How To Write Your CV

Updated: Apr 10

Your CV is the first thing recruiters and hiring managers will see and know about you.

It is important to make sure it represents you fairly and accurately to ensure the best outcome (you getting a job!).

In this post I will provide tips on how to write a good CV.

If you would like to use my CV template, you can get it here.

Things you should NOT have in your CV:

Most of the items I mention in the list of things not to mention in your CV, can introduce bias in the hiring process if mentioned. This is the main reason I recommend not to mention them, and the fact they have no relevance to the job search process in most cases.

  • A picture.

  • Even though this is customary in many countries, it can introduce bias into the process, you don’t know who is reviewing your application, and if you can avoid initial bias it is ideal. The only exception here is if your looks are specifically relevant for the job or it is specifically requested by the company.

  • Your family situation.

  • It is not relevant if you’re married, have kids, divorced, or anything like that. This can also introduce bias and is best to avoid mentioning. If you are specifically looking for more flexibility in the role because of your family situation, you don’t have to give out this information, you can just state the role percentage or flexibility you are looking for. You don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why you need that flexibility.

  • Your specific address.

  • You can state the city and country you live in, but the street name, post code or anything like that is really not relevant. It is up to you to decide if the company offices are located near enough to you (if you are required to be in office), and the company does not get to make that decision for you.

  • Your gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.

  • Unless it is specifically needed for the role (which is very rare but possible), this information is not relevant and does not need to be mentioned. You can do nearly any job, regardless of your gender/identity/sexual orientation.

What you should have in your CV:

  • A way to contact you.

  • You would be surprised how many CVs I see without a way to contact the person. There must be either an email address or a phone number to contact you, ideally both. Make sure these work, and test that others can reach you before you put it in your CV and start sending it to companies.

  • Your name.

  • It doesn’t have to be your name as it is mentioned in your passport, but the company needs to know how to address you when speaking to you.

  • What languages you know.

  • Mention your mother tongue and any other language you are fluent in. Don’t bother mentioning any language you cannot form a proper conversation in.

  • Your skills.

  • Describe any skills you have which are relevant for the job, including any software you know how to use, as well as any other skills relevant for the job.

Software is used today in almost any role, so usually you must know some basics at least.

You can mention soft skills as well, but make sure they are clearly separated from technical skills and are relevant for the role.

  • Education.

  • Mention any relevant education you have. If you just finished high school, mention it. If you just finished a degree, mention that. Once you have a degree, you don’t necessarily need to mention high school.

You can list out any certifications you have as well in this section.

If you don’t have any formal education, you can skip this part.

  • Military/national service.

  • If you served, you can mention it in your CV. Often many skills from your military/national service can be translated to the corporate job world.

  • Your work experience.

  • If you have work experience, mention it in your CV. Even if it is not entirely relevant for the role you’re looking for, many companies would prefer hiring someone with a little bit of experience working for a company than someone who has no experience at all.

For every role you had, mention the role name, team name, how long you were in the role and the name of the company. If you worked in another country than the one you are applying in, you can write which country you worked in.

Make sure to include information on the responsibilities you had in your role, your achievements and anything you learned during your employment.

  • Links to examples of your work.

  • If examples of your can be found online, you can link to it. For example, if you’re a software developer, you might have code you wrote stored online. If you’re a website builder, perhaps you built a website you can link to. If you’re a music editor, you could have music you edited online, and so on.

Things you could mention, but don’t have to:

  • Your pronouns.

  • If it is important to you that people know which pronouns to approach you with, you could mention it next to your name in the title. Pronouns can be he/she/them, or a combination.

  • Your hobbies.

  • It is not really relevant for most jobs, and won’t make or break your application, but it’s a nice to have and a good conversation starter if you have interesting hobbies or very little work experience.

  • Recommendations.

  • Some companies would ask for recommendations from other people you worked with. You don’t have to supply it in the job application and can give it upon request. You might not have people to give recommendations and that is also ok. If you are fresh out of high school or college, one of your teachers in a class you were particularly good at can also give a recommendation and speak about your character and skills.

General rules of thumb when writing a CV:

  • Be concise.

  • Recruiters and hiring managers see tens if not hundreds of CVs when hiring. They usually don’t have time to read lengthy life stories.

If you can keep your CV to 1-2 pages, it is ideal.

If you have more than 10 years of experience, up to 3 pages is ok.

Even if you have many years of experience, try to think if every single thing you did in a job more than 10 years ago is still relevant today. Do you still have this skill or knowledge? Is it very relevant for this job? If not, you can have a shorter description of jobs from a longer time ago to save space.

  • Don’t lie or exaggerate too much.

  • We all want to sound very attractive when applying for a job. However, lying on your CV can be painful later, if you actually get hired and then don’t know how to do the job and cannot learn it. Also, if you over-sell yourself on skills you do have, you may have difficulty keeping up with performance expectations after starting the role. Try to be realistic as much as possible, for the benefit of yourself as well as the employer.

  • Simple formatting and color scheme.

  • In a lot of companies, there is hiring software used to make the initial review of your CV and categorize it. The simpler the format is, the easier it will be for the software to parse it and categorize it correctly.

Excessive color schemes can also be difficult to read for the hiring manager or recruiter. Unless you’re applying for a design role of some sort, keep the colors and design of the CV to a minimum.

  • Spell-check.

  • Make sure you don’t have obvious spelling mistakes, typing mistakes or words you missed. Have someone else read your CV at least once before you send it to companies.

If you can’t get anyone to read your CV, then at least wait an hour after you write it, do something else in the meantime, then read it again with a fresh set of eyes to make sure you didn’t miss any words, commas, dots or apostrophes.

In addition, check your spelling for words you’re not sure of. If you use Google Docs to write your CV, it should suggest spelling improvements which are usually correct in supported languages.

  • Name the file correctly.

  • Make sure the file name contains your name, the word CV and the year. For example, if your name is John Smith, the file name would be ‘John_Smith_CV_2022.pdf’.

The year is mostly for you, so that if you start new jobs and need to update your CV, you can easily know which file is the latest. It is not obligatory to have the year in the file name.

  • File format.

  • PDF is the most widely acceptable file format for CVs. It can easily be parsed by different software, maintains formatting well across different operating systems and cannot be accidentally edited when opened.

If you can’t save the file in PDF format for some reason, DOCX is the next preferred choice. It is not supported by all companies but will still be widely accepted.

Avoid using other file types for your CV than the ones mentioned above.

  • Paper format?

  • In some countries or industries, paper printed CV is still expected. This is not relevant for the majority of countries in the world. If you live in a country where this is expected, you would probably know this already. In this case, make sure to have a printed copy of your CV when you come to the interview. However, this is not needed in most countries in the world.

That’s it!

Hopefully, you found this useful when writing your CV.

Now go find that job!

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