Useful Tips on How to Write a Killer CV and Land your Dream Job
A curriculum vitae, often shortened to “CV” or vita, is a Latin term meaning “course of life.”
A CV is a written overview of someone’s life’s work. It is a detailed professional document highlighting extensively a person’s experience and accomplishments. Employers often require a CV when considering applications. A CV describes our education history, work history, awards, and honors, achievements.
In this article, we share useful tips on how to write an excellent CV that will land you your dream job.
How a CV Should Look Like:
- A CV should be clear, concise, complete, and up-to-date with current employment and educational information. If possible, try to keep your CV short and concise. Include summaries of your employment and education, rather than lots of details.
- Using bullet points rather than full sentences can help minimize word usage.
- A good, entry-level curriculum vitae should ideally cover two to three pages (CVs for mid-level professionals, especially in academia and medical research roles, may run longer). The aim is to ensure the content is clear, structured, concise, and relevant. Use formal language (no slang or abbreviations), write simply and clearly.
Rules to follow in writing your CV
In writing a CV, there are a few helpful rules you should follow. It’s important to show the hiring manager how you are qualified for the job and what you have to offer the organization by highlighting your education, work experience, and skills as they relate to the particular industry or job hiring.
However, it can be tempting to over-polish a CV and make our educational qualifications or work history sound a little better than they are. Even if you’re tempted to stretch the truth about your work history- don’t. It will come back to haunt you.
Tell the truth in an attractive way because most employers conduct reference and background check, and if your curriculum vitae match your actual work history or education, you will most likely get caught at some point – either you will be caught as a candidate or you will get fired if you have already been hired.
A properly written CV should also help you in answering some of the interview questions if you are invited.
What to include in your CV:
1. Personal and contact information:
Include relevant details such as your:
- Full name
- Phone number
- Email address.
But be careful to avoid superfluous and confidential details, such as:
- Religious affiliation.
- Children’s names, and so on.
Some entities like:
- Date of birth,
- Local government,
- Nationality might not compulsory.
As a matter of fact, if the age bracket disqualifies you, just take off your date of birth. Keep the interviewer in doubt. Rather sell your skills.
2. Education and qualifications:
Be sure to include the
- Names of institutions,
- Title of the degrees you earned and
- Dates attended in reverse order: Ph.D., Masters, Undergraduate.
Do not include the year you got admission. Some people started school in 2005 and graduated in 2012 for a 4-year course. It might not be their fault but employers wouldn’t take it that way since you’re not there to defend it. So I repeat, write out only graduation year.
Also, there’s no need for your grade (First class, 2.1, 2.2, etc). Just take it off.
3. Work Experience/Employment History:
Your career history is presented in reverse date order starting with the most recent appointment. More emphasis/information should be placed on your most recent jobs.
Include the organization where you worked, the job title, the dates you were employed and a summary of your experience and achievements.
4. Qualifications and skills:
List a combination of hard and soft skills you’ve developed throughout your career.
Include computer skills, foreign language skills, and any other recent training that is relevant to the role applied for.
5. Awards and honors:
For each award, add the name, year received, the organization that gave you the award and any pertinent details (such as how often it’s presented).
6. Publications and presentations.
For publications, provide a full citation including your co-authors, date, summary, volume, page, DOI (Digital Object Identifier) number.
For presentations, provide the title, date, and venue where you presented.
7. Professional Associations.
List the organization’s name, location or chapter and the dates of active membership.
8. Grants and Scholarships.
Provide the name of the grant or scholarship, date awarded and the institution that provided the award.
9. Licenses and Certifications:
Include the name of the license or certificate, the date you earned it and the institution that awarded it.
- 10. Training / Graduate Fieldwork / Study Abroad
- 11. Dissertations / Theses
- 12. Research experience
- 13. Teaching experience
What to Avoid in your CV:
- Never start your CV with “Curriculum Vitae”.
- Start with your name boldly written with a larger font.
- You don’t need to append your passport photo on your CV except when the employer’s requests for it, which are quite rare.
- Your salary history, the reason you left your previous position or references in a CV.
- When sending your CV, don’t leave the email page blank.
- Don’t use childish email addresses. Use an email address with your name. Don’t use email addresses such as firstname.lastname@example.org. It says a lot about your maturity and professionalism. You can use Mary.email@example.com. If the name is already taken, add some numbers, e.g MaryAnn2020@gmail.com.
- Do not use a different address from the location of the job. It will make interviewers not to consider you faster. e.g, if the job is in Lagos, apply with a Lagos address. If you don’t stay in the same location, look for someone you know that uses the same location.
- Never forward a CV from your inbox to another employer. Open and compose a fresh mail then upload your CV and send it.
- Do not save your CV on your laptop or phone as ‘My CV’ or Edited CV’. Simply save it with your full name, e.g MaryAnn Odinakachukwu Egbo.
- Under your referees or references, please you are expected to have your referees name, address, phone number, and email address. You can also use your family member as your referee but ensure you don’t use the same surname.
Also, ensure your referees are aware you are using them as referees to avoid ugly scenarios.
- Also, choose the right font type and size. It’s critical your CV is legible and easy to follow. To improve readability, be sure to choose the proper font type and size.
The two primary font categories are serif and sans-serif. Serif fonts (Times New Roman, Courier, Georgia) have small, decorative flourishes while sans-serif (Helvetica, Arial, Geneva) fonts do not. It’s best to choose a sans-serif font because, in most cases, they’re easier to read.
- Additionally, keep your text between 10–12 points. While it can be tempting to reduce your font size to reduce the number of pages, you should never sacrifice readability for length.
- Finally, be sure to check your CV margin size. Margins that are too large will leave too much white space on each page while margins that are too small can make the page seem over-filled. A good rule is to keep your margins between 1–1.5 inches.
- Let your CV speak and defend you in your absence.
Which File Format: PDF or Microsoft Word Document?
This is a very important final aspect in writing a CV. If your employer finds it difficult to open your CV, they might end up ignoring you. Therefore you have to pay attention to their requirement.
If they specify a document format such as PDF or Microsoft Word Document, you have to send it as an attachment in your mail. Due to virus threats, some companies prefer only PDF files, which are virus-free. They might even tell you to copy your CV directly in the body of your mail.
There are two major advantages PDF offer over Microsoft Word Document. The formatting of the document changes when you move MS Word Document from one system to another (PC to PC, PC to MAC), and across different versions.
Microsoft Word underlines certain words and sentences that seem to be grammatical errors or misspelled. This might be done incorrectly. These lines make the CV look untidy. PDF eliminates such obstacles
Therefore, for CV submitted online through email, PDF is the best format unless the hiring manager states otherwise.