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How To Write a Strong CV

Posted in May 2016

A strong Curriculum Vitae is like a business card; it introduces you to your prospective employer. Always strive for a CV that establishes a favorable image of your professionalism in the mind of the reader. It should emphasize your strengths and get you a personal interview, make your CV work for you!

Three Phases in Creating a Strong and Effective CV

1. Compile all potentially useful information and organize those items under appropriate categories. Be sure the information you choose clearly communicates a sense of professionalism, competence, and enthusiasm.

2. Create your CV by selecting only the most pertinent information. Keep the level of information concise yet comprehensive. Bear in mind that your CV is your “advertisement” that will get you an interview!

3. Review and revise your CV. Double-check it for proper grammar, correct spelling, and appropriate punctuation. Be consistent with your style. Since most communication is electronic, use a clean font in a size 11 or 12. The following is a sample format of a CV.

Eight Sections for your CV

  1. Contact Information
    This information is always located at the top of the first page. It should include your name (avoid nicknames), address, telephone numbers, and e-mail address. Be sure to spell out words like Street, Avenue, North, etc. If your current address is not your permanent address, indicate your current address under a heading marked “Present,” followed by your permanent address under a heading marked “Permanent.”
  2. Personal Data (Optional)
    This is a professional document, so disclosure of information regarding age, marital status, children, and health is a matter of choice. If you choose to disclose personal information, keep it appropriate for a professional document.
  3. Licensure and Certifications
    A subheading for certification or license status may be included at the end of this section. Indicate certificate/license numbers and the dates issued.
  4. Educational Background
    The information in this section is usually given with the most recent training listed first. The order in which you present this information is your choice – be it date first, degree first, or perhaps institution first. Whichever your preference, keep your entries consistent.
  5. Employment Experience
    Begin by separating your part-time employment entries from your full-time employment entries, and list them under appropriate subheadings. This avoids any misunderstanding by the reader. The list of your employment experience generally starts with your current employment. Be sure to provide the dates your employment began and ended (if it is not current), your job title, and your employer’s name and address. You may choose to include major duties, successes and achievements, research interests, committee assignments, etc. Do not provide a job description; give only the pertinent information on your CV. Above all, it is important to keep all entries uniform.
  6. Professional Affiliations and Honors
    This section should include your current memberships in professional organizations. Include any significant appointments and/or elections to positions or committees, indicating the appropriate date for each position listed. Indicate any significant activities completed under your leadership. Honors from professional, educational, or related organizations should also be shown under this section.
  7. Publications, Presentations, and Other Activities
    This section is the perfect opportunity to list your professional accomplishments. The following subheadings are examples of what may be listed in this section: publications, presentations, invited lectures, abstracts, research activities, community service, and leisure interests. When listing your publications, give full bibliographic entries so the reader can easily find them.
  8. References
    Place this information at the end of your document. Include the following information in each entry: name, position, address, telephone number, and e-mail address.

Some Points to Consider

The information and advice given here are no guarantee that your CV will open all doors for you. It offers a start in preparing an effective document – one that shows clarity, consistency, and organization. Your CV should be easy to read, leaving no confusion in the reader’s mind as to what is presented. Here are some points that will help you produce a document with impact.

Your CV will be read by people responsible for developing a list of recommended candidates, probably in a limited amount of time, so your document must be precise and specific at the first reading.

Accurate presentation of your qualifications is imperative.

Be specific – for instance, under:

Educational Background ­– include your major, year degree was received, name of degree, complete name of institution (no abbreviations) and its location.

Employment History – leave NO gaps in the total number of years worked (account for every year), distinguish between part-time and full-time work, use separate headings for entries (such as military service, volunteer activities, or leave of absence).

Professional Activities – cite current memberships and clearly date all former activities and memberships.

Publications – clarify your role in group efforts, use separate headings for different types of publications (journal articles, books, chapters in books, abstracts, etc.).

Consistency is crucial. It reflects good organization and appearance and is vital to fast readers. Be consistent under all categories of your CV. Do not provide information in one entry and fail to do so in other entries within the same category.

Do not make double entries. This does not strengthen your CV, and may be unfavorably viewed as “padding” by the reader.

Stay chronologically consistent when presenting information. Present the most current information first, and use this order throughout all sections. This makes your document easier to read, and avoids confusion on the part of the reader.

There is no magic number of pages considered ideal for an effective CV. However, it is generally accepted that a two to four page CV should communicate the essential background details for a young professional.

It is helpful to have the final version of your document proofread by a professional friend who knows you (able to spot significant information left out), a professional who does not know you (able to read your CV critically as a person learning about you for the first time), and a personnel officer, dean, or department head (experienced in reviewing CVs).

Individuals are faced with many choices when writing a CV. The methods used to develop this document are varied, but the goal is the same – a curriculum vitae that will impress and convince the reader that you are the person they seek.