How To Write A CV (With Template and Example)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A curriculum vitae (CV) is the single most important document when applying for a job. It's essentially a snapshot of your career and education to date. Recruiters will want to use it as a device to learn about your background and compare you to other candidates. Learning how to write an impactful CV will help recruiters notice your potential and get you a step closer to an interview.

In this article, we discuss what a CV is, how it differs from a resume and how to write a standout resume with a template and example.

What is a CV?

A curriculum vitae (CV) is a document that contains a detailed account of your work experience, academic qualifications and skills. Typically, you will continue to update and refine your CV throughout your career so that it's relevant enough to apply for jobs. Recruiters will ask you to present a CV because it allows them to evaluate your suitability for a vacancy in their company. An effective CV garners enough interest from a reader to guarantee you an in-person interview with them.

Related: Tips From a Recruiter: Standing Out to Hiring Managers During COVID-19

What is the difference between a CV and a resume?

While most people use the terms 'CV' and 'resume' interchangeably, both types of recruitment documents have a unique structure to serve a distinct purpose. Here are some of the key characteristics that separate a CV from a resume:

  • A CV is longer than a resume. Usually, resumes are only one to two pages long as their purpose is to summarise your professional background. CVs tend to not have a word limit as their intention is to be as detailed as possible.

  • Professionals in academics or research prefer to use a CV. The lengthier format of a CV makes it an ideal format to share your research publications with a recruiter.

  • CVs are credential-based. If your credentials are key to securing a role in your industry, consider using a CV. In contrast, resumes are competency-based. They highlight your skills and achievements.

How to write a CV

Review the following step-by-step guide to learn how to write a CV:

1. Place your contact details in a header

At the top of your CV, state your name, residential address, contact number and email address so that the recruiter can follow up with you easily. You may also include a link to your online portfolio to share interesting examples of your previous work with them.

2. Compose a professional summary

Think of a personal summary as a sales pitch that explains why a recruiter should hire you. Use two to three sentences to describe the length of your work experience, your most employable characteristics and your career ambitions. Your goal in this section is to attract a recruiter to read your resume in greater detail.

3. List your qualifications in order of recency

Provide a detailed summary of your academic background. Include details about the educational instruction, your area of specialisation and the duration of your study. In bullet points, highlight any notable achievements, such as research projects you took part in or any awards you received.

4. Share your work experience

Share a comprehensive list of your previous positions in order of recency. Underneath each job title, include the name of your employer, the length of your tenure and your key responsibilities with examples of your achievements.

5. List any relevant skills

Use the company's job description to identify any important soft skills and hard skills that they are looking for in their ideal candidate. List the ones you align with under your CV's skills section. Consider the demands of the role to determine any additional skills that your recruiter might find useful.

Related: Selecting the Right CV Skills in 5 Simple Steps

6. Include any additional sections

Depending on the role you are applying for, you might want to consider additional sections to make your job application appear more succinct. Here's a list of other popular CV sections:

  • Publications

  • Community service

  • Grants, fellowships or scholarships

  • Consulting work

  • Study abroad experience

7. Proofread your CV

An error-free CV shows recruiters you pay attention to detail. Proofread your resume for spelling and grammar mistakes and to detect any inconsistencies in tone or appearance. Ask a close friend or family member for their opinion on any improvements you can make to your CV.

8. Save your CV in the correct file format

Usually, recruiters will ask you to save your CV in a PDF format as it's easy to access and less likely to get corrupted. Before you submit your CV, refer to your job description to check for any specific format requirements.

How to make a CV stand out

The following are a few formatting tips to make your CV stand out from other equally qualified candidates:

1. Review the provided job description

Scan your job description for keywords that you can implement in your CV. This is a common technique to make your skills and experience appear more relevant to the employer's needs. These keywords also help your CV pass through Application Tracking Software (ATS), an automated resume scanning system that recruiters use to sort through multiple job applications.

