is a much shorter version.
  2. Function:
    The CV gives detail of one’s professional life to an extent while the resume is just a summary of one’s education and employment history.
  3. Layout:
    The details on the CV are written in chronological order while that on the resume is not. Also, the resume is written in the third person while the CV can either be written in first or third person speech.

How long should a CV be?

This is a very common question asked by job applicants and there is really no set answer for this question. The most common one, however, is that a CV should not be more than 2 pages on a maximum. This decision is informed by the results of a survey carried out among recruiters.

Also read: How long should a CV be?

However, for jobs in the academia or in medical positions, there is an unsaid agreement that the CV would exceed two pages and in this case, it would not be frowned upon as people in those categories would have many things to include in both their work experience and educational history category.

If you are not in any of these categories and you have a CV that is longer than 2 pages and you are looking for a way to trim it down to 2 pages and still retain all the important facts, you can follow some of the following tips.

Keep only important information

In a CV, there is no need to elaborate on your personal life. Keep it simple. Your name, contact address, email address, telephone number should be boldly stated at the top of your CV. Also, apart from LinkedIn, no social media account should be listed in your CV.

Watch out for repetitions

You should properly read through your CV to be sure that you are not repeating a point you have mentioned earlier.

Get straight to the point

The recruiter already knows that the CV is referring to you and your past achievements or previous work experiences so remove redundant words that take up unnecessary space on your CV.

Listing work experience

Recruiters always look out for a candidate that follow the trends and have recent and innovative knowledge that can be applied in their company so list only recent work experiences in your CV. 

Leave out references and certificates

Details like this would be requested for if and when needed.

The proper CV format

A CV has specific formats that are accepted widely. If you are not sure of how a CV should look like, you can always download some samples and use them as your guide. Here are some format tips you should keep in mind when writing a CV.


Always use professional looking fonts like Calibri, Arial or Times New Roman and use a font size of about 12. Consistency in a CV is vital so you should stick to one font and font size all through the CV. Ideally, the body of your CV should be in 10-12 font size while your headings should be between 14 and 18 points.

Use headings

Don’t just congest your CV and clog it up with information. Break everything down with headings. This makes your CV look orderly and compelling to read. You can use a bigger font size for the headings so that they would be noticeable and easy to locate.

Use bullets

Bullets are a good way to list out important details like your educational or work history. By using billeted points, you highlight the points you’re trying to pass across to the recruiter and it is more visible to read. Your details should be listed in chronological order, however.

Use only white A4 paper

Don’t use colored paper and also don’t fold your CV.  Get an envelope that can conveniently accommodate the paper instead. This makes for a good first impression on your path.

Page margins

To make your CV easy to read, the page margins applied to your CV should be between 1.27-2.5. Going below 1.27 would just make your CV appear cluttered and difficult to read. This is a very discouraging factor as it can make the recruiter lose interest in your CV.


You should proofread your CV multiple times before finally sending it. Submitting a CV with errors does not show professionalism and attention to details. You can always give close friends to help you proofread or better still, run it through a grammar checker to be on the safe side.

Tailoring your CV appropriately

Submitting a generic CV would not get you any close to the interview and ultimately your dream job. Take your time while writing the CV and make sure it is properly written to meet the job specifications. Also, use the keywords specified in the job post. This would give you a chance in the event that the CV is to be vetted by a computer.

What format you save your CV in and how you save your CV:

This might seem unimportant but it is not. The way you save your CV is the way your recruiter would receive it in the event that it is been sent via email. It is better to save it as a PDF file with your names. Ė.g. Melanie Harper CV. A PDF format is advisable as your intended format would still be retained. Saving your CV and sending it in MS word format is not advisable as the recruiter can have other page and margin settings that can disrupt your already set preferences and make your CV look disorganized and unprofessional.

Writing a CV for a candidate without prior experience is somewhat different from when one wants to write a normal one. As recent graduates do not have any work experience, they have to lay emphasis on some other aspects of their CV like their educational background and skills possessed. This way, the recruiter would know what you have to offer the organization and determine if you are a good fit for the job. To give you a better shot at getting a job with little or no experience, you should follow some of these tips.

Tailor your CV specifically to the job you are applying for

By taking note of the specific skills needed and including them on your CV (if you possess these skills) you show the recruiter that you pay attention and it makes for a good first impression for you as a candidate. Also, the use of the right keywords would make you scale over vetting in the case that an ATS method is used to filter down the amount of CVs to be checked by the recruiter. Some of the most sought after skills to keep in mind are attention to details, ability to work unsupervised, proper time management, ability to relate easily with people and work in a team. You can look for other ways to present these skills of yours so that it doesn’t look generic.

Include achievements

Not having prior working experience should not deter you from writing a CV of your own. If you have volunteered somewhere, or taken up an internship position in a previous time, you can include it in this aspect of your CV. Leadership positions in organizations are also a major boost. Basically, anything that you think is important enough to give you leverage over other candidates should be added.

List out your transferable skills

As much as transferable skills can be said to be those skills that are not directly relevant to the job you are applying for, it does not mean they are useless. Transferable skills can show your potential employer that you are willing to learn to make yourself more valuable to the organization.

Show your personality

The recruiter sometimes would want to get an idea of who you are via your CV. A CV that infers an enthusiastic, friendly and cheerful personality would definitely be chosen over CVs that are lifeless. The recruiter wants to have a feel as to what kind of person you would be both in and outside the workspace and your CV is the best way to show this. 

Your CV is your one shot at showing the recruiter that you are a good fit for the job before the interview so you should endeavor to make it count. Edit multiple times, proofread properly, use software to do that if need be. Employ any means necessary to make sure that your CV has no errors that can disqualify you or make the recruiter lose interest in reading it further. The end goal to look forward to is making your CV pack a punch. To the extent that even if it is run through a computer, it would still pass the test. There are several tips you should put in mind and they can be found on our website.

To have a better idea of how a standard CV should be written and in what format it should be written in, you can go through the samples on our website. These samples are meant to be guides and should not be copied word for word.

Your CV must be written in your own words as you are better suited to describe yourself. This would make your CV more authentic.

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Good luck with your job search.

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