Job Searching

How to Write a CV: 5 Quick Tips to Write a CV That Stands Out

Tristin Zeman

Copywriter, Human Resources Manager, and Marketing Expert


A CV, also known as a curriculum vitae, is key in helping job seekers connect with hiring managers, recruiters, and key decision-makers. Whether you’ve been actively job searching for a while or you’re just getting into the applicant pool, here’s what modern job searchers and students need to know when deciding how to write a cv. 

What is a CV?

CV is an abbreviation for curriculum vitae which loosely translates to “curriculum of one’s life” in Latin. It’s a document that describes a person’s previous employment, educational, and other life experiences in a concise multi-page document. 

For people located in Europe or those applying to European roles, a CV tends to be a synonym for a resume. In the United States, however, a curriculum vitae is a slightly different, yet related document. 

An American CV is typically requested when looking for a position or placement in academia whether that is at a university or research institute. A CV is typically longer than the average American resume and contains more complete information about academic accomplishments including research projects, awards, accolades, and published work. 

When applying for positions that require a CV, it’s wise to consider both where the position is located and the field it is in to determine what is truly being requested. If the position is located in Europe, send your resume. Australians tend to also use CV and resume interchangeably, but Australians expect a much longer resume than is standard in America. If the position is in the United States, consider the role. If you’re applying for a position outside of academia, it is highly likely that the request is actually for a resume, not a true CV.

When Should I Start Writing my CV?

The best time to write a curriculum vitae is before you need it. Students can find a lot of value in assembling their CV as they make their way through university, as the information and resources are fresh in mind and easy to find. For experienced job searchers that have gone a long time between editions of their CV, it can be difficult to remember every article that’s been published or every milestone of note. 

When is a CV Most Commonly Used?

From determining what needs to be in your cv, to how it should be phrased, and to what the format or layout should be, perfect CV writing takes time and practice.

As mentioned earlier, a CV is most often used by applicants for academic and research work, programs, and grants. While a traditional resume tends to focus on on-the-job experience, a CV will primarily focus on things that have occurred in an academic setting. This can include studies performed, research done, classes and coursework, degrees earned, and other relevant, educationally-focused information. 

Because a CV is most commonly used when applying for academic positions and other academic purposes, they are commonly used by students at the graduate level. CVs aid in applying for master’s, doctoral, or post-doctoral programs, as well as by professors and researchers looking to obtain new opportunities or funding.

On the other hand, positions outside of academia and research in the public or private sector will often request a resume instead of a full CV, even if the applicant is coming from the academic world. 

How Can I Get My CV Written?

When it comes to who contemplating how to make a CV, job seekers have options. While the source material, such as dates, names, and specifics, will need to come from the person who the CV is about, that doesn’t mean you have to do your cv writing alone. 

Academia and research are notoriously competitive fields. Between students competing for spots at prestigious universities and professionals competing for limited grant funding, some look to professional resume and CV writing in an effort to create the most compelling CV possible. When it comes to professional curriculum vitae writing, there are two options: hire a professional or use a template. 

One option is to hire a professional to write your CV. Often a professional resume or CV writer has experience in professional writing as well as recruiting or hiring. So professionals tend to be a big help for candidates when it comes to crafting a message and format that is compelling and concise. While this option requires more of an upfront investment, this can be the ideal solution for people who are struggling to find the right words and phrasing to describe their experience. 

The other option is to use a CV template. A CV template is a great way to organize your information and ensure you have a well-designed, easily readable document. Resume and CV writing software has made it as easy as drag-and-drop in most cases. This makes it the perfect solution for someone who knows what they want to say, but does not necessarily know how to make it appear attractively on the page. 

Why Should I Create a CV Template

Everyone doesn’t have the resources to get a CV professionally written; therefore, if you are writing your CV on your own, it is important to start with creating a template. Creating a template will save you time in the future, and help keep your CV organized and neat. Overtime, you will be able to adjust information on your CV, as it will need to be customized to the specific role, position, or program you are trying to obtain.

There are two basic ways to create CV template. You can create an extra-large file that has all your possible skills, experiences, and accomplishments listed and then choose to just eliminate or customize as needed for the role or organization to which you’re applying. The other way is to have a format that you really like and then just manually swap out sections and pieces of information to fit your needs. 

Creating the First Draft

There are many tools and programs that work well to create a CV, but every good CV starts with a rough draft. While your final product should have bullet points, action verbs, and other finishing touches, the rough draft of a CV is designed to just get the information needed. If you have a previous CV or resume, it can provide a solid base for your rough draft. 

To create the first draft of your CV, start by listing all your relevant accomplishments. This could be:

  • coursework
  • internships and/or fellowships
  • research and assistant positions
  • teaching and assistant positions
  • awards recieved and accolades earned
  • articles published
  • and more

This phase is meant to collect any and every data point that can make it onto the final draft, so even small or more trivial experiences should be included. Once you’ve got your source material assembled, it’s time to start thinking technically about how to create a CV that will work best for your desired goal. 

There are several CV template creators that function in a variety of different ways. Some allow you to fill your information into a text box and then dynamically fill in the template area while others just have placeholder text and it’s up to you to replace the text with your content while being careful to not adjust the formatting. 


How to write a cv

How to Write a Curriculum Vitae: 5 Quick Tips

After your first draft is created, it is time for the real thing, and this is where great CV writing will come in handy. So here are 5 tips to write a curriculum vitae.

  1. Include your name and contact information

If this seems obvious, it should be, but it’s amazing how many applicants can forget to put their information on their resumes or CV. Don’t assume that just because you emailed your document, the person viewing it will be able to see your email. Messages get forwarded and printed all the time and you want to make sure if they’re interested enough to call you, they can. 

