Resumes & Cover Letters

Guide to Writing a Professional CV

August 25, 2020

A professional CV is beneficial when hunting for a job. You must tailor every CV that you write towards the job you are applying for as it describes your skills and abilities relevant to the position at hand. However, all CVs follow a similar format and structure. In this article, we discuss professional CV best practices and the approach you should take when writing it in 2020 and beyond.

What is a CV?

A CV, or curriculum vitae, is a document that provides employers with more extensive information than they will find on your resume. It should describe your personality, relevant skills for the position, professional qualifications, achievements and abilities. Your CV should convince the employer that you are the best candidate for the open position. CVs often accompany a completed job application and a cover letter.

CV vs. resume

A CV and resume are similar in that both of them tend to summarize an individual's education, achievements, skills and professional history. It is notable that in Canada, a CV may not necessarily be synonymous with a resume. A CV is a long, detailed document that focuses mainly on an individual's coursework, research, skills and experience. A resume, on the other hand, is a French word that translates to 'abstract.' It is a shorter-form document that provides a brief overview of a professional's previous roles, relevant skills and educational details.

When should you use a CV rather than a resume?

In Canada, job seekers use a CV when applying for education, medical, academic, scientific or research positions. You can also use it when applying for grants, fellowships and jobs. A CV is a running tally of your significant career accomplishments, and you should include as much detail about you as possible when writing it. You can also edit your CV to focus on the most relevant qualifications for your field of interest.

Basic information to include in a Canadian CV

There are a few basic things that you should include on your CV every time it's submitted to an employer. Your Canadian CV should capture the following details:

  • Education: List and date all your previous education. Be sure to include your professional qualifications and licenses, placing the most recent first.
  • Chronological order of your work experience: You should list your experiences on the resume in a reverse date order. Be sure only to mention what is relevant to the job you are applying for. Consider bringing this section before education if you have several relevant work experiences.
  • Profile: This is a concise statement highlighting the key attributes that help you stand out from the other applicants. The profile usually appears at the beginning of the CV. It provides the most relevant skills and achievements while detailing your career objectives. A good profile should be concise and focus on the specific industry you're applying to.
  • Contact details: The contact details, usually the very first on the CV, include your name, mobile number, home address and email address. Unless you are applying for a modeling or acting job, you should not include your photo or date of birth.

How to write an ideal CV for work

Follow these steps to develop a CV that leaves a lasting impression on your prospective employer:

  1. Research your employer
  2. Pick a great design
  3. Choose a clear CV layout
  4. List your relevant educational qualifications
  5. Add patents (if applicable)
  6. Update your work experience
  7. Keep your CV concise
  8. Have clear contact details
  9. Be truthful
  10. Proofread carefully

1. Research your employer

You should do thorough research on the company you're applying to beforehand. Check their website and social media accounts for the information they post to give you a general idea of how the company operates and what they are looking for. You can use the acquired information to write a cover letter that will accompany your CV. The information will also guide you in highlighting the relevant skills and competencies in your CV. Only include details that are relevant to the open position at the company.

2. Pick a great design

You should choose the design of your CV wisely. There are numerous CV design templates on the Internet that you can refer to when writing a professional CV. However, you need to be sure that the design you pick matches the job perfectly. For instance, the template you might consider ideal when writing a CV for a more serious occupation, such as the position of an administrator, varies greatly from the one you'd use when writing a CV for a more creative sphere, such as a graphics designer post.

3. Choose a clear CV layout

The layout of your CV is of great significance to its clarity, flow and readability. Be sure to arrange your CV neatly and always use reader-friendly fonts when writing. Always remember that your employer has several CVs to go through. Using a nice layout and clear fonts not only ensures that you create a good first impression but enables the recruiter to take the shortest time possible to go through your CV and view the relevant details.

Spacing is another critical factor that applies to the layout and makes reading easier. Be sure to set line spacing at 1.15 and to include clear subheadings within your CV to break things down and improve its scannability and readability.

4. List your relevant educational qualifications

Consider listing your educational qualifications from high school onwards. In the educational qualifications section, you can also include other certificates, diplomas, degrees or other qualifications you have received. Consider scanning the incorporated documents, then create links on your CV such that when a recruiter opens your CV, they can click the links to verify the documents for themselves.

5. Update your work experience

You should always be sure to add your most recent work experience as the first detail under the work experience section. You can then proceed to the least current jobs you've held. This will help significantly in keeping the attention of the reader.

6. Add patents (if applicable)

Technologists, engineers and scientists list patents on their professional CVs. It's always prudent to mention the patents in your CV. Consider the following when adding patents in your CV:

  • If you're applying for a marketing job with a biotechnology firm, you should include the name of the biotech patents you worked on in the college laboratories.
  • If the patent list is short, list the numbers and titles of your patents in your resume.
  • If your CV looks like more of a resume than the patents, consider attaching a patent list.

7. Keep your CV concise

A CV should be about two pages in length. Although this might appear to be a bit short, view it from the perspective of a human resource manager. For a single job posting, an HR manager might get up to 200 applications. They may have learned how to skim through many CVs and identify the right candidate. Although you may have written a fantastic work experience background, consider that the manager may only have 60 seconds of their time to skim your CV before moving to the next. Keeping it short and straightforward ensures the hiring manager gets as much information about you as possible within a short time.

8. Have clear contact details

The contact information that you include on your CV should be very clear. Once the recruiter has read through your CV and is satisfied that you are an ideal candidate, they will want to contact you for either an interview or to give you the next direction. Also, be sure to include a professional- sounding email address.

9. Be truthful

Only include true details in your CV. In most cases, the recruiter will double-check the essential facts that you have included in your application. All you need is to keep to the facts and provide documents, dates and other evidence that support your claims.

10. Proofread carefully

Before sending out your cover letter and CV, have some of your relatives or friends read over them to double-check your grammar and spelling. Alternatively, you may consider hiring a professional editor to check your cover letter and CV to remove any mistakes.


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