How to create a CV that will help you stand out

How to create a cv

Last week we covered some top tips for writing a successful job application. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can check it out here and give it a read. After publishing that article, we had several people reach out to us, asking for tips for writing a successful CV. So here, you have it! We put our heads together and asked some of the employers we work with what they look for on a candidates CV so that we can present to you our top tips on how to create a CV that will stand out to employers. Enjoy!

Before diving in, let’s start with the basics such as what is a CV, and how does it differ from a resume?

What is a CV, and when do you need it?

A CV is short for Curriculum Vitae which is Latin for “course of life”. Typically a CV is used when applying for internships, jobs or even volunteering positions. Though, the purpose of a CV can change depending on the country. It’s also worth pointing out that a CV is not a cover letter.

A cover letter is a separate document that is usually a couple of paragraphs introducing yourself, skills, and your interest in a particular job position. In simple terms, it’s an elevator pitch in written form and is meant for you to market yourself as best as you can to the hiring manager so that they will continue forward with reading the rest of your CV and application.

Which leads to our next big question…

What is the difference between a CV and a resume?

As an American, I didn’t hear the word “CV” until I started looking for internship opportunities outside of the United States. A CV is an American resume. However, it is sometimes a little longer than a traditional resume, but they are very similar.

It’s another classic example of us Americans, naming or spelling something different from the rest of the world like “football vs soccer” “biscuit vs cookie” or even “trousers vs jeans”. However, for this blog, we will be referring to it as a CV.

Creating your CV

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty bits and how to create a CV that will impress employers. First up, career summary.

Career Summary

A career summary is a short introduction highlighting relevant skills, experiences and personal achievements. Like a cover letter, your career summary is a brief introduction and tells the employer who you are and why the hiring manager should continue reading your CV. Unlike a cover letter, your career summary will typically be placed at the top of your CV rather than as a separate document.

Do you need a career summary?

A career summary is useful to use if you have a good amount of experience under your belt, as it can highlight your career progress along with any key career highlights so far. However, it is vital to keep it short and concise otherwise employers may not want to read it, remember, it isn’t a cover letter so should only be a couple of lines long. If you are a fresh graduate with limited to no experience, instead of a career summary, it would instead be better to use what is called a CV objective.

What’s a CV Objective?

Usually, a career summary and a CV objective are used quite interchangeably, but one might be more useful than the other, depending on your level of experience.

It is usually recommended to use a CV objective if you are a recent graduate with limited experience. In a CV objective, you focus more on your skillset and what you can offer to the position and less about your previous experience, whereas if you have significant experience, relevant to the job, then use a career summary.

Check out some useful examples of a CV objective and a career summary, if you are having some trouble deciding which one you should use.

What should you include when you create a CV?

1. Experience

Your work experience is the most important section of your CV. It shows employers not just what you did, but how well you did that job and what you can bring to the role you are applying for.

When you create a CV, the experience section should include:

  • The company name
  • Your job or internship position
  • The date you started and ended your experience. If you are still currently working there, your end date should just say “present.”
  • 4-8 bullet points of what your role consisted of.

When you are explaining about your role, with a particular company, it is essential to tailor it to the job description and if you can, refer to some of the keywords listed in the job description. For example, if the job description states that you will be “Implementing new systems to help with efficiency in customer relations”.

In your experience section use the keyword “Implementing” when describing what you did in your previous roles, e.g. “I worked with the HR team and implemented a new salary management portal that saved the company X amount of money and reduced the amount of work required by the admin team”. Aim to use action verbs to describe what you did and your role at a particular company as well as how the work you did helped the company develop, as it highlights what you can bring to the role.

Key Achievements

As well as this, list the key achievements for each position you have worked, as it as a way to state your most significant accomplishments. When highlighting your experience, it is useful to have numbers and statistics to really wow the employer. For example “Led a project team in designing and implementing more efficient ways to reduce the amount of work required by the finance team. This reduced the amount of work by 35% and improved efficiency by 42%.”

2. Education

When it comes to discussing your education section, it’s pretty straightforward. You want to put your highest level of education first and the name of your qualification. It isn’t necessary to mention the name of your High School unless this is your highest level of education. If you are awarded a particular grade, e.g. received honours, you also want to include this in your education section next to the qualification it was awarded for.

You can also put the final grade if you wish, however for a degree it is recommended that you only include it if it is a 2:1 or higher. If you didn’t receive a high grade, don’t worry, simply just list the name of your degree, the University, and the year of completion. E.g. “Bachelor of Arts, The University of Texas at Austin, December 2018).

3. Professional Qualifications

A professional qualification section is an area where you can highlight any training and certifications you have received in the past. A professional qualification is different from an academic qualification, e.g. a degree, because it is typically more specific and directly related to providing you with the skills and experience needed for a particular industry or role, for example, becoming a chartered accountant.

Relevant Training

If you have done any relevant training for the position you’re applying for and received certifications upon completion, be sure to add this to the professional qualification section of your CV. Why? It creates a more robust CV as you are highlighting further examples of your skillset and how those skills can be transferred to the position you are applying for.

