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How to write a professional CV

Where to start...

Your CV is an extremely important document. It is your first opportunity to ‘sell’ yourself to a prospective employer – it needs to be accurate, clear, concise and professional. 

If a CV has a poor layout, is full grammatical errors and riddled with spelling mistakes, it can be enough to turn a reader off, no matter how good your skills are.

Keep colours to a minimum (ideally don't use colour), and keep your fonts consistent. It’s always a good idea to use mainstream fonts to ensure the reader sees the CV as it was intended to look.

Let’s start with the basic structure. The length of a CV is always a contentious point and 2 pages is often stated as the ideal. However, job mobility over recent years means CVs often contain details of several roles and even if only briefly described, 2 pages are soon filled. It is perhaps sensible to aim for 3-4 pages max - much more than this and the reader is very unlikely to read the document in its entirety.

There is no right or wrong layout, but the following is a good place to start:

In the CV heading you can write your general information:

• Name

• Surname

• Local address

• E-mail address

• Phone number(s)

CV Skills Summary (not summery!) This is the place to catch the readers' attention with your primary skills – you don’t need to go into great length about each. The skill summary is also often referred to as a personal (not personnel!) profile.

CV Objective If you have a specific aim in your job move, it is worth adding this under your objectives ie "What is the next step in my career?" This should be a short, concise statement that informs the employer what kind of position you are looking for. The type of position, the role (managerial, supervisor, contractor) should be included as well.

Professional or Work Experience description on your CV This section includes any work experience that you have in the field you are applying for. Even if the post was unpaid, voluntary, summer job, internship, co-op experience or extracurricular activity it is worth including - always try to explain any gaps in your CV and state whether your roles were permanent, contract, part time etc Each job detail should include this basic information:

• Name of organization.

• Title of position

• Length you held the post (dates)

• Responsibilities

Also include languages (spoken/written/understood).

Education on your CV List all of your qualifications in this section. Include certifications from non-academic institutions, especially those that are related to the job vacancy.

The Activities and Interests Section in your CV Views differ regarding the inclusion of hobbies and interests as it is possible to both interest and alienate a reader. Any activities that you do in your free time, can be related to your job or give the reader a feeling of team work or motivation. Participating in student activities, professional associations or enthusiast clubs shows leadership qualities. Leave out any activities related to politics, religion or controversial topics as these can easily alienate the reader.

CV References If you have references that you are willing to provide you can either include them in the end of the CV or state ‘References Available Upon Request’

Finally, check, check and check again. Don't just rely on spell checker - for example, a homonym won't always be picked up as it maybe spelled correctly but is the wrong word being used, as in the example above - summery vs summary!