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Everything about a CV for a job application

A CV, which stands for curriculum vitae, is a written summary of your work history, education, skills and achievements. Essential to any job application, the aim of a CV is to provide a meaningful summary of your career to date and show prospective employers that you have the necessary skills and competencies to perform well in a job.

As in most cases, your CV will be the first point of contact between you and a prospective employer, it’s crucial that your document makes a good impression. This means that your CV not only needs to clearly communicate your value but also be correct and free of grammatical and spelling mistakes to have a chance of getting through the first round.

Below you will find information and advice on how to create a CV to win over recruiters and increase your chances of landing your dream job.

While every CV is unique and should ideally be tailored to the job description, there are certain guidelines that can be applied to all CVs. For example, every CV will generally contain work experience, education and skills sections, but may not need to include hobbies and interests or extracurricular activities sections, depending on your career history and the position you’re applying for.

The following is a summary of the sections that belong in a CV and those that are optional:

Personal details

The personal details section, which sits at the top of your CV, lets employers know who you are and how you can be contacted. Therefore, this section should not only include your name and current address, but also a phone number and an email address, where you can be contacted.

If you have your own website or a LinkedIn profile, it’s also a good idea to include this information, to provide employers with more information about you. If relevant to the job, you can refer to your driving licence or lack thereof.

For the most part, you won’t need to mention information such as your nationality, date of birth, gender, marital status or religious beliefs as anti-discrimination laws in many countries prohibit the selection of employees on these grounds.

CV objective or personal statement

Sitting at the top of your CV after your contact details, your CV objective or personal statement is a short introduction that provides busy recruiters with a quick overview of your work experience, skills and qualifications.

With recruiters spending only seconds scanning CVs, a compelling CV objective or personal statement can be an invaluable opportunity to make your application stand out and convince recruiters to keep reading the rest of your CV.

Work experience

The work experience section of your CV will form the core of your CV, as this is where recruiters and prospective employers can see whether you have the required experience for the job. This is also where you highlight relevant skills and accomplishments in each position you’ve held.

While it’s not necessary to list your entire career history, gaps in your CV could be a red flag to potential employers and therefore should be minimised or explained.

Education

The education section of your CV provides employers with an overview of your training and qualifications. Depending on the stage of your career, this section may be given lesser or greater weight by recruiters and hiring managers.

For instance, experienced professionals will typically give greater emphasis to career history and place this section after the work experience section. On the other hand, if you’re a recent graduate or someone in the early stages of your career, it makes sense to highlight your education as evidence you have the required knowledge for the job and place this section earlier in your CV.

Core Competencies

Core competencies are skills and qualifications you can add to your CV to demonstrate your suitability for the position you’re applying for. While skills are specific abilities acquired through education, further training or work experience, core competencies are, broadly speaking, the skills, knowledge and personal traits that allow you to perform well in a job.

Core competencies are usually found in job descriptions and person specifications. As employers often use these to sort through candidates, including core competencies increases the likelihood of your CV being scanned by ATS.

Skills

One of the most important sections of your CV, this section provides an opportunity to highlight special knowledge and skills relevant to the position you are applying for, which are not mentioned under the education or work experience headings.

This can include language skills, IT skills or core competencies such as critical thinking, leadership and the ability to learn new things quickly. If you have volunteer work experience, you can also list skills that you have acquired in connection with this activity.

Language Skills

In today’s international environment, having language skills can bring professional opportunities and give you a distinct edge over similarly qualified candidates. The reason is that many businesses are now multinational and language skills enable you to work with people across borders and from different cultures.

Even in companies that don’t have an international base, the chances are, you’ll be working with and serving people whose native language is different to your own. By mentioning language skills in your CV, you demonstrate cultural awareness, adaptability and your ability to learn new skills.

Internships

In today’s competitive job market, listing internships on your CV can help boost your application and make you stand out from other candidates.

With many employers preferring to hire candidates with relevant work experience, including internship experience on your CV can demonstrate that you have the necessary skills to perform in the job, especially if you’re a student or a recent graduate or have limited work experience.

