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What is a CV

A CV is an employment document that outlines your work experience, education, and skills in greater detail than a standard resume. A professional CV improves your job search and visibility to recruiters. This article gives you the tools and teaches you how to make a CV. Whether you’re starting your career or have been working for years, it is a guide to creating an impactful CV. We cover everything from creating a brand new CV to essential tips that can improve an existing one.

So what is the difference between a CV and a resume? A quick online search will present you with a variety of answers, but what it comes down to is the in-depth nature of a CV versus a resume. In the UK, it is extremely important to have a well-written, detailed CV. Yet, there are a few crucial differences between the two documents that you’ll need to keep in mind before using a specific format:

  • A CV is an abbreviation of the Latin word, curriculum vitae, which translates to 'course of life'
  • A CV is usually longer than one page, depending on your schooling and work history
  • A resume, in contrast, is typically one page and includes only the information relevant to the job
  • A resume is a standard job-seeking tool in the US, and a CV outside of the US

If you are looking for international work and pursuing a CV-friendly career path, we have incorporated some writing guidelines and tools into the following pages to help you get started.

You’ll find links on how to make a CV, downloadable templates, and an online CV Builder that lets you add and customise each section. A professional CV template is a great place to start when creating a CV. If you’re looking for an example of a modern CV or a more conventional template, browsing our library to explore the various styles and sample CV templates is the way to go. Our professionally designed templates are suitable for most jobs and industries, and you can also learn how to make a CV in minutes with our CV builder.

How to make a CV

Preparing the information that you need beforehand can help make writing your CV less daunting. Collecting the material required in advance will save you time and help make large amounts of information seem less overwhelming. So gather your certificates, log into your email, and have all your data within reach so that you can focus on writing your CV. Start by making notes on the following areas:

  • Skills: Create a list of your relevant skills, making sure that it includes a combination of hard, soft, and technical skills. It’s always wise to include different skills to showcase your experience.
  • Quantifiable achievements: Identify measurable professional achievements that demonstrate how you would excel in this new role, such as increased productivity, number of sales, and efficacy rates.
  • Work history: List your complete work history, including dates of employment, job title, company name, location, and any other details required.
  • Education: Include your qualifications, such as undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, relevant courses, awards, honours, extracurricular activities, and other academic experience. However, if you are not a graduate, then you should mention your A-levels, GCSEs, and other academic experience.
  • CV structure: A CV sample might be just what you need to find some inspiration; browse our library of real-world CV samples from multiple industries, and use these examples as a guide for creating your CV.

How to write a CV

CV sections:

Sample CV format with formatting rules
  • 1. Contact information
  • 2. Professional summary
  • 3. Work history
  • 4. Education
  • 5. Skills
  • 6. Work or publications samples

A well-written, professional CV presents your work history, education and achievements in a clear and precise manner. While there are many variations to writing a CV and the order of the sections, it is best to follow the list below as it is preferable among recruiters, regardless of industry and the potential employer’s requirements.

Below is a guide detailing how to personalise and perfect each section; to make sure your CV stands out.

• Present yourself with a professional summary

A professional summary on your CV gives recruiters a clear introduction of who you are and what you do. It is a quick glance at your career journey, accomplishments and expertise that will make you a valuable candidate. In addition, it provides the recruiter with some insight into what you hope to accomplish at the company. Lists your years of experience in the field, top skills and accomplishments that reflect your ability to perform the job.

Here is a physics professor's example of a summary statement for his CV:

Present yourself with a professional summary

• List your professional skills

Depending on your education and professional experience, you might want to list your skills under one general skill section or multiple sections. We’ll provide more instructions on how to include secondary sections for languages, digital and research skills below – for now, let's dive into how to write a general skills section.

In this section, you'll focus on skills, abilities and knowledge needed for performing specific tasks; remember to include soft and hard skills.

Soft skills are interpersonal skills that come to you naturally and allow you to be a good team player, and even a team leader. These include communication, ownership, problem-solving, critical thinking, and time-management skills.

Hard skills are practical learned qualifications, such as the ability to use computer software, like Microsoft Office or Adobe, language fluency for bilingual or multilingual employees, and analytical skills. These hard skills are in the general skill section; if this section becomes too long, more than six to eight skills, consider adding dedicated secondary sections for Language and Digital Skills. Read our advice on how to put together these secondary sections further down the page.

We've compiled a list of the most requested skills in the job market to help you get started!

List your professional skills

• Outline your work history

This section is formatted similarly to a traditional chronological resume:

  • Start by listing the job title and company
  • Specify the dates of employment
  • Write bullet points for your core responsibilities

Be sure to include quantifiable metrics to highlight your accomplishments whenever possible.

