Curriculum Vitae in Latin means 'Course of Life'
What is a CV?
CV stands for Curriculum Vitae. In Latin CV means ‘Course of Life’ and it charts exactly that as it helps you to highlight your skills for potential employers. It is an overview or summary of your achievements to date and is used to help gain employment.
What is a Résumé?
A résumé is different to a CV because it is essentially a compressed version of a CV. It will be shorter in length and more concise in detailing and listing your skills and achievements. Although this article is geared more towards writing a CV, the tips on structuring and content below will still be extremely relevant for you if you are instead writing a résumé.
Your CV is essentially your skills on paper. A document to contain everything you have achieved up to the present date; be it academic, outside of school and your previous employment history. Your prospective employer is essentially judging how well you can articulate yourself in your CV. As well as how efficiently you can express your ideas, and fundamentally; communicate your personality! So it is really important that you can create and provide a CV to the best of your abilities.
Don’t worry if you have not got much of a work history so far, or you are lacking in confidence, because you can start with a new, blank page and follow these 5 easy steps which will break the CV content down and make it relevant to you and your life experiences. Hopefully, equipped with this new understanding, you will then be able to create a CV that you are not only proud of, but that reflects who you are in a professional and personal sense to employers.
In this article, we will break down each section of a CV to help you construct your content for that section. Once you have completed each section, simply move on to the next one. Or you may choose to come back to this article later if you need to go off and check employment dates and so on. Some of the sections will be very straight forward, and others will require more thought. But fear not, you can get this done!
So go and make a cup of tea, take a deep breath, and grab that pen and paper or open your word document and let's get started on that CV now! As they say, there's no time like the present. Read on for all the tips you could need to create a great CV...
What information should I include? What is formatting?
A CV essentially consists of two simple concepts; the facts and personality. The balance of concrete evidence backed up by sound logical and creative, constructive writing. Getting up to speed with the factual parts should not take you long, as that is purely providing data or information. It is finding the creativity for the other sections of a CV that many people struggle with. We shall address that as we progress into our discussion.
Formatting is the way we present the CV. Spacing your text, line indents, use of bullet points and underlining your text are all ways in which you can break up the sections of text, make the page look more visually appealing, and therefore keep your employers attention for longer.
In terms of the opening of your CV, you will need to include your full name, address and other contact details such as an email address and a phone number at the top of the page. So start by adding these details to your CV page now.
1. Employment history
After adding your basic details to the top of the page, the first section we need to address is your employment history. This section is purely factual. Look back over your records and accurately find the dates you started and finished your previous jobs. Add any work experience, courses attended or voluntary work too as this will help expand this section for you, especially if you are struggling to fill it.
In terms of formatting here, a clear table could be used with columns listing names of employers, start and end dates, a brief outline of your job description/duties/role, and if necessary, a reason for leaving that employment. Bullet points may also work as part of your layout choices. Also, always try to be very concise with your brief job descriptions because you will have room to expand on your skills in the personal statement in section 3 coming up soon. Once you are happy with your table and you have double checked your dates of employment, move on to the next section of your CV construction. So far nothing too difficult, we are just listing factual data and information.
2. Education and qualifications
This section is really important, so try to fill it in accurately, even if your school exams seem like a long time ago! Double check your grades and start a table (or list), with your most recent qualifications first, going down in reverse chronological order. You may choose to highlight grades or text for the ‘level’ of qualification column, to add some visual interest to the table.
Your columns here could consist of school/university/college attended, level of qualification, grade obtained, dates (from and until) and so on. Here you need to again be concise as a prospective employer may only scan through these sections, picking out the information that they feel is most relevant to them. With this point in focus, you can see how the ease of your CV structure and formatting are key considerations to think about.
3. Personal Statement
Right, so now we can enter into the ‘creative territory’ of your CV! You may be feeling a sense of dread looming, but it is far easier to do this section than you think! Essentially, think of a personal statement as an opportunity to talk about your skills, and in effect, to attempt to sell all your professional positive attributes.
However, try not to seem overly confident. This is because prospective employers are often looking for someone who is a team player, and someone who is kind and considerate to others, and who works well both in a group setting and on their own. For example, instead of writing ‘I was the star scorer of the football team’, you could say ‘I worked well as part of a team to achieve many match wins’. The best way to describe your writing tone is that it should be formal yet conversational. Imagine you were literally in front of an interviewing panel as that should help you gauge the situation.
Taking a somewhat scientific approach to writing a personal statement, you are in effect, making statements and backing them up with examples. A concept we are all familiar with from school. Inject some humor if appropriate, and a little personal anecdote relating to your skills or experiences in some way could help the reader remember you, and among many CV’s, this could be a crucial point.
We could go into far more depth on personal statement construction, but the best thing for you to do now is to search for actual personal statement examples online. Read a few and see how you can incorporate some of the ideas they contain into your own writing.
Remember your formatting, and justify your text so that it looks neater. Use paragraphs and grammar correctly and spell check is there to be helpful (most of the time!), so make use of that too. Finally, always ask a family member or friend to read through your personal statement and to give you some constructive feedback. Ask them if they found it interesting or easy to read, what they would change to improve the quality of the content, and if there were any paragraphs in particular which they thought were very good.
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4. Interests and Extra Curricular Achievements
This is the section to list your hobbies outside of work. For example, how you have helped out in your community and volunteered locally, if you have taken part in any charity events and so on. If you are looking for a great way to boost your CV, then this section is the one you can immediately take action on to expand.
Through searching online, local newspapers, asking in shops, at your local careers center, you can find opportunities to get more involved in your community if you are worried or wish to add more ‘strings to your bow’ as it were.
Hobbies such as reading, cooking, going to the gym, listening to music are all good examples. Try not to go overboard listing everything under the sun, as your prospective employer is simply seeing if you have a full and varied life and interests outside of work. Format this section with three or four bullet points for each hobby if that helps.
Firstly, always ask permission from the people you would like to act as your referees! It is only polite to, and it provides reassurance to you that they are willing to deliver a good character reference for you. If possible, try to always provide two references. Take at least one of your references from your most recent place of work if possible. You could vary your second reference more; perhaps having an academic tutor or a contact at a charity where you recently participated in some volunteering.
Finally, I really hope that these 5 tips above can help you to improve your CV formatting, structure and approach, and I wish you luck in finding your dream job. You never know, it could be just around the next corner. For now, the best thing you can do is prepare a fantastic CV using the steps above, volunteer locally, use your contacts if possible, and keep an open mind and a positive mental attitude. (Which I realize is easier said than done). Remember to eat healthily and exercise regularly too, to improve your overall well being whilst you hunt for that dream job. Best of luck!
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Here are YouTuber’s Jeff and Mike or ‘The Interview Guys’ with a fun cartoon approach to give you 5 tips on how to write a resume.