How to Write a CV for a Job Application: Step by Step Guide

Your CV is your entry ticket into a potential interview. It’s both your professional introduction and the asset of your application that gets you in the door with an employer. We at NAIKSY going to explain the ins and outs of a CV, or a Curriculum Vitae, and give you an in-depth guide to formatting and structuring your CV as well as the best approach for each section.


Make sure to stick around until the end, where I’ll give you some quick advice on how to tailor your CV to maximize its impact for each employer! So what are the key differences between a CV (also called a Curriculum Vitae) and a resume? In the US, the major difference between a CV and a traditional resume is length and format. Both serve as a job application document. But while a resume is a brief one-page asset that only includes the most relevant information about your career, a CV can be 2-3 pages and aims to emphasize the depth of your academic and work experience. As a result, a CV can include sections that you won’t find in resumes, like awards and honors, professional associations, scholarships, grants, and publications.

In the US, CVs are typically requested for job applicants in education, science, or research. Unless an employer specifically asked you for a CV or you work in a field where CVs are standard, it’s best to submit a resume over a CV. Outside of the US, it is more common for employers to ask job seekers for a CV or to use the term interchangeably with resume. But both refer to a professional document that’s similar to the US version of a resume. It’s just slightly more lengthy. The tips I’ll share today focus on the US CV lens but are adaptable for both purposes. Next up, I’ll dive into how to create a winning CV.


Step #1:

Conduct company research to develop your angle. Conducting company research is a critical part of creating your CV. And it’s something you should do with every job application you submit. Now, this isn’t necessarily intuitive. After all, your experience doesn’t change from one job application to another. So why would company research impact your CV? Well, company research is critical to developing your angle or your strategy for appealing to the specific employer. Your angle is based on what you have to offer and how you can best present that to an employer, given their unique needs. All of that is to say, of course, your own experience doesn’t change, but what you include, what you emphasize, and how you describe things can and should. If you don’t conduct this research, all you’re doing is trying to market yourself to a generic audience, which rarely succeeds. So what’s the best way to research? Take a three-pronged approach. Start small by looking at the job description. What skills and qualifications are they looking for? This will most directly inform what you choose to put on your resume. Then research the company based on its own website, social media, third-party news, and any personal connection you may have with it. Think about how the company describes itself and its goals, plus how you could support the mission. Finally, consider the big picture of the industry. How is this company tracking within its field? What are its strengths and weaknesses? And what unique perspective can you bring to help the company’s trajectory?


Step #2

Create a clear and consistent format. As for clarity, there’s no need for colorful fonts, graphics, photos, or even more than two font styles or sizes. Instead, stick to one font, and do something to distinguish your headings, whether it’s increasing size, bolding or all of the above. In regards to consistency, everyone knows to proofread for spelling or grammar errors. But make sure that you’re looking for formatting deviations. Are you adding punctuation after each bullet point? Are you bolding the names of each employer? Is your spacing a certain way for your dates? Now, there’s no right answer here. But what’s important is to make one decision and stick to it in every case. These inconsistencies easily slip by us when we’re looking for content errors. But they can jump off the page as unprofessional when new eyes first look at a CV.

