Did you know that the term Curriculum Vitae is of latin origin loosely translated to ‘course of life’? If your own CV currently looks a bit long and winding like the road in this image, now's the time to understand it's purpose and create a more direct route for readers to learn about your own course of life.
Here's a few examples of the definition of Curriculum Vitae, or CV as we typically call it:
A short written description of your education, qualifications, previous jobs, and sometimes also your personal interests, which you send to an employer when you are trying to get a job. Cambridge Dictionary
A brief account of a person's education, qualifications, and previous occupations, typically sent with a job application. Oxford Dictionary
A short account of one's career and qualifications prepared typically by an applicant for a position. Merriam Webster
An outline of a person's educational and professional history, usually prepared for job applications. Collins Dictionary
To be honest, these definitions don’t really do a CV justice or show how important a document it is. And they certainly don’t convey how powerful it can be. There’s so much more to a CV than a ‘short description’ or ‘brief account’ of your experience and education, and here’s why.
Your CV needs to show the hiring manager that you can do, or have the potential to be able to do, the job you’re applying for, but just describing the responsibilities you had and tasks you undertook within your previous work experience or education is not enough. You also need to show how you excelled in these roles, that you achieved and made an impact, and that you carried out that role, task or project better than anyone else could have done!
Ultimately, what you’re trying to do is beat the competition. There may be lots of other applicants who have similar experience and education to you, so you need to demonstrate that you’re the best person for the job.
So what should you include in your CV and how can you make it stand out?
Name and contact details - stick to just your mobile number and email address, there’s no need to include your home address, although your city/town could be helpful if you want to show you’re local. Definitely no photographs!
Professional summary - sometimes called a personal statement. This should be a short, impactful summary of your best achievements, relevant qualifications and goals. It’s a great opportunity to really tailor your CV to the role/s you’re applying for and should be written engagingly to capture the reader’s attention.
Key skills - another opportunity to highlight relevant skills for the role/s you’re applying for and can be a combination of ‘hard’ skills such as a qualification, software knowledge or typing speed and ‘soft’ skills such as relationship building, leadership or problem-solving. Keep it as a concise list (6 to 8 skills is ideal) and use bullet points so it’s clear. If you’re a recent school leaver or graduate, you may not need to include this section.
Work experience - put this next if you’re currently working or don’t have much experience, otherwise your education can be first. List your experiences in chronological order, with your most recent role first. Include your job title, the firm you worked for and the dates you were in the role followed by a bulleted list of your key achievements within the role. Quantify these where possible, qualify them where not and, at the very least, ensure they focus on the skills the role requires.
Education - again, this needs to be in chronological order and include both academic and professional qualifications where relevant. Depending on where you are in your life/career will determine how far back to go. For example, if you’ve been working for a few years, you don’t need to include your A-levels and GCSEs.
Additional information - this is where you can include relevant interests (even these have to be strategically considered these days) and skills if you haven’t already listed them, for instance MS Office, languages.
And there’s your ‘course of life’ on a side (or two at most) of A4!