It’s important to note, however, that internships should be relevant for the industry, field or position you’re applying for and highlight meaningful responsibilities, such as running social media accounts, coordinating events, drafting reports, etc.

Courses and Qualifications

This section includes all further education that has been completed outside of regular school/university or vocational training, whether that’s job-related training or language stays abroad.

While listing your professional qualifications and courses can demonstrate a willingness to develop yourself further as well as an ability to learn, whether you include this section in your CV will depend on the work experience you have and the amount of space left on your CV.

Where possible, any further training you list on your CV should be evidenced by certificates or diplomas for credibility.

Volunteer Work Experience

If you have limited work experience or gaps in your career history, including volunteer work experience on your CV can be an invaluable accompaniment to your application.

Not only do you demonstrate to employers that you have real-world experience and transferable skills, but you also give them a glimpse of your personality and the causes you’re passionate about.

In fact, research shows that employers tend to favour candidates with volunteer work experience as it shows that you are purpose-driven and that you have a growth mindset.

Extracurricular Activities

If you’ve just left school or university, rounding out your CV with extracurricular activities could make up for your lack of work experience. Pursued with the purpose of developing skills for the job market, extracurricular activities serve as proof of practical skills and demonstrate favourable qualities such as self-motivation, teamwork, communication and leadership.

Which extracurricular activities you include in your CV will depend on the role you’re applying for, so it’s a good idea to study the job description carefully to note the role’s requirements.

Hobbies and Interests

Including your hobbies and interests on your CV can give a human touch to your CV as well as add individuality to your application. In addition, hobbies can indicate specialist knowledge or skills. For example, if you blog in your spare time, this demonstrates creativity and communication skills.

Nevertheless, the hobbies and interests section is an optional section of your CV and should only be included if it adds value to your application and aligns with the professional image you’re trying to convey to prospective employers.

References

When written well, references can form an important part of your job application as they provide recruiters and employers proof of your character, skills and work history. Adding references to your CV can lend more weight and credibility to your application; employers see that there are people who can vouch for your suitability for the role.

With this in mind, however, including references in your CV is no longer common practice, unless an employer specifically requests them.

When you apply for a job, you have two opportunities to show recruiters and prospective employers that you’re a good match for the role. These are your CV and cover letter.

As the first impression a prospective employer will have of you, your CV should provide a succinct but meaningful overview of your work experience, education, skills and qualifications and make clear why you’re a great candidate for the advertised position.

Your cover letter, on the other hand, is primarily used to add more context to your CV, express your motivation(s) for applying and further explain your value.

Before you start writing your CV, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the different sections that go into a CV as well as how it should be structured. Having a CV checklist at hand can help ensure that you don’t overlook anything before you send off your application.

Using a CV template can also help you organise your personal statement or CV objective, work experience, education, skills and qualifications in a clear and presentable way. Ideally, your CV should not be more than 2 A4 pages long and address any gaps you may have in your career.

A clearly structured CV gives recruiters and prospective employers a quick overview of who you are and why you’re the ideal candidate for the advertised position. That’s why it’s important to take the time to decide on the formatting of your CV before you sit down to write it.

While your CV should be tailored to the job description to be effective, there are core sections that belong in every CV. These include your contact details, personal statement or CV objective, work experience, education, and skills. Optional sections include relevant professional courses or certificates and internship experience.

Format and layout

When writing your CV, it’s important to pay attention to the layout as well as the content. This is because a well-written, professionally presented CV conveys that you’re a credible candidate to be taken seriously, whereas a messy, disorganised CV speaks volumes about your professionalism or lack thereof.

A few pointers for creating a clear and structured CV include giving sections clear headings, breaking up blocks of text with bullet points, making use of white space and using bold for headings and italics for subheadings.

Font

With only seconds to impress with your CV, every detail counts - including the font you use. While the content of your CV is important, it’s crucial to put some thought and effort into its presentation, to convey a sense of professionalism.