Since you are writing a CV, remember the primary difference between a CV and a resume is the amount of information you need to provide. A traditional resume only includes formal work history, favouring long-term and steady employment, and tends to limit work history to ten years.

The CV allows you to showcase traditional employment, research projects, and more, regardless of how long those lasted or took to complete.

Outline your work history

• Showcase your education

This section follows the same reverse-chronological format as the work history section.

List your current degrees in progress, or the most recently completed degree first, followed by your completed degrees and relevant professional certifications. For example, applicants can include their qualified teacher status (QTS) if they apply for a teaching position in the UK or have relevant teaching experience outside of the UK.

Showcase your education

• Catalogue examples of your work

Most of your CV will likely be your work samples or publications section. If you’re applying for a professor position or other academic role, you’ll want to include a complete list of your publications. Your Publications section should list all your scholarly articles from most recent to oldest and follow formal citation rules, although the style varies according to your field of interest. For example, in the US, you must use the APA citation style for a psychology position. If you’re pursuing a degree in literary criticism, you need to use the MLA citation style.

Be sure to research and use the appropriate citation style for your publications for other countries. Candidates applying for non-academic roles can share their professional initiatives by including department-wide projects they have organised or industry conferences they have attended.

When sharing a list of publications, your CV section can look like this:

Catalogue examples of your work

• Share your contact information

Write your full name as displayed on your legal ID documents. We recommend selecting a special font for your name to make it stand out. However, remember that the font should be legible and look professional. You can double the font size (size 24 instead of size 12 for the rest of the document) or make it bold.

Your full professional mailing address and phone number must come after your name. Your email address should contain some version of either your first name or your first name and last name. It is ideal to use a modern email service such as Gmail, Outlook, etc. Remember to use an appropriate and professional email id.

Students may submit the email address of their current university. Professionals may list their company address along with the department phone number; you can also provide your private address and phone number if including your current employment contact information could jeopardise your job.

Build my CV

How to make a CV more personalised? Include additional sections

After writing and perfecting the main sections of your CV, it’s time to look at ways to strengthen the rest of your document with these additional sections. We say additional because, although optional, they can help create a broader idea of your strengths and abilities and allow you to focus on extracurricular activities.

Attending and participating in conferences can show how you stay current and participate in activities related to your field of study or work. Hobbies demonstrate your interests and capabilities outside the workplace or classroom. Grants and awards show recognition for your abilities. These topics can help strengthen your position as the best candidate for the job, especially if they relate to the role.

Continue reading to learn how to write each of these sections.

The most common additional sections of a CV are:

The most common additional sections of a CV are:
  • 1.Research experience
  • 2.Language skills
  • 3.Grants
  • 4.Honors and awards

Research experience

Earlier, we showed you how to write a Work history section and mentioned that you could include your research, academic and extracurricular activities, and formal work history. However, if your Work history section is too long, you can easily break it up and create a dedicated Research section. We highly recommend this approach, especially if you’re pursuing an academic teaching role, a research position, or applying to a PhD program.

This section will follow the same format as your Work history section.

  • Write the position title and place of research employment
  • Specify the dates of employment, or active research
  • Use bullet points for your responsibilities and accomplishments

As with your previous Work history section, you’ll want to start with your most recent research roles and work your way backwards. Remember to include projects with duties relevant or similar to the new position or job you want.

For example, writing that you helped maintain astronomical equipment during a pre-grad internship when you’re applying for a PhD in mathematics won’t look as noteworthy as if you were to apply for a physics or astronomy degree. Although this experience is valuable, it does not involve any specific requirements for the mathematical program. Focusing on membership in maths associations or competitions would be more effective.

Teaching history

Your teaching history must include the following:

  • Start by listing the job title and company
  • Specify the start and end dates
  • Write bullet points for your accomplishments

Remember to focus on your critical successes and avoid creating an extensive list.

You can include volunteer work as well, which does provide your CV greater value. If you are applying to an academic institution, focus on your overall teaching experience (including editing or providing feedback to others) and on management and administrative skills, as these are valued skills in academia. In this section, you can also discuss your laboratory and field experience.

Describing any laboratory, field experience, or leadership positions is also relevant, as these skills are valued and show initiative and a desire to take on more responsibility.

Language skills

Create a section dedicated to your multilingual skills, especially if you’re pursuing a job or academic program where your ability to speak multiple languages is a requirement or sets you apart. You’ll want to have a bullet point for each language and specify how fluent you are in a given language. For example, you could have strong speaking, reading, and writing skills in English and Mandarin and only speak conversational French or understand German without speaking it. So, list the language spoken and the level of frequency.

Digital skills

Employers look for practical and relevant skills in the career fields of IT, maths, science, and mechanics. Add these to this section if you have learned how to use a complex piece of laboratory equipment, know the ins and outs of particular software, or have mastered a new programming language.

