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 wish that they are looking for when scanning 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 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 education

Remember that a CV is more than a list of experiences and education. 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

A maximum of 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 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 most appreciated but not at all necessary.

10. Font, colours, layout

Being 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?

With your ki-id, you can access GoinGlobal and find career guides from all over the world. Use your ki-address to create a personal account.

KI Career service, in collaboration with Go Monday, regularly offer students, Ph.D. students, and Postdocs online reviews of CV or cover letter, free of charge. Register with your KI email address to receive a code to have your CV or cover letter reviewed by Go Monday. 

Sources: GoinGlobal, Go Monday, RMIT University.

Emma Karlsson