How To Write A CV (With Template and Example)
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.
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.
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:
Grants, fellowships or scholarships
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:
Here's a CV template that you can use as a guideline when structuring your own CV:
[Introduce yourself, highlight your best qualifications and explain why you're a fit for the job]
[Name of qualification] | [Start date] - [End date]
[Name of the institution]
[Title of dissertation or thesis]
[Key achievements or recognitions].
[Job title]| [Start date] - [End date]
[Name of company], [Location]
[Description of your responsibilities and accomplishments].
[List of relevant skills]
Volunteer experience [Position title] | [Start date] - [End date]
[Organisation name], [Location]
[Title of article]
[Name of publishing journal] | [Year of publication]
Awards and honours [Award title] | [Year]
[Name of awarding body]
The following is an example of a professional CV:
100 Robinson's Road,
Mid-Levels, Central, Hong Kong
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.
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
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
Excellent analytical and methodological skills
Proficient in Microsoft Office Suite
Fluent in English, Cantonese and Mandarin
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
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.
Explore more articles
- 7 Powerful Ways to Start a Cover Letter (With Examples)
- CV References: A Complete Guide With When To Include
- Job References: Who To Ask for One and How To Write One
- FAQ: Is a CV a Cover Letter? (With Definitions and Examples)
- Examples of Cover Letters for Fresh Graduates
- How To List Projects on Resume (With Tips and Examples)
- Tips for Listing Your Interests on a CV
- How To Include Salary Expectations in a Cover Letter (With Example)
- How to Write a Lawyer Resume (With Template and Example)
- CV Examples for Students (With Template)
- How to Write an Architect CV (With Template and Example)
- Cover Letter for a Graphic Designer (With Cover Letter Example)