Advice and Tips
How to write a good CV
It’s important to have a good CV when you want to shine in the eyes of a potential employer. It’s a golden opportunity to create a positive first impression – and when combined with a well-written cover letter, is what will get you an interview.
What should a CV include? You’ll find the answer here.
It’s important that your CV has a clear and simple format, is easy to read and targeted towards the job you’re applying for.
And while there isn’t just one way of how a CV should look, there are definitely some key elements that must appear there.
Six key elements to include in your CV:
- Contact information
- Key qualifications, profile or summary
- Work experience
- Other relevant experience, f.ex. certifications, courses, volunteer work
A CV should start with your contact information:
- Name (and preferably age)
- Mailing address
- E-mail address
- Mobile number
- LinkedIn profile
Picture or no picture?
You can decide if you want to put in a professional-looking picture of yourself at the top of your CV (but not one of you looking grumpy or too serious). A picture will make you easier to remember.
Need feedback on your CV and cover letter? Tekna can help you!
Are you a Tekna member? If so, you can send your CV and/or cover letter to us, and we’ll give you feedback and tips.
Key qualifications or summary
This section should be tailored to match the job you’re applying for. You have the opportunity here to quickly capture the reader’s interest.
Be concrete and highlight your area of expertise, skills and personal qualities that are relevant for the job in question. Write in the first person and avoid writing overused clichés.
The text shouldn’t be too long. Try to limit yourself to writing a maximum of four to six lines. Feel free to use bullet lists.
Tips – Key qualifications
Listing your key qualifications gives you a unique opportunity to highlight what you’re really good at doing. In fact, this is where you can show that you’re qualified for a job.
Remember that you should back up what you’ve written in this section when writing your cover letter, where you can describe what’s made you a good communicator and what kind of feedback you’ve gotten. Your CV and cover letter should always complement one another.
Tips – Competency mapping
It can be a smart idea to map and describe your competency in a separate exercise before going on to write your key qualifications.
It’s a useful exercise to think through what you’ve achieved in the jobs you’ve had previously. Doing so will help you write a good CV, prepare yourself for an interview and, not least, gain more self-confidence.br/>
Learn more about competency mapping and career development.
Are you a student?
Begin with describing the relevant experience and competency you’ve acquired through your education. Don’t be too general; for example, point out your area(s) of specialization, project work and/or presentations.
Remember to include your experiences and achievements outside of school, for instance that you’ve been involved in different kinds of volunteer work. Make sure to close by writing about some personal qualities that describe who you are.
This section must include basic information about your jobs, including time periods, job titles, employer names, and locations (city/country).
Be precise about time periods, writing that you worked at place from month/year to month/year. By doing so, you show in a simple and clear way how long your different jobs have lasted. Make a list of positions in reverse order so that the most recent job tops the list. This section helps employers get a quick idea of your most recent experiences; it also clearly shows your career development.
You should describe relevant jobs you’ve had with more than your job title and your employer’s name. For example, you can include:
- Your area of responsibility
- Work methods you’ve used
- What you’ve achieved (or any positive results you can show)
Use your own words: after all, you’re the expert here!
Feel free to include all of your work experience, but make sure to point out what is important for the job in question. If you’ve worked at several less relevant jobs (f.ex. temporary/seasonal/part-time), feel free to group these together.
Be careful! Avoid using jargon or unfamiliar abbreviations.
Are you a student?
This type of question can be useful to answer when you’re describing either what you’ve done in past jobs and/or volunteer positions:
- Think about the tasks you’ve had at part-time and/or seasonal jobs.
- How do you work best, alone or in a team?
- Have you had any special areas of responsibility?
- Have you, alone or in cooperation with others, worked to achieve a certain goal or worked under a deadline?
- How did you/all of you manage to do this, and how did it go?
Since you’re a student, it’s most appropriate that you place your education above your work experience on your CV.
Use the same format as the one for work experience in order to present your education. Begin with the degree and/or any specialization you have. Here you can also include both subjects and other details if they’re relevant to the job you’re applying for. Consider including the title of your Bachelor’s/Master’s thesis and its awarded grade (you might also want to include the method you used).
If a lot of time has passed, or you think that certain educational details are no longer relevant, you can write less.
The best card a student or recent graduate can play is their education, so this should come first on a CV. Highlight all aspects of your education that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
Other relevant experience
Write a bit more on what’s relevant, keeping it short and concise.
Courses – Courses, continuing education and certifications show employers that you think it’s important to keep yourself up to date. If you’ve taken a lot of courses, consider deleting the ones that are less relevant.
Digital tools – Here you can set up the digital tools, platforms, programs and programming languages you use provided that they’re not a normal part of your job. (If they are, you can include them in your job descriptions.) In most cases it’s unnecessary to write that you use MS Office programs or the like. This may include programming tools, photo and text editing programs, social media, document management systems, etc.
You should include volunteer work that is relevant and says something about you either personally or professionally. Doing volunteer work can make a positive impression that shows your engagement and high work capacity. Include volunteer positions that involve responsibility.
You can either provide your references (with their contact information and relationship to you) or write «References provided upon request» (both are equally acceptable).
It’s important that you ask your references in advance. It’s also smart to tell your references about the job and/or send them the job advertisement. Doing so will give them more information about the job you’re applying for, and they can be more concrete when speaking with your potential employer.
Who should you choose as a reference? Select someone who can say something about what you’re like to work with and what you’re like as a person. A reference can be an employer, advisor and/or someone you’ve worked on a big project with.
Gaps in your CV
You have to be prepared to explain all the information appearing on your CV, which might include frequent job changes and «gaps». If you do have a gap, you may be asked about what you were doing during this time period.
Gaps don’t need to put you at a disadvantage. For instance, you can talk about how being a caregiver or studying abroad has given you worthwhile experiences that have helped your personal growth.
Make a final check
If you’re a recent graduate and have a CV that’s three pages long, you should consider deleting some information.
And if you do have a lot of experience, delete the most dated information if you run out of room. Where you went to high school isn’t necessarily relevant, and neither is your first summer job.
If you’re not applying for a project manager position, you probably don’t need to make a list of all the projects you’ve ever worked on. The same principle applies to doctoral students and researchers. If you’re not applying for a research position, you don’t need to write a complete publications list. All of this ensures that you’ll follow the unwritten rule that says a CV must never be longer than two pages.
Always tailor your CV and cover letter to the particular job for which you’re applying.
Always tailor your CV and cover letter to the particular job you’re applying for. Some employers look mostly at applicants’ CVs, while others look at their cover letters: that’s why it’s important to work hard on both so you’ll end up being called and invited to come in for an interview.
Tekna can help you
If you’d like help formatting your CV, go on our CV Builder page. If you’d like feedback on your CV, send it to our advisors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tekna’s career services
Need help writing a good CV and cover letter? Need help with a job interview? Need to have your employment contract reviewed? Tekna provides you with great services if you’re looking for a new job or want to develop your skills at your current one.