2. Use a consistent format

You want your recruiter to focus on the content of your CV, rather than on how it's being said. A consistent format from the start to the end of your CV will help secure their attention. For your main body text, use a standard black font in 10 to 12-point font size. For headers, use a slightly larger font size and customise it in either bold or an italic style font. Following these guidelines closely shows your regard for professional conventions.

3. Highlight your achievements with examples and statistics

In the work experience section of your CV, elaborate on your achievements in your previous roles using examples and statistics. Examples make your candidacy more memorable, while statistics look impressive. Both methods are a great way to make your CV sound more credible. They also give your recruiter a better picture of how you would perform in similar situations in the future.

4. Use active verbs

Active verbs make your CV sound more authoritative. They have an energetic tone that presents you as a strong candidate. Here are some example of effective active verbs to implement in a CV:

  • Executed

  • Headed

  • Transformed

  • Pioneered

  • Diagnosed

  • Advanced

  • Optimised

  • Overhauled

  • Cultivated

Related: 139 Action Verbs to Make Your CV Stand Out

CV template

Here's a CV template that you can use as a guideline when structuring your own CV:

[Your name]
[Residential address]
[Contact number]
[Email address]

Professional summary

[Introduce yourself, highlight your best qualifications and explain why you're a fit for the job]

Education background

[Name of qualification] | [Start date] - [End date]
[Name of the institution]
[Final GPA]
[Title of dissertation or thesis]

  • [Key achievements or recognitions].

Work experience

[Job title]| [Start date] - [End date]
[Name of company], [Location]

  • [Description of your responsibilities and accomplishments].

Skills

  • [List of relevant skills]

Volunteer experience [Position title] | [Start date] - [End date]
[Organisation name], [Location]

Publications

[Title of article]
[Name of publishing journal] | [Year of publication]

Awards and honours [Award title] | [Year]
[Name of awarding body]

CV example

The following is an example of a professional CV:

Richard Lai
100 Robinson's Road,
Mid-Levels, Central, Hong Kong
98765432
richard@email.com

Professional summary

Data-driven and passionate researcher with three years of experience in environmental science research in Hong Kong. Expert on renewable energy developments in the region, looking for a more active role in solar energy research.

Education background

Bachelor of Science | Sept 2014 - June 2018
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Final GPA: 3.2

  • Thesis: Conducted research on the sustainability of alternative sources of renewable energy in Hong Kong

Work experience

Research analyst | Aug 2018 - Current
Bohemia Research Institute, Hong Kong

  • Gathered and analysed data on air quality

  • Conducted community air monitoring program that saw a 5% increase in public transport usage

  • Collaborated with government entities to educate the public on the dangers of air pollutants

Skills

  • Excellent analytical and methodological skills

  • Proficient in Microsoft Office Suite

  • Fluent in English, Cantonese and Mandarin

*Volunteer experience
Research assistant | May 2017 - Sept 2017
Green Living, Hong Kong*

  • Collected samples of trash from beaches across Hong Kong

  • Collaborated with senior researchers to analyse samples' health and safety levels

Publications
The sustainability of wind and solar power in Hong Kong
The Environmental Science Journal | 2018

*Awards and honours
Chancellor's List | 2018*
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Should I include volunteer experience on my CV?

Sharing your volunteer experience in a CV is a great way to present your personal values. It shows recruiters you care about wider society and seek to contribute your skills outside of the workplace. If you are a young professional with little work experience, volunteer experience can exemplify your skills, your sense of responsibility and your commitment to growing your career prospects. They are also an intriguing discussion point to elaborate on in an interview, too. Typically, volunteer experience is an effective way to make a memorable first impression.

Does a CV need a photo?

Including a personal photo in your CV is optional. Some people believe it distracts from the principal objective of your CV, while others believe it adds a personal touch. If you choose to include a self-portrait, make sure you get a professional photographer to take a picture of you against a solid white or blue background. Dress in smart casual work attire and neatly groom your hair. Remember to sit up straight and smile at the camera.

Please note that none of the companies and universities mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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