How to write your CV

A good CV will lead to an excellent first impression in the university application process. To help out, we've put together everything you need to know to write your perfect CV.

Outline:

 

What is a CV and why is it important?

A curriculum vitae (CV) is a concise and straightforward way to display your skills, academic and professional backgrounds and highlights. Every year thousands of students apply to study abroad, and top universities only accept the applications of the students with the best profiles. Your CV is a major factor used by universities to assess a student, so it’s important to get it right.

What is the difference between a CV and a resume?

The CV is mistaken for a resume in most cases. They are very similar, but there are a few differences that are important to note. 

  1. A resume is typically just a page long while a CV can be two pages or more.
  2. A CV is generally used for academic purposes, and so it contains complete details of your educational and professional history, whereas a resume should only have the highlights and the most prominent information, as it is mostly used for job applications. 

Though these differences are generally accepted, different countries have different interpretations of a CV and resume. For instance, in the UK, CV is usually just a synonym for a resume.

What are the different types of CVs and how to choose the right one for you?

Nowadays, there are many different types of CVs that you can choose to express yourself and showcase your creativity. Some of the common ones are,

  • Reverse chronological

A reverse chronological CV is the most common type of CV. You should list your academic and professional history starting with your latest experience and work your way back. You should list your latest job first in your experience section, and the most recent educational qualification in your education section.

Structure: Personal information – Personal profile - Professional experience (listed starting from latest) – Educational qualification (listed from latest) – Skills. 

  • Functional

A functional CV focuses more on your skills and achievements. This type of CV is apt for students who want to change their field of studies or who have a break/gap in their educational or employment history. You cannot avoid mentioning your qualifications or experiences, but by using this format, you can shift the focus onto the transferable skills you have acquired that are relevant to your subject of interest.  

Structure: Personal information – Personal profile – Skills – Awards & Achievements – Professional experience – Educational qualification.

  • Combination

As the name suggests, this type of CV is a hybrid of the reverse chronological CV and the functional CV. You can highlight your skills at the beginning of the CV and then go on to list out your educational qualifications, professional experience and achievements in a reverse chronological way.

Structure: Personal information – Personal profile – Skills – Professional experience (listed starting from latest) – Educational qualification (listed starting from latest).

  • Non-traditional

With technological development and user-friendly software, non-traditional CVs have become trendy and can help you stand out. Graphic CVs and infographic CVs are some examples of this type. Using a non-traditional format can be very beneficial as you can customise and show your personality through your CV. These CVs are especially apt for students applying for artsy courses like graphic design.   

Structure: You still have to cover all the sections mentioned in the other types, but you can play around with the placements and positions creatively. 

Though uniqueness and creativity of your CV might be rewarded, the main objective of your CV is to show your background, achievements and experience clearly. Keeping this in mind, we recommend you to start with a reverse chronological resume. Later you can experiment with others and finalise the one you are going to submit to the university.

You should also consider the type of course and university you intend to apply to, and choose a CV type that is in line with their style. For instance, a hard science course at a traditional university would require a traditional reverse chronological CV.

The do’s and don’ts for writing your CV

Personal information:

This section is the easiest of all. Just add your full name along with your contact details like your email ID, mobile phone number, and social media handles (if relevant). You can also add the links to your website, portfolio or blog sites - this is an easy way to showcase your skills through your CV.

Example:

Jane Daniel 

Address: House No. 9, ABC Street, XX City, Country

Email ID: jane@email.co  | Phone Number: 91 - 9988776655 | Blog: janehasablog.org

Do…

  • Mention your full name and address as per your passport.
  • Give an email address that you check regularly.

Don’t…

  • Mention your blog/website if it is not relevant to the course.

Personal profile:

A personal profile is a short piece of content that answers the following key questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What are your most relevant skills and strengths?
  • What do you plan to accomplish by taking this course?

Example:

A Mass Communication graduate with 2+ years’ experience in content writing with over 80 articles published in regional magazines. Applying to study MBA in Marketing to use the acquired communication skills and head into the content marketing field.

Do...

  • Keep it short. A personal profile of about four lines is good. Even if you need some extra space, make sure you don't exceed six lines.
  • Be straightforward, and avoid buzzwords. This section is the hook of your CV, so instead of beating around the bush, you need to be direct and convincing. 

Don’t...

  • Give a subheading for your personal profile. The goal is always to make the CV neat and clutter-free; your personal profile will directly sit under your name, so a subheading is unnecessary.
  • Mention too many skills or achievements. You are anyways going to add all of your skills and achievements in the body of your section. Just add the best ones here.

