Writing your Curriculum Vitae

The first thing you need to know about your CV is what it is. CV stands for Curriculum Vitae which translated from Latin means course of my life and this is exactly what it is. The CV is like an auto-biography of your life in terms of education, employment, skills, knowledge and experience.

You will need to put details in it such as your name, date of birth, country of origin, current address and all your contact information. After this though, everything else details your professional experiences that make you employable. In some places CVs are also called Résumés so if someone asks for either your CV or your Résumé you can rest assured that this is the same thing.

Writing your CV is nothing like writing a letter of introduction or application and is set out very differently to a letter. Many word processing packages have a template for a CV in them so if you have access to a computer that would be the best way to get started on completing your CV in the most professional manner.

CVs are usually not very long, unless you have a rich and varied amount of education, employment and life experiences. Two A4 sides are usually enough, but if you have to do more to fit everything in then that is also OK. You need to remember that when you are writing it, it does not have to be written like a letter or story. You need to list the dates that you attended school/college/University and then list the qualifications you obtained at them. You need to list your employment experience starting with the first ever job you had, including dates and position right up to present time.

You need to list the out of work experiences you have had as well including hobbies, interests, volunteering experiences and anything you feel might be relevant. But you have to note it is written as a list.

For example 1981-1990 – Sales rep at Innovative Designs – took examples of new technology to major companies to create sales leads and a customer data base. Requirements – driving, good people skills, working knowledge of technological advances. 1990 - 1998 Factory Floor Manager at New Tel Technologies – running the factory floor of a company making components for telephone systems, used people managing skills as well as understanding of machine and component construction.

And so on, this is the same process as you need to follow for your education time line as well. With the personal experiences part you can be a little bit chattier as this is a less formal part of the document. Here you could write about experiences such as: volunteering at an animal shelter on the weekends, reading all the works of Shakespeare for fun, knitting socks for soldiers in combat zones and other things like this. Your experience may be in raising children, or growing your own fruit and veg, it doesn’t matter what it is, all prospective employers need to see is that there are other things in your life that you have experienced and been committed to. It is probably not a good idea to put that your hobbies include going to the pub with your mates and getting wasted, watching television and sleep for example!

What is your CV for?

Your CV is a nice clear document that people can look through at a glance to see in neat concise order exactly what education, work experience and life skills you have. It saves them having to wade through your letter of introduction or application time and again and lays everything out in a precise timeline of your life.

Having created your CV you can use it for a variety of different things. Have several copies of your CV at hand or keep it in a file on your computer so that you can add to it with new developments and print it off when necessary.

The first way you can use your CV is for yourself. When you are writing letters of application, or filling in application forms, having a CV means that all the information you will need for these is right there at your fingertips. You can also use if for reference if you are talking to someone on the telephone or by text phone and they need information about your experiences.

It is useful on a personal level as well, as you may use it to remember exactly what year you left school, or when the holiday was that you swam with dolphins for example.

The second way you can use your CV is for employers. In almost every scenario when applying for work you will need to present your CV. If you fill in an application for a job, also presenting a CV shows that you are organised and prepared for the job even before applying for it.

A letter of application will need a CV with it as no prospective employer will want to wade through a letter that has all of this information in it. You present your CV and use your letter of application to bring attention to the parts of your CV that are relevant to the job. For example you might say, “As you can see on page 1 of my CV I had 3 years of experience that would be useful for this job whilst working with children in a school cafeteria. This was only a part-time job as I had school aged children myself but I did teach me a lot about managing not only children but also a very busy kitchen setting.”

If you go to an interview having your CV to hand will help you to produce important dates, or ages that you were when you had a particular experience. If you take several copies with you, any people on the interview panel that do not already have one can be provided with one. That is a nice touch that makes you look not only professional but also thoughtful and well prepared. Employment agencies would benefit by having a copy of your CV as well, as they can use the information on there to match you well with prospective employers.

At the most basic level your CV is more of a chart of your life than any other kind of document. Its priority is to be very clear and easy to read, a document that gives access to your life to anyone who needs to read it quickly. Make sure each different part of your CV has clear labels so that anyone who reads it can go to the relevant sections straight away. Make sure that your timeline is in chronological order starting with present time and working backwards through your history.

Always include on your CV things that make you stand out, make it positive, highlighting your good points, showing off what skills and experience you have. Put the names and contact details of several references onto it, a couple that can provide information about you on a personal level and a couple of professional ones.

Remember that after your prospective employer has read your application letter or form, they are most likely to keep referring to your CV throughout the rest of the job assigning process. Be sure that yours stands out from everyone else’s, but do not be tempted to do this on scented or coloured paper, or by using coloured or larger text. The most professional CVs are printed on good quality white paper, using a standard text, but are brilliant because of the amount of useful, exceptional information they include.