  1. Use a professional email address

35% of employers said that applicants with an unprofessional email address are an instant dealbreaker. Instead of using an email address you’ve had for years like “bunnyluver08” try to choose something that revolves around your name and includes a number if needed like “cindy.smith15” to keep a professional tone. 

  1. Use clear headlines

When you start to write your CV, don’t make it harder than it needs to be for readers to understand the flow of the document. Keep it organized with clear headings that make it easy to differentiate your work experience from your education and other points of interest. 

  1. Keep it concise

Just because you can go over the traditional one-to-two page limit of a resume when you’re writing a CV, it doesn’t mean you have to write a novel. You want to include enough information to paint a complete and accurate picture without going into such detail that your reader loses interest.

  1. Proofread then proofread again

One of the biggest dealbreakers for decision-makers is also one of the easiest to prevent. 77% of hiring managers said that they will instantly reject any resume or CV with typos or bad grammar. Not only should you proofread your CV after you write it, it’s a good idea to have a friend or family member also give their stamp of approval to ensure your document is free from errors. 

How to Write a CV That Actually Gets Seen

Now that you know the basics of writing a CV, it’s time to take it up a notch.

Competition is fierce for most academic programs, fellowships, and grants, which means that the person reviewing your CV has probably seen dozens, if not hundreds, of other well-qualified CVs. Much like in the private sector, many organizations are choosing to use technology-supported methods to review resumes and CVs which means you need a document that suits the needs of both humans and machines.

One of the best ways to succeed with a machine-assisted review is to use the right keywords to help you get to the next round of assessment. These keywords will vary by your field or topic of study, but you can often get insight into potential keywords by looking at the job posting or announcement. 

How to Make a CV Stand Out

Once your CV has made it past machine-assisted review, you’ll want to make sure it is worth viewing. We all want a CV that is going to be unique and stand out from the crowd. I mean, a CV is a high-stakes document. In the competitive field of academia, having a well-scripted and well-designed CV can mean the difference between receiving several offers and opportunities and not hearing back at all. 

There are a few ways to make sure your CV stands out from other applicants by using both design and content. When it comes to writing a curriculum vitae, you don’t need to be as concerned with length as you would if you were writing a resume. A CV should be a complete history of your educational and employment achievements and can, therefore, be any length – assuming the particular organization you’re applying to doesn’t have its own specifications.

So when it comes to what to say in your CV to make it stand out, try following these tips: 

Introduce Yourself

A CV should start with a summary of your skills and key accomplishments. Recruiters, hiring managers, and decision-makers can get dozens, if not hundreds, of applications for a single position or opportunity. This means it’s important to have a CV that can clearly communicate who you are and what value you would bring to the organization in a clear and fast manner.

Focus on Results

Rather than making a list of all the responsibilities and duties you performed in your previous experiences, it’s a good idea to focus on the results of your actions. Quantifiable data is always a good way to back up claims of previous success and can help decision-makers to get a better idea of how or why you would be the best choice. 

Showcase the Full Depth of Your Knowledge

Depending on the position or program you’re applying to, there may be different ways to highlight the full breadth of your experience. The length of your CV isn’t nearly as important as having a complete and total picture of your qualifications and should include all relevant prior experiences regardless of when they occurred. 

Find Your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)

A way to make sure your CV gets interviews is to find your unique selling proposition (USP). This is the unique strength that is special to you that positions you for success in this particular role. This could be previous experiences like extracurricular activities or volunteer work, your network, or any other attribute that makes you uniquely suited to this opportunity. 


how to make a cv - special situations

How to Write a CV When You Have Minimal Experience

Your CV can be as long or as short as you want it to be and can include a multitude of different experiences. If you don’t have a lot of experience at the moment, that’s okay! The absolute must-have items on your CV should include your name and contact information, your previous work experience, and your previous educational experience. From here, you can expand. 

While a traditional resume typically wouldn’t include information about coursework or projects complete, this is the exact kind of information that can help to fill out your CV. It’s also a good idea to include information about volunteer work, extracurricular activities, community involvement, internships, and even hobbies and passions. When you write a CV, the intention is to give the reader a full and complete picture of who you are, not just as a student or employee, but as a well-rounded individual. 

CV Writing for a Specific Position

Your CV should always be tailored to the position or organization to which you’re applying. This will not only show the decision-maker that you’re highly interesting in this particular opportunity as well as ensure that you’re using appropriate keywords. The goal of your curriculum vitae is to show the hiring manager, recruiter, or decision-maker that not only are you a well-qualified applicant, you’re the best possible fit for this particular position or program because of your presvious experiences and successes. 

How to Write a Resume From Your CV

Once you’ve spent the time to write a full curriculum vitae, you can easily turn it into a shorter, more traditional resume. A resume will include all of the same information as your CV in a shorter, more concise format and should be no more than two pages, three if you have extensive experience in your field. 

One of the easiest ways to write a resume from your CV is to find a resume template that you find visually appealing. From there it’s easy to use the information in your CV to fill in the blanks of the resume by swapping out the text. The one change you may need to make when switching from a CV to a resume is to edit some of the longer, more detailed sections of your CV into short, easy-to-read, action-filled bullet points to create the same skills-highlighting effect in fewer words. 

Conclusion

If you’re a student pursuing higher education or desiring a career in academia it’s likely you are going to need to engage in CV writing at some point in your career. A curriculum vitae that is well-written can open many doors and unlock countless future opportunities and it all starts with practicing how to write a CV. 

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