Curriculum Vitae Introduction

  • CV stands for curriculum vitae (Latin for ‘course of life’).
  • Your CV sells you to a possible employer.
  • It should interest the employer and secure you an interview.
  • A CV usually sums up your education and work history.
  • It also shows your skills, abilities and achievements.
  • Sometimes you can send a CV for a job vacancy.
  • You can use your CV to help you fill in an application form.
  • Your CV must always be up to date.
  • Make sure that your CV is well presented and check it before you send it off.
CV stands for curriculum vitae, which is Latin for ‘course of life. Your CV is a very important document because it sells you to a possible employer. A good CV should interest the employer, showing clearly and concisely why you are the right person for the job.
A CV usually contains a brief summary of your achievements in education, your skills, abilities, interests and work experience.
Sometimes, job advertisements ask you to send in your CV rather than completing an application form. You would also include your CV when sending in a speculative letter to an employer.
If a job advertisement asks younto fill in an application form, you can use the information on your CV to make sure that you include all your relevant qualifications, skills and experience.
Employers receive hundreds of CVs and only have a very short time to look at yours. You need to make every single word on your CV work in your favour. You also need to make sure that it’s well presented, easy to read and that the spelling and grammar is correct.
A CV is not a historical document that stays the same for ever once it’s written. You must keep it up to date by adding in new skills, achievements, experience and qualifications as you obtain them.
You can change the way your CV is presented, depending on the type of job you are applying for. For example, you can highlight your skills to show that they match the skills needed to do the job. Or, you can show that you have had experience of doing the same kind of tasks, or that you have the qualifications needed.


  • A good CV sells you to an employer and gets you an interview.
  • Use positive statements about yourself.
  • Use a computer to produce your CV.
  • Use section headings to make information easy to find.
  • Choose information that presents you in the best way.
  • Change the order of the information to your advantage.
  • Make use of bullet points and keep sentences short.
  • Check your spelling and grammar.
  • Keep your CV up to date.
  • Try to keep your CV to two sides of A4 and print it on good quality paper (single-sided).
A good CV is one that gets you an interview! It has to be relevant to the job you’re applying for, or to the organization you’re sending it to.
A good CV should contain positive, selected information about your skills, qualifications and experience. It should make the person reading it be interested in finding out more about you.
Your CV needs to be well presented and easy to read; the reader should be able to find all the information they need without searching around the document. Using section headings should make this easier.
It should always be up to date and accurate. Don’t stretch the truth or put anything on your CV that you can’t back up with evidence.
You should use a computer to produce your CV. If you don’t have access to one, try your local library.
Use the past tense for previous experience, and try not to use ‘I’. For example, put ‘Supervised five people’ rather than ‘I supervised five people’.
Don’t use long sentences or paragraphs. Try to make use of bullet points to list things like skills and achievements where you can. Set out your information in columns, tables or neat rows. You could use Bold to make a few key points, but don’t underline headings or text.
You should always check what you have written, and then check it again. Check your spelling and grammar (use the spellchecker and a dictionary). Make use of IT, but don’t be a slave to it. Beware of American spellings and words that sound the same but are spelt differently.
When you have checked it, ask a friend or relative to check it. Try reading it out loud to make sure it all makes sense. Careless mistakes on your CV will usually result in rejection.
The person reading your CV will only spend a very short time looking at it. So, it should be as short as you can make it, without losing any important information. Don’t waste valuable space with unnecessary words (like putting Curriculum Vitae at the top – it’s obvious that it’s a CV!).
Make your CV sound professional; don’t go for the humorous approach.
Guidelines suggest that the ideal length is no more than two sheets of A4, or equivalent. This will depend on your experience and the job you’re applying for.
If you are emailing your CV to an employer, you could firstly email it to yourself to make sure that it is in the correct format when opened as an attachment.
Online recruitment agencies usually allow you to attach your CV to their registration page.
There are a number of important elements involved in creating the perfect CV. These elements can be summed up as the 4Cs. In short these are:
* Content: What to include.
* Clarity: Make it easy to read.
* Concise: Stick to the point.
* Correct: Check for errors.
It may be a good idea to write them on a scrap of paper so that you can see them in front of you while you work on your CV.
Content – What to write
Remember most CVs these days are ‘Ability Based’. For more details read our guide to the different types of CV, and in particular the “Functional CV”.
To summarize, the following things need to be included:
* Name
* Achievements
* Skills and Abilities
* Education
* Career Summary
* Other relevant information
* Contact details
Note: Unless specifically asked for, there is no need to include information about age, marital status, nationality etc. Employers are bound not to discriminate under Employment Legislation.
Clarity – How to write with clarity
Your CV needs to look clean and crisp and must be well presented and easy to read. For further information, read our article on “Your CV layout”, which specifies exactly how the above can be achieved.
Some of the information may seem obvious but is often overlooked, so it is worth stating. Small things can make the difference between success and failure.
Concise – How to write concisely
Perhaps that last sentence should be changed to ‘keep it short and simple.’ Say what you have to say as quickly and crisply as possible. Under ‘Achievements’ (see below), for example try and express each one in a single sentence, preferably on a single line.
Sentence Example: Set up a spreadsheet to capture stock management data.
By doing this you will be able to include more items without cluttering up the visual appearance. The more items you can include, the more you are selling yourself to a potential employer.
Correct – How to ensure it is correct
Always check for errors. In fact, better still, get someone else to check it for you. We all have a tendency, when proofreading our own work, to read what we meant to say rather than what we actually wrote. Don’t forget to use the spell checker programme on your PC. There is no need for any errors at all.
In addition to the 4Cs, you also need to remember the 2Ts –
1. Tailor
2. Truth.
Tailor: Develop your own bank of information to draw on for ‘Specific’ applications. Do not just have one ‘blanket’ CV for every application. Check the job description and person specification. Google the company and ‘get a feel for them’.
For speculative applications (where you are sending your details to a range of prospective employers) select the best from your bank relevant to the occupational sector concerned. For sending your CV to agencies etc assemble all your ‘big hitters’.
Truth: Do not falsify information. Misrepresenting qualifications, for example, can result in dismissal if unearthed.

Printing your CV

You might need to send a paper copy of your CV off in the post, or you might need paper copies to hand in at recruitment agencies, for example.
Don’t print your CV double-sided; print each sheet on a separate piece of paper. Research has shown that anything on the back might get missed.
Choose the best quality paper that you can, and don’t fold your CV if you can help it. White or cream paper with black type seems to be the preferred choice for employers.
Always print a fresh copy of your CV each time; don’t photocopy it. Otherwise, it will look as though you have just run off lots of standard CVs and not given any thought to this particular vacancy or employer.
It will not help you to put your finished CV in a folder, binder or any other presentation stationery – it will make it harder for the person reading it to keep it in the pile of other CVs. Just staple the two sheets together and put your covering letter on top.

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