10 tips on how to write a CV

Employers look at your CV to decide whether to short-list you for a job. They often have many applications to look through. It is therefore important that you catch the recruiter’s interest. When reading your CV, it should be obvious not only that you have the skills for the job, but also why you have applied for this job.

1. Customize

It is ok to have a standard version of your CV, you do not need to start with a white piece of paper every time. But be sure to read the ad carefully and customize your CV accordingly. Professional recruiters often have a checklist of requirements and wishes that they are looking for when scanning the applications. It can be a certain education, a certain number of years of experience in an area or a certain system you need to master. Make sure that you highlight these skills in your CV. This will also help your application beat the ATS (Applicant Tracking System) robots.

Anything that is not relevant to the particular job, should be scaled back so that what you want to convey stands out and does not disappear in the crowd.

2. Start strong

An introduction gives your CV a context. The introduction may consist, for example, of a summary of your competence profile, a career goal or a brief description of your most important personal qualities. Make sure it matches the job ad.

3. Experiences and educations

Remember that a CV is more than a list of experiences and educations. You need to describe each experience in more detail, and most importantly, explain what you bring with you from your previous experiences.

Remember to also list extracurricular assignments, awards, volunteering or other positions that you have held in clubs or associations. Engagement shows responsibility and drive. Skills are also transferable and not always obvious to yourself.

4. Skills

Include computer skills, foreign language skills, and any other job-specific competencies.

5. A common thread

When a recruiter looks at your CV, it should look as if you have a common thread throughout your career. How you choose to present your previous experiences plays a major role in how you and your experiences are perceived. Even if your background is not directly linked to the job you are currently looking for, try to find the common denominators and highlight these. That way the common thread is reinforced.

6. Keep it short

Maximum two pages is a “normal” CV. An academic CV may require more pages if you include an appendix with your publications and grants. Think airy instead of squeezing things together or decreasing the font to unreadable.

7. Mind the language

Make sure you use the terminology correctly. If you are not a native speaker, have somebody proofread the CV. Use action words so the recruiter understands that you have been driving your career forward rather than things just happened by accident. Action words are verbs that end with -ed, for example: delivered. When used in your skill and achievement statements, action words convey a sense of accomplishment, and tell the employer that you get results.

8. Contact details

Obvious but apparently easy to forget. Make sure you have a professional email for example firstname.surname@outlook.com. If you have a professional profile on LinkedIn (which you should have), include the link.

9. Photo or not?

It varies in different countries so check carefully before you apply. In Sweden it is mostly appreciated but not at all necessary.

10. Font, colours, layout

Easy to read and consistent in structure is more important than fancy and colourful. Make sure that your cover letter matches your CV by using the same font, colours etc. You can be creative by slightly enlarging your name at the top of the CV, using a different font or colour to the rest of the text. Be sure to use colour sparingly and restrict it to no more than one colour in addition to black.

Want more help?

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CareerService, in collaboration with GoMonday, regularly offer students, PhD students and Postdocs online reviews of CV or cover letter, free of charge. Find our next campaign at KI:s website for students

Sources: GoinGlobal, GoMonday, RMIT University.