For candidates
Writing an Effective CV

Writing an Effective CV

A well written CV and cover letter is essential to be invited to an interview. The importance of these two documents should never be underestimated and must be given due attention. To be invited for an interview, your CV must interest your potential employer.

Before you start writing your CV, analyze your skills and abilities; this way you can see if your search for a new job has been done correctly. If you know what a potential employer wants and needs to know, you should include this in your CV and thereby win some “bonus points“. You can use a table to list abilities and skills and to identify the responsibilities and jobs that helped you attain them. Use examples from past jobs that best highlight your skills, talent, knowledge and experience.

When writing your CV, don’t forget that there may be many other applicants for the position and that your potential employer has received many other CVs. To have the best chance of grabbing an employer’s attention, you have to make a positive impression. Do not be afraid to take your time choosing a font and graphics, but always keep the style clear and elegant. Your CV should be concise, structured, attractive and well arranged. All information included in your CV must be true. It should also contain important information about you and your strong points. Do not forget to include any significant details that would make you a more attractive candidate. Focus on achievements that illustrate how you have been able to:

  • Save time and money.
  • Attract new customers. 
  • Make processes more efficient. 
  • Improve team performance.
  • Cut costs.
  • Increase profits.
  • Contribute to a company’s expansion into new markets.

Do not be afraid to mention any ideas or proposals that you have initiated, regardless of how simple you may think they are. This is important because simple ideas often save the most time and money.

Here are some examples of these ideas: acceleration of the supply chain; improved customer contact; reductions in volumes of stock; removal of bottlenecks; etc.

Here are some general rules to follow when writing your CV:

  • Amend your CV for each job offer. Make sure that you keep a logical order as well as limit the length of your CV to 2 to 3 pages. 
  • If it is not requested, do not write your CV by hand. A hand-written CV is more difficult to read and can reveal more about you than you may wish to disclose. 
  • Unless requested, be careful about including your photo with your CV. Photos can stir many emotions, not all of them favorable. If you decide to send your photo, it should be in color and in standard passport size. 
  • Do not use poor quality stationery. Choose top quality, white A4 paper. Do not print your CV on color paper. 
  • Do not fold your printed CV and put it into a small envelope. 
  • It is more practical and common, and often even requested, to send your CV electronically rather than through the mail. 
  • Do not leave out any information simply because you would have to start a new page. 
  • Use only commonly recognized abbreviations and expressions; Your CV will also be read by people who are not specialists in your profession. 
  • Avoid grammar mistakes and overly complicated sentences. 
  • When sending your CV by mail, do not try to save on postal costs by expensing it to your current employer or by printing it on company stationary. 
  • When sending your CV electronically from your private e-mail account (never from an e-mail account connected to your employer), use an e-mail address with your name or its abbreviations. Creative e-mail addresses may be fun for chat rooms, but are not suitable for communication with a potential employer. 
  • Unless requested, do not enclose any certificates, recommendations or examples of recent work. 
  • Provide data in a concise and structured fashion. 
  • Be wary of “showing all your cards” in your CV. Try to keep some information as an impressive surprise for the interview.

A well written CV should:

  • Summarize your professional goals and emphasize why you are applying for a particular position or approaching a particular company.
  • Include basic personal information (name, date of birth, postal and permanent addresses, telephone number, e-mail and fax number). Never use the phone number, fax number or e-mail contact of your current employer. This can be considered as disloyal. There are plenty of free mail servers you can use. Only include those contact details that will be valid in future. 
  • Provide a concise review of your education (professional, secondary and university including the names of institutions, length of study, specializations, etc.) This should be organized in reverse chronological order.
  • Include information about other professional qualifications related to your occupation (name of institution; profession; length of study or preparation). 
  • List all previous jobs in reverse chronological order. Include the name and industry of the company, your position, the month and year you started and ended each position, your responsibilities and most impressive achievements. Focus mainly on the last 10 years. Other jobs should briefly mention any relevant important information. 
  • Summarize relevant knowledge and skills (i.e. language skills, international work stays, PC skills, driver’s license) that may not be directly related to the vacant position but could be advantageous when putting your experience in context. Do not mention any skills that are clearly not work-related.
  • Briefly mention your marital status and leisure activities. 
  • Include references at the end of the document.

If you are applying for a job at an international company or if the request is made in a foreign language, it is sensible to send the CV in the relevant language. If you are not sure about the grammar or spelling, it is better to have your CV checked and revised. By doing this, you reduce the risk of having your linguistic shortcomings revealed. Moreover, possible mistakes can expose the lack of caution in your writing.

Make it clear in your CV that your studies and jobs were consequent, and explain any employment gaps at the interview. Otherwise people working in the personnel department may think you are trying to hide something.

Remember that what you exclude from your CV is just as important as what you include. For example, it might not be wise to mention that you are very involved in a local town council and that you often have to attend regular meetings. Avoid any information that can be perceived as controversial. Also bear in mind that the people reading your CV are just ordinary human beings with their own prejudices, preferences and opinions. Therefore avoid including anything that could give the impression that you hold extreme opinions or spend too much time involved in activities outside of work. Concentrate on relevant information about your past jobs, education and professional training as well as your significant achievements and interest in the position you are applying for.

Once you have structured all relevant and important information clearly in your CV, you can congratulate yourself on finishing a major part of the process. It may have been demanding, but it will definitely pay off.

Just put yourself into the shoes of a person who receives 100 CVs for a vacant position. Who will he or she invite for the interview? Naturally, those candidates that sent in the clearest, most consistent and carefully prepared CVs.

That person will also be looking for an attractive, easy-to-read and clearly structured CV that enables easy orientation and makes it easy to find relevant information. If you have written your CV with this in mind, you have laid the ground work for further success.

You can use various types of templates when writing your CV. For links to web pages offering templates and sample CVs click here.