Why is a CV Important?
Imagine that you are a product and you are selling yourself to your potential employer. How do you market yourself? What do you highlight? What is the employer looking for? Based on the job requirements, how do ‘you’ fit and how do you convince the employer that you are the exact person they have been looking for to fill the position?
The Curriculum Vitae (CV) or Resume is like an advert all about you. This important tool represents the first step in your job search as it should convince a potential employer that you are an outstanding candidate who is well-suited for the job vacancy; as well as someone who will make positive contributions to the hiring organisation. The purpose of the CV or Resume is not to get you the job, but rather, to get you the interview.
Your CV says a lot about you: your educational and professional background, skills, major achievements, activities, what kind of person you are etc. Moreover, the way your CV is presented says a lot about your organisational skills; how you communicate; your professionalism; sometimes even your creativity.
Your CV or Resume does not have to be a text document. If appropriate for the position, your CV or Resume could be a video. The important thing is to make your CV stand out from all the other candidates to get you that interview. However, make sure you maintain accuracy and clarity, and that you remain as concise as possible.
What is the Difference Between a CV and a Resume?
Loosely translated, 'Curriculum Vitae' means 'Course of Life' in Latin; whereas 'Résumé' comes from the French for 'summary'. In many parts of the world, 'CV' and 'Résumé' are interchangeable. However, in some countries, such as the US and Canada, a CV is considered to be the longer and more comprehensive and detailed synopsis of a candidate's background, and is usually appropriate in academia and medicine. Whereas, a Résumé is a short 1-2 page summary highlighting only the background relevant to the position. In other words, a Résumé gives the potential employer a ‘preview’ of the candidate and piques their interest enough to lead to an interview.
What Should I Include in my CV?
A good CV should be tailored to each job application. Never lie about your qualifications and work experience as the truth will always come out—sometimes years later when you have more to lose! However, it is important that you highlight your strong attributes as a CV is no place for modesty. This means you need to know yourself. Spend some time making a list of your strengths, your skills, your achievements, what makes you stand out etc.
Your CV should include your Education, Work Experience, Awards and Honours, Activities, Languages, Skills; and if relevant, Conferences, Workshops and Seminars. You may want to include a 4-5 line summary of your background or career objectives. However; to save space, it is advisable that you save this for your covering letter. If you do include a ‘Summary’, make sure it is specific and unique to your particular career focus, and your relevant strengths.
You should also include personal details such as your name, e-mail, telephone/mobile number on every page of your CV in case the prospective employer misplaces the first page of your CV. This is usually found in the document header. Do not include a novelty email address e.g. email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org does not sound very professional. You might want to consider setting up an e-mail account dedicated for career related correspondence e.g. Fatin.Mohammed@gmail.com
You may also include your date of birth and marital status, however this is optional and not required. In this region, it is common to include a recent photograph; and you may also be asked to provide your CPR number, and educational certificates during or after the interview stage.
Types of CV: Chronological and Functional
The most common type of CV is chronological because it allows the employer to easily see your career progression.
You should start with your most recent education – your degree or postgraduate qualification. You should include dates, name of university, degree title and Honours e.g. B.Sc. (Hons) Economics, and GPA (if you have a high GPA). Those with university qualifications do not need to include school grades and subjects as your university qualifications will be more relevant to your employer.
It is advisable that you include any thesis or dissertation titles, and relevant course-work modules studied at university. For those only with a high-school education, you should include dates, name of school/college and A-Levels/IB or equivalent qualifications studied with grades.
This is perhaps the most important section and will be the focus of an employer or recruiter’s attention. List your work experience in reverse chronological order i.e. beginning with your most recent job. You must include the dates of your employment, the job title you held and the name of the employer. If you worked abroad, you should also include the country in which you were employed.
If you are a student or recent graduate, you should include any part-time work or internships—even if they are unrelated to the position you are applying to. Employers expect to see indicators that you are responsible and organised and that you have gained skills and knowledge from your work experience.
When you list your work experience, use bullet points and include hard facts. Rather than listing your duties, try to demonstrate key achievements and personal contributions in measurable terms if possible. For example, instead of “Developed successful social media marketing strategy”, you could say “Revolutionised social media marketing strategy and achieved 60 percent sales increase in first quarter.” Make sure you use strong action verbs instead of using ‘Responsible for’ or ‘Duties Included’. Examples of strong action verbs are: Achieved, Addressed, Analysed, Collaborated, Coordinated, Developed, Diagnosed, Established, Initiated, Implemented, Negotiated, Pioneered, Revitalised, Supervised, Spearheaded, Strengthened etc.
You do not need to include your salary details, or describe reasons for leaving each job on your CV. However, these questions are likely to come up in your interview so be prepared.
Although your work experience and education are the most important components of your CV, other activities show an employer that you are a well-rounded individual that is committed to other hobbies, sports, or social causes. Your activities also demonstrate your teamwork capabilities, passion, motivation, people skills, dedication, organisational skills, leadership, and reliability. It is particularly important to highlight your extracurricular activities, sporting achievements, and club involvements if you are a student with no or little work experience.
As with your ‘Work Experience’, highlight your level of involvement and impact e.g. 2009: Rotaract President—raised over BD20,000 and benefited 23 Bahraini charities.
You should include any languages you speak and your level of proficiency e.g. Bilingual in Arabic and English, fluent in French, and conversational Farsi.
Use this section to mention any vocational skills that have not been mentioned in your CV such as IT skills, certificates e.g. Health and Safety etc.
Conferences, Workshops and Seminars
If relevant to the job you are applying for, you may want to mention certain events you have attended, organised, or even presented at. Include the name of the event, date, place and event organisers.
It is acceptable to say “References furnished upon request". However, if you do include references on your CV, include 2-3 referees: academic and employers. Make sure you ask for permission from your referees and always keep them updated if you have submitted their names during a job application process.
You should include your referees names, job title, company, work address, phone number and email address.
A functional CV is less common and is beneficial for those who have a number of unrelated jobs and industries on their CV and need to connect them through functional areas. A functional CV should start with a personal profile which highlights your skills, strengths, and achievements. This is then followed by sections—ordered in decreasing importance—each of which relates to a different skill or ability. Examples of common functional headings include:
Planning Public Relations
However, since a functional CV does not enable you to highlight consistent career progression, most candidates opt for a chronological format.
Appearance and Formatting
Don’t forget to include your name and contact details in the header of every page.
- Make sure your CV is laser-printed in black ink using a plain typeface, on good quality A4 white/cream paper.
- Unless you are in a creative filed such as graphic design, decorative borders and images are not necessary.
- Leave 1 inch margins to allow the employer to make notes or questions on your CV in preparation for the interview.
- Make sure you use consistent styles and fonts throughout your CV and when using tabs or spaces between sections, make sure they are uniform all the way through.
- Use bullet points in your CV to keep it concise and ensure your information can be easily scanned by employers who probably receive hundreds of CVs.
- Make sure spell check, proofread, carefully check for grammatical errors before you send your CV out. It is advisable that you ask a third party to review your CV to ensure it makes sense.