Our customers have been hired by:
Imagine this: you've found the perfect job opportunity. You craft what you believe is a compelling CV and eagerly send it off, waiting anxiously for that all-important call-back. But it never comes. Why? Your CV wasn't even read. It simply wasn't up to par.
Don't despair. This nightmare scenario won't occur again. Whether you're an experienced candidate or crafting your first CV, you're about to learn how to write a CV that no one can resist reading.
In this guide, you’ll find out:
- What's a CV & the difference between a CV and a resume.
- Tips on how to write a CV.
- A collection of professional CV examples for your inspiration
- Frequently Asked Questions about how to write a CV.
Want to save time and have your CV ready in 5 minutes? Try our CV builder. It’s fast and easy to use. Plus, you’ll get ready-made content to add with one click. See 20+ CV templates and create your CV here.
Sample CV made with our builder—See more CV samples here.
What is a CV and How It Differs From a Resume?
A CV, short for Curriculum Vitae, is a document summarizing your education, work experience, skills, achievements, and other qualifications. In the US, Canada, and Australia, a CV is used to apply for academic positions, while in Europe—it's the name of the document used as a standard resume. Remember:
- If you're applying to a European company, you should create a CV. But if you're trying to get a job in the US, you need to make a resume.
- If you're making a CV for academic purposes in the US, Canada, or Australia, read our guide on the differences between a CV and a resume.
And no, a CV is not a cover letter. A curriculum vitae contains your work history, education, and skills, while a cover letter explains the recruiter in detail why you’re the best match for the job. These documents are completely different, and you can learn more about those differences in this guide on Curriculum Vitae vs. cover letter.
Still confused? Read our complete guide on what a CV is.
What is the difference between a CV and a resume?
In the US, a CV is a document used to apply for a position in academia, and that's why it focuses mainly on your educational background, while a resume highlights your work experience. A CV includes a complete list of publications, conferences, etc., so it’s often longer than a resume.
To sum up, the US academic CV outlines every detail of your scholarly career. In other countries, a CV is the equivalent of an American resume and is used to apply for a job.
How to Write a CV
Writing a CV will be easy if you follow the 9 steps below:
Step 1: Start with the Right CV Format
Recruiters spend only 6-7 seconds scanning each CV. So, the very first impression is key. If you submit a neat, properly organized document, you’ll convince the recruiters to spend more time on your CV.
Here’s how to make a CV format the right way.
Start with creating a CV outline divided into the following sections:
- CV Header with Contact Information
- Personal Profile: CV Objective or CV Summary
- Work Experience
- Additional Sections
Pro Tip: If you’re fresh out of uni and need to write a CV with no experience or graduated from a prestigious institution within the last 5 years, put your education section above your work experience.
When filling in the sections, always keep in mind the gold CV formatting rules:
1. Choose clear, legible fonts.
Go for one of the standard CV typefaces: Arial, Tahoma, or Helvetica if you prefer sans-serif fonts, and Times New Roman or Bookman Old Style if serif fonts are your usual pick. Use 11 to 12 pt font size and single spacing. For your name and section titles, pick a 14 to 16-pt font size.
2. Be consistent with your CV layout.
Set one-inch margins for all four sides. Make sure your CV headings are uniform—make them larger and bold, but go easy on italics and underlining. Stick to a single date format on your CV: 11-2017 or November 2017.
3. Don’t cram your CV with gimmicky graphics.
Less is more. White space is your friend—recruiters need some breathing room! Plus, most of the time, after you send out your CV, it will be printed in black ink on white paper. Too many graphics might make it illegible.
4. Get photos off of your CV.
Unless you’re explicitly asked to include your photograph in the job ad, use a professional-looking picture, but not as official as an ID photo.
5. Make your CV brief and relevant.
Don’t include every single detail of your work experience and education. Stick only to the facts that are relevant to potential employers.
Pro Tip: After writing, save your CV in PDF to ensure the layout stays intact. But pay close attention to the job description. Some employers won’t accept a PDF CV. If such is the case, send your CV in Word.
Step 2: Add Your Contact Information the Right Way
Build a CV header that includes the essential contact details. In the contact information section, enter your:
The contact information section seems pretty straightforward, but here’s one reason it might be tricky:
Recruiters will use it to research you online. If your social media profiles are unprofessional or your LinkedIn profile information doesn’t match your CV, you’re immediately out of the race.
Step 3: Include a Personal Profile and Your Job Title
To make an attention-grabbing CV, focus on the personal profile statement—a short, snappy paragraph of 100 words that tells the recruiters why you are just the candidate they’ve been looking for. Your profile will either be a CV objective or a CV summary.
What’s the difference?
- A CV objective shows what skills you’ve mastered and how you’d fit in. It’s a good choice if you’ve got little work experience relevant to the job you’re trying to land, for example, if you’re writing a CV for a student.
- A CV summary, in turn, highlights your career progress and achievements. Use it if you’re a seasoned professional with much experience in your field.
Let’s say there’s a posting for a nursing job. Here are sample nursing CV objectives and summaries.
