Your CV profiles you. It is the single document that introduces you to prospective employers.
You know that you can do the job. Or at least you want to try. But what does a prospective employer know? Probably nothing, except for what is on your CV. An employer will say yes or no, based on reading your CV for just 9 seconds! Frightening, we know. But it is amazing how much you can present in just 9 seconds, if you follow tried and trusted methods.
This CV profile article provides a complete overview to CVs and its estimated reading time is ten minutes.
You will learn the fundamentals of presenting a good CV, including targeted CVs dependent on the stage of your young career. After reading this article you should feel confident about writing your CV, or at least confident about what to include, what not to do, and how to make an impression.
This article also links to various other CV related articles. Follow the links to learn more about CV profiles, styles, layouts and other practical information.
What is a CV?
Curriculum Vitae is a Latin phrase that directly translates as “course of life.” For those not versed in the nuances of Latin language, a better translation is “the course of your working life.” Don’t worry if you have never had a paid working job. Going to school also requires a lot of working. Negotiating the 21st-century challenges placed upon young people is always a work in progress – so you can write a great CV even if you have never had a paid job.
What is a Good CV?
A good CV is not a detailed document. It simply doesn’t have space for details. When writing a CV you need to make an impression – all the extra details will come later.
Nor is a good CV comprehensive. Prospective employers don’t have time for comprehensive documents. Always assume that the person reading your CV is extremely busy, has hundreds of CVs to read, and doesn’t have time to read any of them.
A good CV is a very concise and targeted document that avoids meaningless waffle. Everyone can say they are motivated, enthusiastic, passionate, and a strong team player that can work independently. Those adjectives are examples of how a CV can veer into cliché and waffle. Dogs are enthusiastic. Sheep are good team players. Everybody has a passion. A good CV cuts through this and gets straight to the point – why are you the best person for the job.
To understand your CV profile ask yourself this very important question: why do you want a good CV? Nobody really wants to read your CV, probably not even your own mother. So why are you going to the effort of writing one? Don’t think of this as a paper exercise. To write a good CV you need a purpose. The best purpose you can have is “I am writing a good CV to help me get this specific job I am applying for.”
Ultimately, a good CV is the CV that lands you an interview for the job. It should be adapted for every job application and will change significantly throughout your working career. It is an evolving document. Some people have five different CV profiles so they can send out a different CV dependent on the job they are applying for. Other people are even smarter. They have five CV profiles then manipulate these profiles so they never send out the same CV twice.
So remember, a good CV is concise, targeted and makes an impression in a few seconds.
CV Profile – How to Write a Good CV
The average employer spends less than ten seconds on every CV they receive. Making an impression requires precision and a close attention to each individual detail. Note that this is different from being detailed. You don’t have time to present all the details. Instead, you must focus on making the most of few details you include.
There is no single best approach to writing a good CV, nor will cutting corners bring success. You can’t cheat by copying a template and hoping to get noticed. So think about your purpose – why you are writing a CV?
Writing a great CV is no different to writing anything else. Focus on communicating your message as efficiently as possible. Here is a step by step approach to consider.
1. Mindset – invest the time that is necessary and be professional. It might take two days to get it right, but hey, finding a job is a full-time job.
2. Purpose – be absolutely clear about why you are writing a CV. You should be writing a CV for a specific job, so think carefully about the connection between you and that job.
3. Audience – who are you communicating with? Who are you writing for?
4. Write it all down – rather than start at the top and work down the page, start by writing down as much as you can. Ignore the order of things. You know your purpose and audience, so get your ideas onto paper. Keep writing about your skills, education, experience and CV profile, as it relates to the job (see more about these sections under CV layout below)
5. Make a concise pitch – cherry pick the very best information from step four and turn it into a one-page pitch. Think about the information that will help you get the job, not the phrases that sound fancy, or the information you think you have to include.
6. Formatting – keep it simple and put the most valuable information first.
7. Proof reading and finalising – get critical feedback from as many people as possible and be prepared to take criticism. It’s better to edit and adjust than have your CV go straight to the (recycling) bin. Check through and eliminate every error before sending it out.
CV Templates and CV Library
You can find a huge variety of CV templates online. The CV templates you will find at the top of a Google search will be the most popular CV templates. When more people use them more employers read them. So they do not stand out.
