When you’re applying for a new role, a critical part of your application is a curriculum vitae (CV), sometimes referred to as a resume. A CV is a breakdown of your career experience, your qualifications and the skills you have developed during your professional life.
By understanding what a CV is, you’re in a better place to create your own professional document. Below, we explore the definition of CV, answer the question ‘what is a CV’ and provide examples of a CV that you can use when you’re creating your own application.
What is a CV?
A CV, short for curriculum vitae, is a professional document that you can use during your application for a new role. Curriculum vitae is Latin for ‘course of life’ and highlights your best attributes for a position. It’s typical for a candidate to provide a CV when they apply for a role alongside a cover letter and any related task work.
You will have to provide a CV for any role, regardless of experience, age or position. Depending on the position you’re applying for, you may personalise the CV to better reflect the job description.
Why is a CV important?
Creating a CV when you’re applying for a job is vital as it quickly summarises your professional career in a brief amount of time.
If an employer, recruiter or hiring manager is looking for candidates for a range of positions, they’ll typically have a large amount of CVs to screen. By creating an engaging CV, an individual is able to stand out from the crowd and quickly grab the attention of a potential employer.
A CV also shows that you’ve adequately prepared for the application process and allows you to build a professional rapport with the potential employer.
Download Our Finance CV Template
What to include in your CV?
When you’re creating a CV, there are several key sections that you have to include within the document to ensure that you properly demonstrate your potential.
It’s a good idea to split up the writing process of your CV to ensure that each different section properly reflects your potential and links together to create a comprehensive document.
Below are some of the key elements of a CV that you should include:
The most important part of a CV is your contact information. Having a range of contact information ensures that employers can get in touch with you regarding any constructive feedback or developments in the process.
Within the contact information section, highlight your phone number, email address and home address. This offers employers a range of different ways to get in touch and makes sure that they can easily reach you. Make sure that you update your contact information regularly, particularly if it changes at any point.
Your personal statement is a key element of your CV and usually one of the first sections that an employer might read. A personal statement is a complete overview of your professional career and briefly mentions any skills, qualifications or past achievements you’ve experienced during your different roles.
While it’s important to provide a complete overview of yourself within your personal summary, keep the section brief, engaging and well-written to ensure that an employer gets a good idea of you as a candidate.
Highlighting your educational qualifications is a vital part of a CV, especially examples of higher education such as undergraduate degrees, postgraduate degrees or specific certifications.
These examples demonstrate to an employer that you are motivated, determined, have a passion for a specific subject and have the right skills to excel within a role. If you’re applying for a role in the finance industry, for example, being able to show past qualifications in accounting, finance or statistics can highlight the right educational foundation.
The professional skills section of your CV is a specific section highlighting any relevant skills you have that apply to the role you’re looking to earn. By demonstrating various skills, you can build a complete picture of yourself as an employee. The skills section of your CV is typically split into two categories, ‘hard’ skills and ‘soft’ skills.
Hard skills are technical skills that help an individual perform their role on a day-to-day basis. Technical skills may include specific knowledge of software, hardware or professional techniques.
An example of a hard skill is a designer understanding how to use design platforms such as graphic design suites. Soft skills, on the other hand, are transferable skills that help an individual throughout their career.
An example of soft skills is communication skills, which help an individual speak and collaborate with their colleagues.
Work experience is a core element of a CV and something that employers look for when screening applications. Having a strong example of work experience is critical for showing that you understand how to work within a professional environment while also highlighting your potential as an employee.
Within the work experience section of your CV, it’s important to demonstrate all of your relevant past roles and the responsibilities you held within those roles.
It’s common for individuals to lay out their work experience in a reverse-chronological order, which starts with the most recent role and works backwards to the first role. This provides a complete overview of your work experience and allows you to show the most relevant experience first.
Find Your Next Role
Formatting a CV
Choosing a format for your CV is a great place to start when you’re creating the document and helps you build a cohesive and comprehensive CV from the outset. There are two common formats for creating a CV, one of which focuses on relevancy and one that focuses on skills and qualifications.
Reverse-chronological order is the first format and focuses on work experience, starting with the most recent example and working backwards. Function-based is the second layout and focuses on your skills and qualifications first, rather than work experience. This allows you to highlight your core strengths first, rather than sticking to a set template.
Tips for Writing a CV
When you’re creating your CV, there are a few best practices you can adopt to make your CV better for recruiters, employers or hiring managers. Below are the top tips for writing a CV:
Use bullet points
Bullet points can help you summarise your CV in a way that is easier to read. Instead of using full sentences and paragraphs, which is more difficult for an employer to screen, try using bullet points to highlight your skills, qualifications and past responsibilities.
This approach typically allows you to include more information in a more concise way.
Separate sections using formatting
It’s important that each section of your CV stands out from the others. You can separate various sections by using different sizes of font, colours and text styling to make it easier to distinguish between different topics. This is particularly important for your contact information, which needs to stand out from the rest of the document.
Maintain a professional tone
Your CV is a professional document and often your first impression with employers. Be sure that you use a professional email address, use ‘professional’ styling for your fonts and don’t use any jargon or slang that an employer might not understand. If you don’t have a professional email address, create one before you start applying for roles.
Highlight your strengths first
The most important thing to consider with a CV is that you want to demonstrate your strengths. If you have a varied and impressive range of work experience, you’ll want to highlight this before education or skills. Likewise, if you don’t have much work experience but plenty of relevant skills, put these at the top of the document.
View our CV Template
Below is a template you can use when you’re building out your own CV. The template includes all of the necessary contact information and then splits out each section depending on the qualifications, experience and skills you have to hand.
This template is an example of a reverse-chronological CV but you may switch sections around to focus on skills:
[A brief, 4-sentence paragraph that provides an overview of your professional experience, you as a person and your working style, alongside any key qualifications or certifications to highlight]
[Employer 1 / dates of employment]
[A bullet point list of your responsibilities in the role]
[Employer 2 / dates of employment]
[A bullet point list of your responsibilities in the role]
[Educational honour 1 / dates of study]
[Educational honour 2 / dates of study]
[A bullet point list of your relevant skills for the role]
[A bullet point list of any professional certifications you have in place]
[A bullet point list of any awards you have earned during your professional career]