Dependable licensed NMC Registered Nurse trained to work in high-stress environments and stay calm under pressure. Seeking to leverage meticulous record-keeping and analytical skills to help St Francis Hospital with your upcoming challenges.
The candidate focused solely on what they could offer their future employer. They also mentioned the name of the specific hospital they’re applying to.
As we said before, if you’ve got some relevant job experience, begin your CV with a CV summary instead of an objective. Now, check out a CV summary sample.
Bilingual (English and Dutch) Pediatric Nurse with 15+ years of experience in a community hospital's intensive and neonatal care units. Seeking to leverage management experience as Chief Pediatric Nurse at General Hospital, helping to implement new staff training programs.
The CV summary is super-specific, and it gives a complete outline of the candidate’s background and shows how their experience will help tackle particular problems the hospital is facing.
When making a resume in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building a professional resume template here for free.
Step 4: List Your Relevant Work Experience & Key Achievements
More often than not, your work experience section is the most essential part of your CV—the one that gets the most eye time.
Here’s how to make a job-winning CV work experience section:
- Focus on your measurable, relevant achievements, not just your duties.
- Use action verbs: “created,” “analyzed,” and “implemented,” not “responsible for creating, analysis, and implementation.”
- Tailor your CV to the job posting—read the job description carefully and check what tasks will be expected of you. If you’ve done them before—put them on your CV, even if those weren’t your primary responsibilities.
Here’s a sample job description for a junior product marketing specialist position.
- Filling product placement requests from the media
- Creating and maintaining media lists as needed (1)
- Writing product pitches (2)
- Researching new media opportunities (3)
- Support creating media materials and press kits (4)
- Lead a small project (5) from start to finish
- Help in the organization of events (6)
- Respond to media inquiries (7)
Now, take a look at this example of a CV work experience entry.
- Created and maintained lists of media contacts (1)
- Researched opportunities (3) across online media channels
- Produced product pitches (2) and press kits (4)
- Supported event organization (6)
- Responded to media inquiries (7)
Key achievement: Led a project team (5) in designing and implementing a comprehensive social media relations strategy for a new line of lifestyle products, grew Facebook fan base from 0 to 12,000 in 4 months[LINK to the Facebook fanpage], gained 35,000 Instagram followers[LINK to the Instagram account] in 3 months.
The example above is perfectly tailored to the job ad. The candidate showed they can manage their most important future tasks because they’ve done them before.
Secondly, it’s action-verb-packed. “Created and maintained” instead of “responsible for creating and maintaining,” etc.
Last but not least, it focuses on the candidate’s achievements. Add a “key achievement” subsection for an impressive CV, just like the candidate above did. Then, include numbers. Don’t say you “significantly increased sales.” Say how much precisely. Numbers pop!
To ensure your key achievements shine, follow the PAR (Problem Action Result) formula to describe them.
Problem: Lack of sufficient social media promotion for a new line of lifestyle products
Action: New social media strategy
Result: 12,000 Facebook fans in 4 months and 35,000 Instagram followers in 3 months.
Pro Tip: If you learn how to list your achievements on a CV the right way, you’ll outperform 9 out of 10 other candidates. Have a read of our dedicated guide: Achievements to Put on a CV: Complete Guide with Examples)
Step 5: Build Your CV Education Section Correctly
Good news is, creating a CV education section is usually simple.
If you’ve got any post-secondary education, include only that on your CV. Don’t mention your high school unless it’s your highest education degree. List:
- Graduation year (if you’re still studying, enter your expected graduation date)
- Your degree
- Institution name
- Honors (if applicable)
Including your honors is optional. If you don’t want them to do you more harm than good, add them only if they’re 2:1 or higher for the undergrad degrees and “merit” or “distinction” for postgrads.
2014 B.A. in French
University of Southampton
Secondly, elaborate a bit more on your academic experience. Include, for instance:
- Your dissertation title
- Favorite fields of study
- Relevant coursework
- Your best achievements
- Extracurricular academic activities.
Read more: How to List Continuing Education on a Resume?
Step 6: Highlight Your Relevant Soft and Hard Skills
Would a list of a dozen and a half skills look good on a CV? Regarding skills for a CV, focus on their relevance instead of trying to include as many as possible. Include an appropriate mix of hard skills, soft skills, and anything in between.
Skills for CV—Example
- Communication skills
- People skills
- Active listening skills
- Leadership skills
- Management skills
- Critical thinking skills
- Analytical skills
- Decision-making skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Organizational skills
- Computer skills
Want to find out which skills on a CV are most valued by employers? Check out this piece and impress every recruiter: 30+ Best Examples of What Skills to Put on a CV (Proven Tips)
Step 7: Include Additional CV Sections to Impress the Recruiter
Include an additional section where you show off your unquestionable triumphs: things that prove your value as a candidate. Such as the following:
- Industry awards
- Professional certifications
- Relevant publications
- Professional Affiliations
- Conferences attended
- Additional training
Don’t worry if you’re still studying and can showcase none of the above. A good student CV will still benefit from an additional section. Here are some ideas:
Step 8: Organize Everything on a Professional CV Template
No one likes to mess around with formatting a CV in MS Word.