Create bullet points for these technical skills, especially if you are pursuing a tech career or an academic program in robotics, engineering, or information technology.

Conference presentations

If you have only one to three professional presentations under your belt, these can go under your Teaching history, Research experience, or Publications sections. However, if you have hosted more than three presentations at conferences, universities, or association lectures, consider creating a separate section for this valuable experience.

Whether you decide to create a dedicated Conference presentation section or list this experience under the other three sections, be sure to include the following information:

  • Identify your role and the name of the conference
  • Specify the date and location
  • Write bullet points for your role and topics addressed

Conference attendance

Although different from hosting or presenting at a conference, being a conference attendee shows you are interested in expanding your education and networking with colleagues – employers love seeing that initiative.

Conference attendance can go under the Education section if you’ve only attended a few conferences, as it relates to a learning experience that helped you develop your knowledge of specific topics and industries.

However, suppose you regularly attend conferences to expand your technical knowledge and stay updated on recent industry trends and developments, you’ll want to create a dedicated section.

It should include the following information:

  • Name of conference
  • Dates attended
  • A brief description of seminars or panels attended

Honours and awards

Although this is an optional section, you should include this information on your CV if you have received any honours, awards, or accolades. These forms of recognition indicate to hiring managers or admissions counsellors that your demonstrated knowledge in a particular subject is noticeably high. This level of recognition makes you a stronger candidate, so it’s important to sift through your work history, searching documents, journals, and meeting notes to find these awards.

Add these honours and awards to your CV and keep track of additional recognition in a dedicated file to add to your document as acquired. Be sure to include the following information:

  • Name of the honor or award
  • Date awarded and name of the committee

Grants or funding

Create a specific section for grants and funding, if you have two or more academic honours or grants. Otherwise, include these accomplishments in your Education section.

If you’ve never written an academic CV before, give yourself plenty of time to complete this section. You likely have been recognised multiple times over your academic and professional career.

List your honours or grants like this:

  • Name of the grant or fund
  • Date awarded and name of the committee
  • A brief description that summarises the honour or grant proposal, goal and result

Professional affiliations and memberships

Here is another section for which you may want to give yourself plenty of time to consider what to include. Many people join professional associations in academia and use these resources for meeting potential employers or participating in group discussions before moving on to another area of intellectual interest.

For example, if you’re a medical researcher studying a particular illness, you may join an epidemiological society to gather information. However, if your interest then turns to the immunological aspects of the disease, you may no longer participate as much in the forums and professional societies you had previously joined.

Going through your publication and presentation history may help you recall professional societies to which you belonged or forums in which you’ve been active. Consider placing this information in your work history section if you held office or another position in a scholarly or professional organisation. Otherwise, consider excluding this information if what is listed does not add anything significant to your CV.

Community outreach

Your community outreach efforts can go under your Work history section unless you are highly active in your community, organise events, or do an extraordinary amount of work. Suppose you have quite a bit of volunteer work under your belt, it can be beneficial to include this as a standalone section, especially if you’re pursuing a non-profit or social work career or looking to re-enter the workforce after a long break.

This dedicated work can demonstrate your interest in contributing to your community’s welfare and serve as a valuable experience in a non-work-related environment. You should write this section in the same structural format as your work history and include the following:

  • Name of the volunteer role and community organisation
  • Dates of service
  • Bullet points detailing your work and responsibilities

References

Right now, you might be wondering about your CV references and whether to add them to your CV. How to write CV references and whether they should be included in your CV at all is a much-debated topic. You should have two to three default references in mind, although HR and recruitment offices may request fewer or more. You do not have to include them at the end of the CV unless specifically requested by the employer.

Suppose you’re applying for a collegiate position or a doctoral candidacy, in this case, obtaining two academic references to attest to your professional and intellectual capacities and one personal or professional reference to vouch for your character is standard.

Your References section should include the following information:

  • Name of the individual
  • Current job title of the individual
  • Institution or company where the individual works
  • Address of the institution
  • Email and telephone number of the individual

Key takeaways for completing your CV

Once you have finished working on your CV sections, you should complete the following finishing details.

Formatting tips

Although having the right content is an essential aspect of your CV, you should also pay attention to the aesthetics and formatting of your document. A simple CV format can allow your experience to speak for itself, whereas those with a limited amount of experience might choose to let the design of their CV take center stage.

For some roles, such as those in the creative industries, you might want to choose a more creative CV sample format to showcase your skills. A CV sample template that allows you to demonstrate your skills in graphic design, even marketing or advertising. For a clean and easily understandable CV, follow these formatting suggestions.