Step #3

: Structure your CV to make your accomplishments shine. Before I get into this, I do want to say that there’s no one right way to do a CV. I’m going to provide a format that’s standard for the academic, scientific, and research focus use of the CV that’s common in the US. But if you’re watching this from elsewhere or you’ve been asked for a CV that’s for a job that’s not one of these fields, know that this format is flexible and should be changed based on your situation. The goal in all cases is to highlight what’s most relevant to the job at hand. And that may involve exclusion, adding, or reordering certain sections. As we go through each component of the CV, I’ll provide some tips on how to best approach each section along the way. Header and contact information: At the top of the CV, you’ll always begin with your full name and contact information. Make sure that your name is big enough to catch the recruiters attention and your contact information includes your phone number, email, and the city of residence. Now, note that it’s not wise to include your street address for privacy reasons. And also if you have a professional profile, website, or portfolio, go ahead and provide a shortened link here. Professional summary: The standard length of a professional summary varies based on country and industry. But in the US, it’s typically two to three sentences or a really short paragraph. When writing a professional summary, ask yourself, if the employer were to read nothing else about my application, what are the most important things they should know about me? Then concisely and persuasively share your key accomplishments. It also never hurts to end by explaining how you’re the best position to help this company meet its goals. Education: We’re covering education first over work experience because in the US, it’s standard for CVs to focus more on the educational background. But if you’re watching from somewhere else in the world, list the section that’s most relevant to your application. And that very well may be your work experience. With your education section, list all of your degree-granting institutions as well as any thesis titles or highly relevant coursework. You can also list any continuing education programs or professional certificates. And note here, if you’re worried about age bias, there’s no need to include graduation dates in this section. Optional section: Honors and awards. If you have many academic honors and awards to include, you can add that in a separate section underneath education. And include any relevant awards going back to undergrad. Provide the award name and date received. And scholarships can be included here too. No descriptions are necessary. This section is standard for academic applications. Professional experience: In the next section, you should add your professional history. Use reverse chronological order to place your most recent work experience first. Include your company, position title, time of employment, and at least 3 detailed bullet points describing your responsibilities and impact. Generally, I cap bullet points off at 5 max and use that only for the most recent or current employer. But the CV does have the ability to be long enough to fit the content. So use your best discretion on what’s necessary and what’s excessive. For academia, it’s standard to only list academic-related work experience and to include research history in its own section below work history. For all other fields, feel free to draw from any relevant past history, including internships and part-time work. Here’s a Pro tip: To write a great bullet point, start with a strong action verb, like “drove,” “developed,” or “acquired.” And describe what you did. And then look for ways to show impact by either adding numbers or tying into a business goal. Publications and presentations: If relevant to the role, list all the publications are presentations in order of their publication date. And know that it’s acceptable to include anything that’s pending. They don’t have to be long works. But they should be worth talking about if you’re asked. Added qualifications or skills: It’s best here to list five skills that prepare you for success for this particular role. Prioritize hard skills, specifically the skills that enable you to perform a task needed for the job, like coding or language fluency. And note, if you’re applying for a highly technical role, move this below your professional profile so that the recruiter can easily identify that you’re able to perform the key functions of the job. Additional sections: In these sections, a job seeker can tailor their experiences for the position, company, industry they’re striving towards. Additional sections might include professional affiliations, volunteer experience, interests, or any other relevant professional experience that you want to include. However, just remember that the goal here is to support, not obscure, the best parts of your professional offerings. So make sure you have a real reason for including one of these additional sections. Now that we know how to approach each section, I’ll share the extra tip I promised at the beginning: How to maximize the overall impact of your CV.

Step # 4

Tailor your CV to appeal to two key audiences. Audience 1) Eliminators: Whether it’s an HR representative, external recruiter, or applicant tracking system, the first reviewer of your resume has one primary aim– to sift through the high volume of potential hires and make a large baseline cut of candidates that aren’t qualified. The goal here is to make it as easy as possible for them to see that you fully meet the requirements of the role and should not be eliminated, especially if the role is being reviewed by an applicant tracking system or a software that employers use for high-volume online hiring. Consider including potential keywords based on the jobs needs that the eliminator is scanning for. Review the job description for any relevant keywords they may be looking for. These tend to be drawn from the skills and the preferred or required qualification sections. Then use that EXACT wording on your application to describe any of those same skills that you have. The less they have to think about if you have the needed qualifications, the better. Audience 2) Selectors: Your CV also has to impress a more discerning audience, the hiring manager. While eliminators are looking for a reason to say no, hiring managers are selectors. And they’re looking for a reason to say YES to you over everyone else. So you need to appeal to the human mind and heart. To make your best case, you need to explain to them why you and your offering would be the best for the company. Consider your professional summary, the phrasing of your bullet points, and every other aspect of your CV as an opportunity to do so. And this ties back to the tip about company research and your angle. If you don’t take these steps, you’re simply explaining what you’ve done in the past without making it clear why you’re the best person for this future role. Now, that was a lot of information. So let’s go over what we’ve covered on how to write a CV. We now know that in the US, a CV is longer, more detailed, and more academically focused than a resume.

To write a great one, take the following steps.

#1: Conduct company research to develop your angle. Think about how to position your offering as a solution for the company's needs.

#2: Create a clear and consistent format. Be sure to look out for formatting deviations when you proofread.

#3: Use our recommended structure. But adapt as needed for your circumstances. Remember, the goal is to make your accomplishments shine for the role at hand.

#4: Tailor your resume to 2 key audiences. Escape the eliminator by adding obvious keywords. And impressive the selector by weaving a compelling angle into all aspects of your CV.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WhatsApp chat