If you’ve taken several courses without receiving any certifications, you can put this in your skills section and touch on your desire for continuous learning and improvement. Though you don’t have a certification, by highlighting that you have taken relevant courses, shows the employer your motivation and drive to learn more about your industry. Therefore, it will be a great indication of your desire for the role and show you to be a great potential future employee.

4. Hobbies and Skills

Though hobbies and skills seem like a minor thing to add, it can help show your personality. Employers may look at this to get an indication if you are a good fit for the company culture. However, be selective with the skills you put on your CV and try to tailor it to the job description. For example, you noticed an emphasis on teamwork – do you play any team-based sports like football or maybe you are on a dance team, note down any hobbies or interests that are relevant to teamwork.

Another essential thing to include, in this section, is any volunteering work you may have done in the past. Volunteering is an excellent way to show your empathy and any leadership skills you may have gained during this time. If an employer brings it up, talk about it. It will only win you brownie points.

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How to structure your CV

1. Put Your Experience in the Correct Order

For any previous experience including internships, be sure to write it down in the correct order. This means, starting with your most recent work experience first and the oldest relevant experience last.

In addition to this, make sure to stay consistent throughout the whole application. If you are writing the date of your employment in a certain way, e.g. “10-2019”, be sure you do this for every date that follows. You want to make sure your dates, and font, are uniform and consistent. Consistency is crucial, and employers will notice if you format and alignment is not identical.

2. Font

Following my previous point, let’s breakdown what your typeface should be. A few things to note when it comes to what type of font you are using for your CV:

  • Use clear and eligible fonts. E.g. Calibri, Arial, Times New Roman, Helvetica
  • Keep the size of your font to a pt.11 to pt.12. For Headings, switch up to a pt.14 to pt.16.
  • Ensure headings are bolded, so each section clearly stands out
  • Make sure the text can be clearly read if you are not using a blank background, ideally use black text on a white background as this looks professional and is clear.

3. Spacing

After consulting with professional CV editors, they advise being wise about spacing on your CV. This is often referred to as “white space or negative space” which is simply the space created between a paragraph and different sections of your CV. Though most recruiters often use software to filter applicants and don’t pay much attention to spacing, white space is still important for catching the attention of a hiring manager once shortlisted.

In addition to this, finding the balance of how much white space you are using can be tricky. If you don’t use very much space, it can make your CV appear cluttered and disorganised. Also, if you use too much of it, it makes your CV look bare and empty. If used correctly, white space will make your CV appear clean, organised, and well-formated.

Where should I use white space?

You typically want to use white space between each paragraph to make it look more organised and easy to read. In addition to this, use white space between different sections of your CV as well as titles and bullet points. Lastly, make sure you are using your white space in a uniform manner. By using your white space correctly, you’ll help grab the hiring manager’s attention, and it will help them quickly find all the essential information and key things they want to know about you and your application.

4. Length

Though you may think that adding every single experience and qualification you have, to your CV, would make you appear more qualified. This is not the case, if there is too much information, especially if it is not relevant to the role you are applying for, it can overwhelm the hiring manager, lose their interest and make your CV appear disorganised. You typically want your CV to be around two pages long. If you are applying for an entry-level position, you may not have enough experience to fill a two page CV.

In this case, communicate essential information about yourself as well as relevant skills and training that you have received in the past. Do not try to embellish on your CV as an attempt to make that two-page goal, it’s bad practice, and even if it does help you land an interview or a job offer, it can harm your future career if you are ever caught. When you create a CV, keep it concise and relevant to the skills required for the job you are applying for.

5. Design

How well-presented is your CV? Does it convey all key-information, and is it organised and well-formatted? The design of your CV is essential because it serves as a first-impression to recruiters. The presentation of your CV will help you stand out against other candidates, that did not focus on this aspect, and therefore, their CVs look unorganised and sloppy. It also demonstrates your professionalism. If it is well-presented, it shows you have put in time and effort and are passionate about the job and the company you are applying to.

Final Thoughts

Your CV acts as an advert for you and is generally the first thing an employer looks at when you send your application. It details all relevant information about your work and education background and also helps explain why you are a good fit for the position and company. It is crucial to ensure it is tailored for the job you are applying for. As well as this, be sure to proofread your CV, and get someone else to review it, before submitting your application, as you don’t want to be rejected because of a small grammatical error, you may have accidentally made.

In today’s competitive market, it’s essential to spend time and create a CV that stands out and showcases your skills. It will also indicate your effort to go the extra mile and help you impress the employer. By following these tips, it will help you get noticed by a hiring manager, helping you secure an interview and potentially a job offer!

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Julia Hurtado

Julia Hurtado

Having spent an entire summer dedicated to travelling abroad, Julia now focuses on helping other students experience life outside their home country. As an American now working in London, Julia enjoys sharing advice on interning abroad, sipping tea (with 2 sugars, 1 milk please) and reading in her spare time.

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