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How to write a CV in English

Making a good first impression is crucial when applying for a new job. Regardless of which industry you work in, you could find yourself competing with many suitable applicants and most recruiters spend no more than a few seconds scanning each CV. If you submit a clear, organised and neat document, you’ll convince recruiters to spend more time on your CV.

This is your chance to highlight your key achievements, accomplishments and attributes. Before you choose to include something about yourself, consider its relevance to the specific vacancy you are applying for. Why risk losing your dream job over a few careless mistakes?

Your CV should include the following headings:

1.     Contact details: full name, home address, email address and telephone number. Including a photo of yourself is a highly debated topic amongst top recruiters worldwide. If you choose to include a photo, ensure that it makes you look professional. And don’t forget to update your LinkedIn profile!

2.     Personal objective or summary: a concise statement that helps you stand out from the crowd. Use this paragraph to convince the recruiter why you are the perfect candidate for the job while expressing your career aims within 100 words. E.g. Driven Retail Manager with over eight years’ experience in the fashion industry. Proven track record of success, including managing the top performing store in the region, and having the lowest staff turnover rate of all NL outlets. Currently out of work due to company closure, looking for the right opportunity to bring my expertise to a well-established fashion brand in an upper management position.

3.     Work experience: list any relevant positions held in reverse chronological order to emphasize the breadth of your professional work experience. Mention any notable personal achievements with respect to each role. No recruiter wants to read a dull list of bullet points describing past duties from your summer jobs.

4.     Education: list and date all formal education, including professional qualifications and specific vocational modules (when relevant).

5.     Skills: mention your foreign language skills and other key skills related to the vacancy. Proficient language skills are a highly desirable asset for many employers and will help you stand out amongst other applicants. E.g. Working proficiency in English, Agile and Scrum, Project Management etc.

6.     Interests: including several personal interests can provide a full picture of who you are, as well as prompt interesting discussions during your interview. E.g. Video gaming, creative writing, artificial intelligence etc.

Consider the following tips while writing your CV:

  • Be mindful of your font type (Arial or Times New Roman are easy to read), font size (between 10 and 12) and spacing. Use bullet points and limit your content to one page, if possible. Ensure that the font size is consistent throughout.
  • Use active verbs when possible to illustrate your abilities. For example, ‘created’, ‘analysed’, or ‘devised’ show initiative when supported by clear evidence. Avoid using buzzwords unless you are able to provide a clear example as support. E.g. Created a successful marketing campaign, analysed qualitative KYC data, devised an effective project management tool for operational staff, etc.
  • Use a spell-checker and ask a friend or colleague to read through your CV before submitting it. Spelling errors show lack of care and leave a bad first impression.
  • Tailor your CV as much as possible to the vacancy you are applying for. Visit the website and social media accounts of the employer to learn more about their company culture.
  • Avoid generic use of words such as ‘team-player’, ‘hardworking’ and ‘multitasker’. Instead, provide real examples that demonstrate these skills and attributes. E.g. Delivered excellent results within an agile team of software developers while overseeing output of three junior product developers.

And finally… don’t forget to include a tailored motivation letter before applying for the job!

Alma Bonger
Alma is an English language trainer and writer from Canada. She is passionate about education, exploring new cultures, and creative collaboration.

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