A good font makes your CV look attractive and easy to read, not only by human readers but also by ATS. On the other hand, the wrong font is likely to make your CV look cluttered, and unreadable and annoy recruiters.

Ultimately, the font you choose will depend on your industry and the role you’re applying for.

CV length

Your CV is intended to give recruiters and prospective employers a brief overview of your career history and qualifications. With the average job posting attracting hundreds or even thousands of applications, recruiters typically spend seconds scanning CVs. If you send a CV that’s too long, you risk important information being overlooked.

For the most part, a CV consisting of two A4 pages is sufficient for recruiters to quickly determine whether you’re a suitable candidate. However, depending on the amount of work experience you have in the industry in which you work, the standard recommended length may not apply.

How you present your work experience, education, skills and qualifications has just as much impact as the content in your CV, so it’s important to select the right type of CV for the job you’re applying for and your circumstances.

Generally, there are two main types of CVs: the chronological (or traditional) CV and a skills-based (or functional) CV.

Irrespective of the type of CV you opt for, the goal should always be to highlight the most relevant information for the job description so that recruiters can quickly see at a glance whether you’re a good fit for the job.

Chronological CV

As the name suggests, a chronological CV presents your work experience and education in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent experience. This allows recruiters to quickly see your career progression and determine your suitability for a position.

Chronological CVs are a great choice for highlighting professional growth and consistent career history but are less suitable if you have frequently changed jobs or have gaps in your employment as these are made more noticeable.

Skills-based CV

A skills-based or functional CV focuses primarily on your skills, competencies and accomplishments rather than your work experience. This type of CV is beneficial if you have career gaps, changed jobs within a short period of time or are switching careers and you want to highlight transferable skills.

When writing a skills-based or functional CV, you’ll still need to include important information such as your contact details (name, address, phone number, email address and Linkedin URL). And as with a traditional CV, it’s important to include a personal statement or profile.

Other CV types

In addition to the types of CVs mentioned above, there are also other CVs such as the creative CV, Europass CV and academic CV. These formats are appropriate for specific industries or when applying internationally.

  • Creative CV: A creative CV differs from a standard CV in its layout and design, whether through colour, typography or format (website, video, Pinterest, etc.). For jobs in industries such as design, art, media, etc., creative is a good choice for showcasing creative skills and standing out from the competition.
  • Europass CV: The Europass CV is a Europe-wide standardised template in 28 languages, in which education, professional experience and competencies are presented in an internationally understandable way. The Europass CV makes sense especially if you want to apply for jobs across national borders or at international companies.
  • Academic CV: An academic CV focuses on academic achievements, research interests and specialist skills and is useful for applying for jobs in higher education for funding or for other opportunities in academia. With a stronger focus on education than a traditional CV, an academic CV is designed to provide a complete picture of your experience to show you’re the best candidate for academic posts and research positions.

Applying for a job can be a stressful process, especially when it comes to creating the perfect CV. With the average job attracting hundreds of applications, your CV will more than likely not be successful if it has a cluttered layout, is full of spelling mistakes or is simply too long or too short.

Jobseeker makes life easier by providing articles with the best CV tips, CV examples for numerous professions and industries, and CV templates to help you create a CV to impress and land your dream job. To get started, simply enter your details in the relevant tool and select the appropriate template.

However, if you have questions related to the tools available in Jobseeker, their use and pricing, please visit our ‘Frequently asked questions’ page. If not all your questions are answered or you have any other concerns or suggestions, you can contact us directly here.

Do you have unanswered questions? Take a look at our FAQ

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CV example Chrono
CV example Modern
CV example Casual
CV example Elegant
CV example Circular
CV example Vertical
CV example Professional
CV example Horizontal
CV example Luxe
CV example Classic
CV example Chrono
CV example Modern
CV example Casual
CV example Elegant
CV example Circular
CV example Vertical
CV example Professional
CV example Horizontal
CV example Luxe
CV example Classic
CV example Chrono
CV example Modern
CV example Casual
CV example Elegant
CV example Circular
CV example Vertical
CV example Professional
CV example Horizontal
CV example Luxe
CV example Classic