CV libraries provide more options to play with. Just remember that you will not be borrowing a book, but borrowing something you then pass off as your own. So always approach CV libraries with a highly critical mindset.
Some websites promise a copy and paste style of CV template. But can you really copy and paste yourself into a job? Think about that before plagiarising a CV template.
However, CV templates can give you a good indication of what is included in different types of CV profiles.
How Long Should a CV Be?
How much can you read in ten seconds? Not only do prospective employers spend less than ten seconds on each CV, they read many CVs in a single sitting.
Print off your existing CV and place in the middle of a pile of other papers. Now give yourself ten seconds to read each page of paper in your pile.
Be honest about what you just read. Did you turn the page? Did you mostly just read words in the largest font? Do you only remember an error or typo?
A good CV will always be less than two pages. Ideally it will only be a single page. Ultimately, a CV should only be as long as necessary to make an impression with essential information.
CV layouts are relatively standard. There is only so much information you can fit onto one or two pages. Each section has a purpose that relates to your goal of landing an interview for the job.
- Personal CV profile – who are you and can you make an impression in just three sentences of text?
- Work experience – what work experience do you have and how is it relevant to the job you are applying for?
- Skills – what skills and competencies make you valuable for this job? Can you demonstrate these skills and connect them to the job description?
- Education – what are your educational achievements? What part of your education is most relevant to the job?
- References – who is supporting your job application?
Every CV layout will include these five sections. Your CV profile comes first. References appear at the end. The other three sections should be ordered in a way that best impresses your suitability for the job. That means put your strongest section first and hide your weakest section at the end. With this approach you will make the ten second reading time work to your advantage.
Writing a CV profile is one of the hardest challenges you will face in your young career. Try to be as objective as possible. What information is most important and most relevant in getting you the interview? Can you prove your attributes (not just list adjectives) and relate them to the job spec in two sentences, while bringing your personality to the page? It’s difficult. That’s why it’s good to write it all down first and then cherry pick the best information.
References on a CV require careful thought and negotiation. Who do you trust to provide a good reference? Make sure you contact these references in advance and get their support.
The CV skills section requires a detailed understanding of how your skills relate to the job. The more you can connect your skills to the job the better your CV.
The same argument applies for work experience. How does your work experience make you the best candidate for the job? You don’t need to list everything and you can write a CV profile without any work experience (see below).
Education is usually the easiest section. Trim it down to the information that is relevant to the job.
My Perfect CV
You need a perfect CV for the perfect job. A few years later you will need a new perfect CV for the next perfect job. Writing a perfect CV is all about adaptability, along with a few tips and tricks.
Different CV Profiles For Different Purposes
Everybody is at a different stage of their career. You might be at the start. You might be ten years in and still feel at the start. Some people have a strong educational background, others offer clearly transferable skills.
You can use different CV profiles dependent on the role you are applying for. These CV profiles help to target your message and make an impression within ten seconds.
Writing a good graduate CV requires the same skills you used throughout university. You must think critically and communicate effectively.
As a graduate you do not have significant work experience, so don’t say that you do. Instead, your valuable attributes are likely to be transferable skills and relevant educational achievements. So these should be presented before any work experience.
This article is the ultimate guide to writing a graduate CV. It offers a step by step approach to creating a graduate CV that will make an impression.
How to Write a CV With Little Or No Experience
Everyone has experience. However, some people don’t appreciate that they do have experience.
When you have limited or no work experience, skills and achievements will take centrestage on your CV. A skills based CV is a good approach as it makes you appear as a valuable employee, without lying about your lack of experience.
This article explains how to write a CV with little or no work experience. It will help you think about your experience and how to pitch your job suitability to an employer.
Student CVs are commonly used by students searching for part time or temporary work. They are also used by students applying for apprenticeships and higher education.
In most cases an employer will not care too much about whether a student has experience. Students rarely have significant experience. However, every student will have some experience or skills that make them suitable for the role. At heart, a student CV should also demonstrate that you are a good student!
An academic CV is usually very different from a CV that targets a job. It is frequently longer and includes relevant publications, fellowships, achievements, conferences and other information.
Moving On After Your CV Profile
A good CV is the first step. Next will come an interview and then a new stage in a career. So don’t stop with the professionalism. Carry it through to the next step. Other articles on our website will help you to do this.
The Fledglink platform will help you find the best early career opportunities, build your professional network, and take the next steps.