What is a CV and what is it used for?
A CV, short for ‘curriculum vitae’, is a document that details a written overview of your employment history, education and skills.
You will need to write a CV if you’re looking for a job as most companies require one in the initial stages of a job application process. Some employers may only ask for a CV; others may request a cover letter or a completed application form too.
Once you send off your application, employers and recruiters will then review it and judge whether your skills and experience make you a suitable fit for the position. Your CV will continue to be referred to throughout the application and interview process.
What to include in your CV (with examples)
The contents and structure of a CV are fairly flexible, although there are a few essential components you’ll need to include.
Name, professional title and contact details
Your name, professional title and contact details must sit proudly at the top of your document. There’s no need to title your CV ‘curriculum vitae’. Your name deserves to title the document as it’s all about you and your work history.
Contact details are essential too. Without them, recruiters will never be able to update you on your application. At the very least, you should include your phone number and email address. Including a home address on a CV is a widely debated topic. You don’t have to include your full address, but it’s worth including your town and county.
In this top section, you may also like to include a link to your LinkedIn profile.
Here’s an example of the format you could go with when opening your CV:
Forename Surname | Professional Title
Location: [Town, County]
Phone: 01 234 5678
Your personal profile, otherwise known as a personal statement, is the section just underneath your name and contact details.
Your profile is a short summary of who you are, what you can offer the company and your current career goals. It gives recruiters a snapshot of what you’re all about; so, you should tailor it to every job application and ensure it showcases your relevant skills.
The next section details your employment history. It’s your chance to outline your previous positions of employment, placements, internships and any other examples of work experience.
When you write a CV, list your employment history in reverse chronological order because your most recent position is more relevant to a potential employer than the job you did five years ago.
List each job with employment dates, the company name, location, your job title and a sentence that outlines your role. Then, bullet point your key responsibilities, skills, achievements and projects and be sure to use powerful verbs to show your impact and ability.
As you go down your CV to old roles, its best to summarise the positions in one to three lines. If you have positions older than 10 years, you can delete them.
Here’s an example of a position of employment:
mmm yyyy – mmm yyyy
Company Name, Location
Education and qualifications
Up next is your qualifications section. Like your work experience, it should detail your qualifications in reverse chronological order.
Include your qualification, grade, institution and date of the qualification or the years you attended the institution.
If you’re early on in your career, you may lay out your degree or Leaving Certificates like so:
College name – Dates attended (from – to)
Qualification/subject – Grade
If you’re listing your degree, you might like to add some detail on modules, specialisms, projects and papers underneath.
If you’re further along in your career, you may lay out your qualifications like so:
Qualification, grade – Institution – Year
You may like to include some additional sections when you write a CV. However, you should only do this if you have room and if they add value to your application.
Key skills: You can introduce a key skills section just underneath your profile which details four or five key attributes that are most valuable to the recruiter.
Hobbies and interests: If you don’t have much work experience, you may like to include a hobbies and interests section at the end of your CV. Avoid hobbies that are run-of-the-mill and instead choose interests that relate to the job you’re applying or where you gained transferrable skills.
References: Listing your referees at the end of your CV is no longer standard practice. If you have room, end your CV with ‘References available on request’, but if you don’t have room, it’s perfectly acceptable to leave this phrase off completely.
How to format your CV
When you write a CV, the format and layout can make or break your application; and it’s just as important as the content. Your CV must be clear, concise and professional looking. Here are some tips for formatting success:
Length: Your CV should fit two pages comfortably. If it’s just shy or spilling over, adjust the font size or margins to ensure your CV looks complete.
Tailoring: It’s fine to keep a generic version of your CV for your own records, but if you’re applying for a job, you must tailor it to every application.
Headings: A bold heading should introduce every section to ensure the document is easily digestible.
Font: As most recruiters will read your document electronically, you must choose an easy-to-read font like Arial or Calibri. You might like to have a different font for your headings, but ensure it’s professional and clear. The body of your CV should be between 10- and 12-point font, and your headings should be between 14 and 18 points.
Proofreading and consistency: Keep your formatting consistent when you write a CV to maintain a professional look. Proofread your CV thoroughly and don’t solely rely on Word’s spellcheck as it won’t catch every error. For example, you may have written ‘manger’ (which is technically correct) but meant ‘manager’.
What not to include when you write a CV
You want your CV to stand out from the crowd for the right reasons. Therefore, you need to be careful and avoid oversharing. Here is a range of details that have no place on your CV:
Photograph: In some countries, it’s standard practice to include a photo on your CV. But in Ireland, it’s not. Plus, adding a photo is a waste of valuable space and would be better used to explain your talent and skills.
Age and date of birth: Your age does not affect your ability to do the job and should not be featured on your CV. The only dates that should appear on your CV include your employment and qualifications.
Marital status and dependents: Whether you have a family of four or are single and accompanied by 13 cats, your marital status or dependents doesn’t affect your ability to do the job. Including these details on your CV is discouraged.