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How to Make Your CV Stand Out

Want to write a CV that’s interesting and professional? Here’s how. [TWEET]

If you thought writing a resume was difficult, try making a curriculum vitae (CV) stand out from the other applicants. Putting together a strong CV can be immensely frustrating. What is a CV and what is it used for? CVs are used for medical, advanced science and technology, certain federal and academic jobs and it’s not easy determining whether the hiring manager wants creativity, sterile information or a mixture of the two. The following guidelines on how to write a CV will help keep you on a professional, yet interesting, writing path.

What is a CV?

A CV is like a resume but a lot – emphasis on the “lot” – longer. Resumes focus on abilities, education and experience. They are like snapshots of your career path. On the other hand, CVs take an in-depth look at your life. If a resume is a snapshot, a CV is more like a detailed oil painting. It includes experience with a section for your job description, contributions and achievements, participation, and a section about the company. There are sections for education, awards, internships and fellowships, presentations, projects, etc. Resumes are rarely more than two pages, but CVs are five to eight pages, or even more at times.

How do I format a CV?

CVs are organized by importance of information. Depending on the type of job you are applying for, a CV may start with the education, presentations and projects. Sometimes it may start with experience and skills. Regardless of the structure, all CVs include the following sections:

  • Contact information – Always include your name, address, email and the best phone number to reach you. Many resume writers argue against including your street address. Some companies still use snail mail and want to see your mailing address.

  • Career summary – This is not a career objective; those are obsolete. Describe your soft skills and hard skills, general information about your industry experience, and special skills and proficiencies here.

  • Areas of expertise – This is a bulleted, tabulated section with one to two word descriptions of your best skills and abilities.

  • Proficiencies – This is similar to the areas of expertise section. List technical skills, computer literacy, industry knowledge and foreign languages.

  • Work experience – Like resumes use active description and achieving language. Stay away from doing language. For example, “Responsible for inventory” is better described as “Optimize inventory by monitoring daily logs and preventing wasteful usage.” Include a statement about the company at the top of each description, and use bulleted lists to recognize your notable contributions and achievements.

  • Education – This is the golden egg of CVs. List all organizations and involvement, awards, GPA, outstanding scholarships, internships, etc. This can be as long or short as needed. Keep in mind though, if it is something special, list it; if it is something common, don’t list it. Companies don’t care if you won a $500 coffee shop scholarship.

Don’t underestimate the value of enthusiasm.

Hiring managers receive the same dull, academic themed CVs every day. They are monotonous and, quite frankly, boring. There’s nothing wrong with a little excitement. Easy ways to do this is by taking the company’s job description for each position and rewrite it in your own words. Human resource departments often use exciting verbs and action language to draw attention to their positions. You can do the same. Some employment websites offer good examples of exciting job descriptions. Don’t go overboard though. This is a CV not a suspense novel.

Don’t forget the cover letter.

Put together a well-designed template. Tell the employer you are an excellent candidate for the role and list why. Use the job description and relate it to your experience. Don’t oversell or stuff with keywords. It’s okay to use the company’s description to design your own cover letter. Never copy too much. Hiring managers will notice this right away.

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!