The ultimate guide to CV basics (With example)
Updated 28 August 2023
Whether you've just graduated or been unemployed for a long time, when you want to apply for a new job, you need a CV that gets noticed by hiring managers. A CV summarises your background and helps the hiring manager decide on your suitability for a position. It is essential to have a well-written CV to maximise your chances of being invited to a job interview. In this article, we consider what a CV is, learn about CV basics, including what to include in your CV, tips to create a CV and a sample CV.
What are CV basics?
A CV is a comprehensive document showing your educational background, work experience, achievements, awards, publications and honours. CVs vary in length but are typically two to three pages depending on the number of educational qualifications, jobs and other professional achievements. The purpose of your CV is to provide the hiring manager with enough detail to show that you deserve their consideration for the advertised position. If you have a well-written CV, you show the hiring manager you're taking your application seriously and can present yourself professionally.
What to include in your CV
A CV provides an overview of your professional life. Most CVs contain the same information: your personal information, skills, professional history and educational qualifications.
Name and contact information
The recruiter needs to know how to contact you for an interview or notify you of an interview outcome. The personal information you'd include in a CV is typically a phone number and email address at the very least. You can consider providing additional contact details such as your social networking profile or handles or profiles for video conferencing platforms.
Your professional profile
Your CV needs to provide hiring managers with a summary of who you are, what you do and how you can provide value to the organisation. This element of your CV needs to leave the hiring manager with a positive impression of you, your background and your skills. Keep this section concise by highlighting your essential skills or work experience in only two to three sentences.
Detailed career history
This section of your CV is significant. You can use bulleted lists without using complete sentences in this section. A CV usually includes past positions in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent role. When you include details about the positions you've held in the past, include your job title, the organisation you worked for and your key responsibilities for each role. This section of your CV can also provide details of any achievements you had in each position. Where possible, include relevant numbers and percentages for your achievements. For example, 'Increased sales by 10%'.
Complete educational background
List your educational qualifications in reverse chronological order in the educational background section of your CV. Provide details of the level of each qualification, the subjects you completed and the year you completed the qualification. If you're a recent graduate, you can include details of the core modules you completed and the titles of dissertations and theses you wrote. You can also include details of any clubs and activities you took part in while studying. If your work history is extensive, you can include other courses and certificates you've achieved over the course of your career in this section of your CV.
The skills section is one of the essential sections of a CV. You need to include details of your primary skills in your CV. Use keywords based on a variety of hard and soft skills, linking these skills to the positions you have held in the past. Show how these skills help you meet the requirements of the target position. It's useful to reflect the keywords used in the employer's job description in your own CV, as applicant tracking systems often look for these.
Other relevant information
Examples of pertinent information could include your information technology proficiency, availability, languages and anything else that may differentiate you from the other applicants. Make sure that any other information is relevant and will appeal to the recruiter.
Tips for creating your CV
Here are some general tips to follow when you create your CV:
Show critical information first
When working out the format of your CV, keep the most critical information on the first half of the first page since that's what the hiring manager will see first. Ensure that the information here is recent and focuses on your current job, significant achievements or other details about you and how you're perfect for the job. For example, if your education is impressive, list it first. If your technical skills are more critical for the position than your past work experience, put this first. Always ensure the information in your CV is relevant to the role.
Keep your CV simple
If your CV is easy to read, you're helping the hiring manager read it. Structure your CV clearly and use paragraphs and white space effectively. Only include relevant information in your CV. Avoid using graphical elements, text boxes, logos or photos. Choose a font that is easy to read for your CV.
Choice of words
It would be best to choose the words you use in your CV carefully to make it stand out from other applicants' CVs and hold the hiring manager's interest when they look at yours. By using a variety of verbs and keywords, the hiring manager is more likely to stay engaged with your CV.
Reflect the job-related adverts
Before creating your CV, analyse job advertisements for the types of roles you want to pursue. Note keywords that occur frequently and use these words when you write your CV. For example, if the position is for a candidate with experience managing budgets, make sure to state that you can manage budgets in your CV. It's essential to be specific about your skills and experience when you write your CV as it makes it easier for recruiters to check that you meet the role's requirements.
Use dynamic vocabulary
You can use dynamic vocabulary to ensure that your CV sounds credible and interesting. For example, instead of writing that you were 'responsible for customer service', say that you 'delivered excellent customer service'. Instead of stating that you were 'responsible for sales', rather state that you 'maximised sales' or 'achieved sales targets'.
If your CV is repetitive, it will not be an interesting read for the recruiter. If you had the same responsibilities in several past roles, group them under a single heading. Vary the words you use to describe items. For example, instead of stating that you 'managed X, managed Y', rather say that you 'led X' and 'oversaw Y'.
Write without pronouns
A CV rarely includes pronouns. Instead of stating 'I write policies', use 'writing policies'.
Here's a sample CV to use as a guide when you create your own:
1234 Windsor Road
London EC3N 4AB
Economic policy, financial sector management
PhD in Economics, 2021–University of London
Dissertation: The impact of deposit insurance on financial stability
MA in Economics, May 2018–University of London
BA in Economics, June 2015–University of London
Junior Lecturer: University of London, Economics Department, January 2018 to Present.
Monroe, Maria. "Ex post deposit insurance premiums: an advanced framework," Financial Stability Journal, 2(5): 44-61.
Monroe, Maria. "Risk-based premiums for new deposit insurance schemes," Deposit Insurance Journal 4(1): 20-50.
2021. Monroe, Maria. "Research methodologies for deposit insurers." Annual Deposit Insurance Conference, Basel, Switzerland
Junior Lecturer, University of London
Macroeconomics, Economics 123
Microeconomics, Economics 456
Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of London
Introduction to macroeconomics 111
Introduction to microeconomics 112
University of London Teaching Awards, 2018, 2019
German (bilingual oral and written fluency)
MEMBERSHIPS / AFFILIATIONS
National Association of Economists
The model shown is for illustration purposes only and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.
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