How to Write a CV

A dynamic Curriculum Vitae (CV), which is a Latin phrase that means “course of life,” gives the reader an interesting narrative about a person.

What Is a CV?

When writing a CV, try to write about yourself in the third person as if you are writing a biography about another person. Many wonder how long should a CV be and what to include in a CV. There is also some confusion about how to construct a CV, as opposed to making a UK resume.

The difference between a curriculum vitae and a résumé is the difference between a list of attributes and a narrative story. The methods of how to make a good CV include telling a great story about a person that is very readable and interesting. There is professional CV help for those who find the process intimidating.

CV Advice

The facts are included as high points in the CV, but they are not in a list as they appear in a résumé. Instead, when thinking about how to lay out a CV, the facts are points that are included as part of the description of the life of a person. Nevertheless, when learning how to write a CV, you first gather the facts, because they are the basis of the story.

How to Prepare a CV

Gather the information that serves as the basis of your own personal story. These are the foundation points of how to write a CV. The facts are included like map points that describe the history of a person to present the person’s life story in the best, and most interesting way possible.

Résumés are Listed Items, CVs Are Narratives

A résumé gives a chronological list of all things a person has achieved. A CV uses the same chronological series of events but presents the information in the form of a narrative (story) about a person’s life.

The CV allows more personalization of the events in a specific person’s life story. It can include major life events that are not work related, such as a marriage or a baby. The CV gives the reader a big-picture overview of the person whom an organization is considering for a position.

Steps to Prepare a CV

We took a look at the recommendations of the University of Kent to get some guidelines on how to write a great CV.

Some think that a CV is the same as a résumé. A résumé and a CV are different. A résumé is a listing of key information about past employment, education, and certification. A CV is a narrative about a person. A good application package includes both a résumé and a CV.

The Guardian notes that a CV tells the life story about a person. The information on the résumé is included but not in a list format. Instead, for a CV it is in a story format. Personal anecdotes are also useful to include in a CV, if the personal anecdotes create a positive emotional response in the reader of the CV.

Examples of personal anecdotes include getting married, having a baby, and supporting a family member when ill or facing death.

People hire people that have real life experiences and not just robots. The narrative of a CV tells the story of who a person really is. If you took off a year to take care of an ill parent, the CV will explain this. This is not a negative, it is a sign of having good character, which is a very valuable attribute to have.

Kent University recommends that the CV cover these areas in these proportions:

  • 45%        Work experience
  • 35%        Skills and qualifications
  • 25%        Readability
  • 16%        Achievements
  • 14%        Grammar and correct spelling
  • 9%          Level of education
  • 9%          Individual characteristics
  • 3%          Objectives
  • 2%          Keywords and key phrases
  • 1%          Information about how to contact
  • 1%          Experience of  personal activities
  • 1%          Skills with technology/computers

Here are the steps to take:

  1. Gather the data.
  2. Make an outline of the highlights
  3. Organize the highlights in logical progression
  4. Write a narrative around the highlighted facts that explains your life story
  5. Keep the paragraphs short and to the point
  6. Write in the third person
  7. Reference to yourself by last name after the first instance. For example, in the first instance say John Smith did…   In the second instance, say this, Smith…
  8. Use active not passive verbs. For example, “Smith took his department to a major increase in productivity,” is better than “Smith was being effective by helping to take a department to having an increase in productivity.”
  9. Overwrite the story and then edit it down to about half. Concentrate the message and make it punchy.
  10. Target the CV towards a specific job using the key phrases in the job description as part of the narrative.

Practical Example Showing How to Write a CV

Here is an example of a job advertisement:

The job responsibilities include the overall responsibility for financial accounts. The job position is working for an organization in higher education located in London. The key function of the finance manager is to oversee the transactional accounting process, manage the payroll process, and perform the month-end close.

Our organization uses Agresso software for the accounting function. The finance manager needs to know this software at an expert level. In this position, the finance manager is responsible for managing the relations with the independent auditors. This requires comprehensive knowledge of accounting regulations.

From the advertisement, the key phrases to use for making the CV would be these:

  • transactional accounting
  • payroll
  • Agresso software
  • auditors
  • accounting regulations

An excerpt from the résumé of our fictional example of John Smith might look like this:

2011 to 2016 – Finance Manager for XYZ Company located in London

  • Responsibilities included preparation of the monthly financial results, managing budget and forecasts, payroll processing, and conducting month-end processing and reporting.
  • Maintained the general ledger, ensuring compliance with GAAP
  • Reviewed accounts payable
  • Prepared the company’s tax return
  • Supervised the annual audits

Here is an example of how to use the key phrases in a CV format:

John Smith has five years experience in transactional accounting. Smith was in charge of the payroll processing for XYZ Company that has over 100 employees. Using Agresso software, Smith managed the entire accounting function and supervised the work of six junior accountants to make sure everything complied with accounting regulations.

During the five-year period while Smith worked for XYZ Company, he was responsible for managing the audit process and maintaining good relations with the external auditors when they conducted the end of year audits.

Summary

A complete application package includes a cover letter, a résumé, and a CV. It is always best to customize the application to fit the requirements of a specific job in order to have a better chance of getting an in-person interview. That is how to write a CV properly.

Many companies use digital screening of applicants’ information and this screening looks for key phrases that are pertinent to a specific job. This is why it is important to use the key phrases from the job advertisement in the CV narrative. By using the key phrases in a way that reads naturally, this increases the chances of getting an interview for the job. Making the CV a compelling story increases the ability of a person to stand out from the rest of the crowd applying for the same position.

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