Work Experience:

In this section, you can mention your designation, the company's name, the duration of your employment and your roles and responsibilities along with any achievements or awards that you received. Even if you do not have the experience of a full-time job, you can still mention internships and part-time jobs

Example:

Work Experience:

XYZ Organisation – Development Associate (20/11/2019 – 31/07/2020)

Roles and responsibilities: 

  • Coded programs for the ABC mobile application.
  • Regularly tested for bugs and fixed them.
  • Coordinated with the design and content teams.

Achievements:

XYZ is a start-up, and I had the opportunity to code and help build the mobile application from

scratch. Also, I was featured twice as the top employee in the company's monthly newsletter.

List out all the relevant jobs you took up in the same way. 

Do...

  • Use the same date format throughout the document. Mixing up different date formats will lead to unnecessary confusion.
  • Keep your list of roles and responsibilities brief. You might have various tasks to tackle at work, but don't mention everything and clutter the CV. Just put up three to four primary responsibilities.  

Don’t...

  • Lie. Universities will cross-check all the information that you give, so you are not going to profit from lying. The universities can even go as far as blacklisting you. 

Educational qualifications:

This section is especially crucial for study abroad aspirants. List out your educational history right from high school to your latest degree with the name of the university/institution, year of completion and your CGPA (Cumulative Grade Points Average). You can also mention your achievements, awards and challenges that you overcame. 

Apart from your traditional education history, you can also add relevant technical courses or research projects that you undertook.  

Example:

Educational Qualification:

  • BSc (Physics) – University Name

[2017-2019]

CGPA – 9.3

  • XII Grade – High School

[2016-2017]

Percentage – 92%

  • X Grade – High School

[2014-2015]

Percentage – 90%

Academic Achievements:

  • Winner of the ASD merit scholarship (2018)
  • Winner of the National high school science fair (2016)

Technical Qualification:

  • XXX certified specialist - SPSS Statistics Level 1 v2
  • YYY data science professional certification.

    You don't have to limit yourself to competitions and awards; you can also mention any academic achievement like important research projects that you undertook or scholarly papers that you published.    

    Do...

    • Give a brief explanation if you have a significant gap in your employment or educational history.  

    Don’t...

    • Add very old achievements unless it is of national or international importance. Typically, you mention achievements from the time of high school and after.   

    Skills & extra curriculars:

    Educational and professional backgrounds are not the only important factors. Admissions officers are looking for diverse and unique individuals that will add value to their university as a student - hence this last section. 

    List out your most vital and relevant skills. You can also mention your extracurriculars at the end, even if they might not be related to your course. This way, you can give the university a sneak peek into the kind of person you are. 

    Example:

    Skills:

    • Strong language skills (English, Tamil, Spanish).
    • Proficient in Microsoft Office.

    Extra-curricular activities:

    • State champion in the intermediate level table tennis tournament. 
    • Grade 5 in Piano (Distinction).

    Do...

    • Quantify wherever possible. Try to put in a grade or a ranking; it makes your CV look more credible.

    Don’t...

    • Add irrelevant skills. The skills you mention should be directly related to your field of study or must at the least be transferable. Mentioning many irrelevant skills will only end up cluttering your CV.

    Additional tips for your CV

    • Check the university requirements before you start your CV. Some universities put out specific instructions that you should follow while writing your CV.
    • Formatting is key. Add enough white space, spread out the content a bit, add bullets where needed and make the CV pleasing to the eye.
    • Tailor your application. Putting out all of your basic details in your CV is fine. But to make it good, you need to highlight and focus on the points that are apt for the course you are applying. Try to customise it to suit your application.
    • Proofread. Thoroughly check to avoid any grammar or spelling errors. You can even ask someone else to proofread your CV. They will be able to notice the mistakes that you might miss.
    • Avoid passive voice. Active voice gets to the point directly and is easier to read, try to use it as much as possible. 

    FAQs on CVs

    How do I make the personal profile sound professional?

    Keeping the personal profile simple and to the point will make it sound more professional. Additionally, you can try experimenting with the grammatical person. Writing your personal profile in the third person will make it sound objective, and writing it in the first person will make it sound personal. 

    What is the ideal length of a CV?

    Two pages with about 800 to 1000 words would be ideal for a CV.

    What is the correct format of a CV?

    There are no strict formatting rules, but there are a few guidelines that you can follow.

    • Use a legible font size (10-12).
    • Use a standard font (Times new roman, Calibri).
    • Use boldface and bullets wherever needed.
    • Use justified alignment.