Luckily, there are hundreds of ready, fill-in-the-blanks CV templates available online. And we offer some genuinely cracking ones.
A great cover letter that matches your resume will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write it in our cover letter builder here. Here's what it may look like:
Step 9: Complement Your CV with a Cover Letter
“You don’t need to write a cover letter.” —It’s a piece of horrible career advice.
Because as many as 45 out of 100 recruiters won’t even get around to reviewing your CV if there’s no cover letter attached, according to our HR statistics report. And writing great cover letters is much easier than it seems.
CV Examples to Get You Inspired
Writing a standout CV for a job becomes easier with a tried-and-tested example. Our career experts have put together hundreds of unique CV examples. You can effortlessly copy, tweak, and use these as your own or simply draw inspiration from them:
- Academic CV
- Artist CV
- Graduate CV
- Medical Student CV
- Physician CV
- 500+ CV examples for different jobs and industries
Hiring has changed drastically. It’s fast and furious. You’ll need to go an extra mile with your CV to get your foot in the door.
Here's a short summary of how to write a CV:
- Start with a personal profile—a CV summary or objective.
- Follow with your work experience—focus on achievements instead of duties.
- Present your relevant skills.
- Add a section with your top wins: certifications, awards, publications, etc.
- Attach a cover letter to double your chances of getting hired.
Do you have any more questions on how to write a job-winning CV? Give us a shout in the comments, and we’ll answer your queries!
About Zety’s Editorial Process
This article has been reviewed by our editorial team to make sure it follows Zety's editorial guidelines. We’re committed to sharing our expertise and giving you trustworthy career advice tailored to your needs. High-quality content is what brings over 40 million readers to our site every year. But we don't stop there. Our team conducts original research to understand the job market better, and we pride ourselves on being quoted by top universities and prime media outlets from around the world.
Frequently Asked Questions about How to Write a CV
What are the 5 main things your CV should include?
The 5 main things your CV should include are:
- Your contact details
- A CV summary or objective
- Work experience
- Educational background
- Relevant skills
How to write a good CV for a job step by step?
- Create a stand-out CV design. After all, you have to stand out from hundreds of applications.
- Choose one of the three CV formats: reverse-chronological, skills-based, or combination.
- Divide your CV and organize the sections.
- Design a header with your personal information.
- Inlcude a career summary or objective statement, depending on where you’re with your career.
- Write an experience section using bullet points with power words and achievements.
- Indicate your highest degree (together with academic accomplishments if you don’t have much relevant experience).
- List key skills that correspond to the selection criteria from the job description to match the keywords.
- Consider additional sections, such as certificates, hobbies and interests, or volunteering and internships.
- Attach a cover letter to your application, and you’re all set.
How should a perfect CV look in 2024?
A perfect CV draws attention with a modern template design and clear sections allowing for enough whitespace. An eye-catching CV design combined with highly tailored content will create an invincible duo in 2024. You'll need to strike a balance between breaking the design standards and building your CV with the Applicant Tracking Software in mind if you hope to impress your recruiters.
See the CV templates Zety’s hiring pros have designed for you to get a head start. Pick one and go to the CV maker to complete it within minutes. Or, create a perfect CV all by yourself but with the help of one of our CV examples.
How to start writing a simple Curriculum Vitae?
- Give yourself some time to get your head around writing a CV. You may read and learn about things you never heard about before, which are crucial in making a job-worthy application.
- Design an eye-catching CV template with proper formatting: 1-inch margins, 1–1.15 line spacing, and a sans-serif font, such as Verdana or Arial.
- Decide on the CV format that you’ll follow. Choose from the following three options: reverse-chronological (chronological), functional (skills-based), or combination (hybrid).
- Have a job posting right there open forever when you’re working on your CV. You’ll need it to make sure you covered all the correct CV keywords and responded to the needs of your potential employer.
- Make a list of your relevant experience and skills. Things you did and learned in the past but aren’t in line with the job profile should never make it on the list. And—
- Match them with the qualities and qualifications you found in the job ad.
How to write a CV for my first job if I have no experience?
- Mark resume keywords in the job description. The keywords are words and phrases that repeat and describe a particular quality or qualification.
- Find such a quality or qualification in your arsenal. That can be anything from taking part-time jobs to doing an internship or taking up volunteer work. Or even from your academic years, such as running a student’s club, tutoring, or relevant hobbies and interests you picked up.
- List soft and hard skills that speak to your employability. In other words, think of any transferable skill you’ve gained throughout various stages of your life.
- Add additional sections that’ll give you the chance to score bonus points for engagement, curiosity, and communication.
- Write an objective statement to give your employer a sense of dedication and show your thought over the application.
What is the best CV format?
The reverse-chronological format is the best out of the three CV format musketeers. It’s simple to read by the Applicant Tracking Software, which makes it highly unlikely for your CV not to reach the recruiter. Ultimately, recruiters can make informed decisions about hiring in seconds by only skimming such a CV. What’s not to love?