Do’s and don’ts when writing your CV

The amount of information on your CV can intimidate the reader. To improve readability here are a few copy-editing tips that you can use to make your CV more attractive:

Short phrases: Write incomplete sentences or phrases to increase impact and omit extraneous words.

  • Do this:

“Primary Instructor, Organic Chemistry (2001–2008). Taught more than 300 students. Planned curriculum. Graded papers daily. Created engaging online tutorials.”

  • Don’t do this:

“I taught a full lecture hall of approximately 300 students at the University of Colorado twice weekly. I also graded papers, planned the curriculum with a team, and engaged in tutorial sessions online.”

Consistent tense: Keep the tense (present or past) consistent. Use parallelism or similar phrasing, so the reader can quickly understand your meaning.

  • Do this:
  • Supervised two undergraduate projects in econometric models for conservation.
  • Planned and delivered seminars in “Conservation Theory” and “Environment Modelling” to groups of 10-20 undergraduate students.
  • Mentored two PhD students in the department.
  • Led three field trips with enthusiasm.
  • Don’t do this:
  • Supervision support for two undergraduate projects in econometric models for conservation.
  • Deliver seminars in “Conservation Theory” and “Environment Modelling” to groups of 10-20 undergraduate students – planning teaching methods.
  • Mentor two new PhD students in the department.
  • Group leader on three field trips – requiring leadership, problem-solving under pressure, and enthusiasm.

The example above uses parallelism. It is easier to read; each line is grammatically and stylistically similar. This section is made far stronger by streamlining the verbiage and creating similarities among bullet points.

The example below features verbs with different endings (superviSION, delivER, mentOR) and lacks parallelism. This section takes longer for the brain to process.

Bullet points: Using bullet points in CVs is quite popular – bullet points make short and declarative statements that take up less than a line each, giving your CV a parallel structure. Shorter verb-noun pairs belong on the same line.

  • Do this:

Postgraduate Demonstrator, University of Leicester (2004–present)

  • Led several seminars for undergraduates.
  • Supervised five undergraduates on their dissertations.
  • Demonstrated experiments and supervised practicals for undergraduates.
  • Don’t do this:

Postgraduate Demonstrator, University of Leicester (2004–present)

I led several seminars for undergraduates. I have experience supervising five undergraduates on their dissertations. Demonstrated experiments and supervised practicals for undergraduates.

Pair your CV with a cover letter

A great way to maximise your chances of impressing employers with your job application is by including a cover letter alongside alongside your CV. With our Cover Letter Builder, you can get a personalised full-page cover letter in minutes – simply by answering a few questions about your professional background and desired role.

FAQ

What is a CV example?

A CV example is a hypothetical CV showing you what a CV looks like with practical examples in the different sections. CV examples are a great resource when writing your CV, as they help you visualise the end product.

Which software to use for making a CV?

We understand that writing a CV can seem daunting, and there may be a significant amount of information to input and structure. Luckily, several software programs offer easy formatting solutions, templates, and additional tools for helping you create your CV.

Microsoft Word: Create a simple, elegant CV from scratch using this powerful word processor. The program includes access to an extensive library of resume template and CV templates. Additionally, CV Assistant which is powered by LinkedIn shows you CVs from your related field.

Hloom Resume Builder: Our online tool includes free writing tips and customisation options for helping you create a professional CV in minutes, personalised for each job. Our subscription upgrade gives you exclusive access to templates and multiple download formats.

Europass: An online tool that aims to standardise the CV-writing process across all international markets, especially in Europe. This document combines some aspects of CV and resume formats to create a detailed document.

What should I avoid in a CV?

  • Your photograph: You are advised to not include a photo on your CV in the UK. Other countries like US, Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands, also advise against a photo in a bid to avoid discrimination. It can vary from country to country, so it's important to verify location-specific guidelines. Research the acceptable norm by country and position.

    For example, a photograph is considered standard in Japan, China, and some parts of Europe. That's not the case in the US, UK, Ireland, Sweden, or the Netherlands.
  • Unprofessional email address: Your email address should include some version of your either your first name or first and last name. It should be from a modern email provider such as Gmail, Outlook, etc. The recommended email address is first-name-last-name@gmail.com or first-name-last-name@school name.edu (e.g., F.McClure@cambridge.edu). It is extremely important to not have emails containing profanity or inappropriate messages.

How do I write a CV for my first job?

Go through the above article to understand all aspects of creating a CV. When you can pick from our templates and start creating your CV.

What is the best template for a CV?

Since a CV encompasses so many details, your best choice for a template is one that is simple and minimal. There is so much information on your CV that a heavily stylised document can make it difficult for the hiring manager to scan or read it.

We have gathered a few of our favourite designs into one template library to help you find the perfect CV for your job search.

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