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How to Write a CV

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A CV, or curriculum vitae, is an extremely important document, as it delivers that crucial first impression to a potential employer. In a way, it is a marketing document—and the product is you!

The inability to write and format an effective CV is one of the main reasons that job seekers are unsuccessful when searching for a new position. This article provides advice to help you create a great CV. Then, to better understand what a CV is, check out our sample CV.

When a CV should be used

In some countries, including Canada and the U.S., the terms "CV" and "resume" are sometimes used interchangeably; however, there are several significant differences, primarily in length, content, and purpose.

A resume is normally a summary of your skills, experience, and education. It should accentuate your goals and attributes and make use of descriptive and "action" words.

When writing a CV, you should provide a far more detailed synopsis of your skills, covering such things as research and teaching experience, publications, grants and fellowships, professional associations and licenses, awards and honors, as well as your academic background. When writing a CV, try to keep the length under two pages.

CVs are used primarily when applying for academic, scientific, or research positions, when applying internationally, or when applying for fellowships or grants.

Keep your CV focused

It is important to write a CV that emphasizes your strongest areas and portrays you in a professional manner. It must be comprehensive, but it must also be concise and uncluttered. It is meaningless to write statements such as "I get along well with others," unless it is backed up by examples. All the information you include should be pertinent to the position you are applying for. Useless details will be seen as unprofessional "padding" by the employer.

Writing about hobbies and interests can be productive if they are unusual, such as mountaineering or skydiving, as these will help to set you apart from the crowd, or if they are interests that are either particularly relevant to the position or help to show that you possess key skills, such as leadership, teamwork, or negotiation. Be sure to only include information that clearly communicates a sense of professionalism, competence, and enthusiasm.

The importance of presentation

It is also crucial to know how to format a CV in a way that is both clear and well-structured. A recruiter will have a large pile of CVs to narrow down; as such, if your CV is hard to read because it is poorly laid out or contains large chunks of useless information, it is extremely likely that he or she will simply move on to the next one.

The most typical format for a CV is to display it in reverse chronology (showing your most recent work/position first) using appropriate and clearly identifiable headings (Education, Research Experience, Specialized Skills, Work Experience, etc.). And just like a resume, you must also include contact information and a cover letter.

Accurate spelling, appropriate punctuation, and correct grammar are just as important to conveying your professional image to the selector as the information you have provided throughout. For extra help writing or formatting your curriculum vitae, submit it to our CV editing services and let our professional editing staff ensure that it is polished and ready for submission.

Image source: Maliha Mannan/