How to write a powerful CV

A curriculum vitae, more often referred to as a CV, is an indispensable step in the run-up to a job interview. Together with the well-known cover letter, this will or will not lead to an invitation to a job interview – and maybe more. A good CV gives an accurate reflection of who you are, what you can do, in which areas your personal strengths lie, and where you developed these qualities.

Writing a CV

CVs often are the first thing a potential employer looks at when he receives your documents. As such, this is in many cases the first impression he or she receives of you. That clearly demonstrates the importance of writing a good CV. By writing your CV you are selling yourself: you are presenting your qualities and subtly emphasising your positive points.

Different types of CVs

It is important to know that there are various kinds of CVs. The most commonly used CV is the chronological CV. In this type of CV you list the previous jobs you have worked at, starting with your most recent one and going back in time to your first one. The functional CV is also often used. This format is skills-based. In some cases it may also be useful to create your own structure for your CV, for example when you applying for a position that requires great creativity. This will strike the wrong chord, however, when applying for a more conventional job, in the finance sector for example. Keep the objective of your CV in mind at all times.

The structure of a CV

Presuming you choose to produce the standard form of CV, it should contain the following fixed elements:

Personal data
Here you list your personal data, such as name, address, contact details. It is also common practice to note here if you have a driver’s license and what your marital status is.

Write down what education you have completed and where. Start with your most recent education programme, working back to the one before that, etc.

Work experience
An overview of your previous employers. Conventionally this section also lists your activities in these organisations. Here again you begin with your most recent previous employment, then the one before that, etc.

This section provides space to mention extra skills. Some job applicants use this space to list their proficiency with certain software, for example. This is also the correct place to list your language skills – relevant in particular when applying for a job at an international corporation.

Other tips

  • Writing a CV is naturally a very individual endeavour. Every applicant is unique, so each CV document is also different.
  • Don’t tell any lies. Exaggerating a bit here and there seems like the right thing to do to promote your work, but recruiters almost always pick up on this quite ruthlessly.
  • Focus on the facts. The cover letter is intended to introduce yourself personally; the CV requires only the facts.
  • Write in plain English! Avoid jargon and write in an active voice.
  • Make sure there are no gaps in your work history. You don’t want the employer to have to ask you where you were between 2011 and 2013. If necessary list the extracurricular activities you were engaged in during time unemployed.
  • Most importantly: keep it short. CVs that are longer than two pages sometimes do not even get looked at. So: stick to the point!


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