Professional CV Writing: Best Practices

Updated: Apr 17


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Whichever stage of your studies or career you are in, a day will come when you will start job hunting and have to create or update a professional CV.


With the emergence of countless "make it yourself" CV tools and CV examples online, it is now much easier for job seekers to craft an aesthetic and attention-grabbing CV online.


This article aims at stressing the importance of balancing aesthetics and content in a CV. While a colorful and "stylish" CV is indeed attention-grabbing, CV scanning nowadays has become a bit more complicated, especially with the massive adoption and use of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) by companies.


What makes a good CV is not necessarily the stylish template, it's the content you incorporate into the document. The following sections summarize suggestions for CV layouts and tips to implement to write a winning, interview-landing CV. Do your best to impress your potential interviewer!


How to write a CV


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What's a CV?


Spoiler alert: CV stands for curriculum vitae. A curriculum vitae is a concise summary of your education, work experience, skills, and interests.


As it lands in a recruiter’s hand, this one-page document will determine whether you caught enough attention to be given an interview.


Your CV thus needs to be clear, convincing and tailored to the description of the job you are applying for. In sum, it needs to be a very attractive CV and tailored to the job advert.


While there are many types of CVs, this guide helps you draft the most common of all: the chronological CV, which lists your history in reverse chronological order, meaning with the most recent job listed at the top.


What's a good CV?


A good CV makes you stand out among the dozens or hundreds of applicants you might be competing against. In other words, you have an A4-sized sheet of paper to showcase yourself in the best possible way and convince the company that you're a person they absolutely need to interview for this job.


Writing a winning CV requires great attention to the outline, the aesthetics, and of course the content of the document. A great mix and presentation of the elements above will play a large role in convincing employers that you might be the best person for the job.


A good CV:

  • Is tailored to the job advert

  • Highlights your achievements throughout your work history

  • Includes relevant skills

  • Is well structured, eye-catching, and easily scannable

  • Is compatible with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)


How to write a CV from top to bottom


CV checklist

If you have more than a year of work history, your education should be listed after your professional experience.


On the other hand, if you are a student, a fresh graduate with little experience, you might want to list your education first and highlight projects, awards, and achievements completed in your program.


1. Header (including your job title and contact details)

2. Summary

3. Work experience

4. Education

5. Languages

6. Skills


Header


Your header should include basic information from your personal profile.

  • First and last name

  • Job title

  • Contact details

  • Location

  • Photograph (depending on the country you apply in)


Summary


This summary serves as both an introduction to your CV and a summary of your profile. It should be 2 to 4 sentences and highlight:

  • What you are passionate about

  • How much experience you have

  • Your main achievements

  • Your level of education

  • Your main relevant skills


Work experience or work history


Before you submit your job application, make sure you tailor your entire CV to the job description - specifically your work experience and latest jobs.


All potential employers are interested in are experiences relevant to the job you're applying for. As a result, you need to adapt this section so that your responsibilities, projects, and achievements match the description of the job you're applying for.


In sum, include:

  • Dates

  • Company name

  • Your role or title

  • Achievements


Education


The same logic applies to your academic background. Make sure to include only relevant academic background, with achievements and concrete examples.


If you have little or no work history, you can also include notable achievements (theses, group projects) and try to align them with the description of the job you're applying for. Indeed, some skills you used or developed during these projects might be transferable!


If, on the other hand, you feel your work experience is more substantial, stick to listing your school, university, and program names and the dates you attended them.


In sum, include:

  • Dates

  • School or university name

  • Program name

  • Achievements


Languages


Most employers seek multilingual candidates. If you master more than one language, make sure to include this in your CV, a dedicated section.


When listing your languages, you will want to state both your level of proficiency in words and associate an internationally-recognized language score or certificate.


Here is how you can present languages in your CV for example:

  • English (Native)

  • French (Fluent, C1)

  • German (Basic, A2)

Make sure to include both your level of proficiency and your score as the former might seem abstract and the latter might not be known by employers.


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Skills


Choosing the right skills to highlight in your CV and which of these skills are most relevant for the job you're applying for is not an easy task.


There are many different ways to incorporate your skills into your CV, namely by:

  • Listing them in a dedicated skills section

  • Incorporating them into your career or work experience achievements

To ensure the skills you include are relevant, take a close look at the job description, which will indicate the skills the hiring managers are after. Make sure you include both soft skills and hard skills in your CV. Also, avoid using buzzwords such as "team player" or "innovative".


A few CV tips from us


Don't send the same CV to different employers


This is the most important rule. If you want to land interviews, you're going to have to tailor your CV to each job description you apply for.


Why? Because each job and company, may they be similar, might seek different sets of skills and professional approaches for example.


To tailor your CV to the jobs you're applying for, print or open the job description and make sure you include all relevant keywords and adjust the elements you want to highlight accordingly.

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Keep it short


If you have less than 5 years of experience, try to keep your professional or academic CV on one page. Keep in mind that recruiters take on average 7 seconds to review a CV.


Be concise, straight to the top, and only include relevant skills and achievements to keep your CV as short as possible. Write your CV in reverse chronological order!


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Keep it simple


Again, it's likely the recruiter will only use a handful of seconds to scan your CV. Unless you work in a creativity-centered industry, such as graphic design, for example, opting for the soberest and formal-looking CV might be the best alternative.


For example, flashy colors, atypical layouts, and original wording might have the opposite effect and prevent you from even making it past the ATS.


In their research paper, published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, Arnulf et al. (2010) found that formal CVs have a higher chance of being shortlisted than ones adopting a creative layout!


Our advice:

  • Stick to a common font and regular font size (11-12 points)

  • Only include relevant information

  • Stick to 2 different colors max

Most recruiters will appreciate a detailed list of your education, work history, skills, and interests...and nothing more!


Sometimes, the best way to draw attention is to keep it simple.


Use bullet points


Bullet points are your CV's best friends. They make your document clearer, more concise, and easier to scan by both recruiters and ATS.


They prevent you from using large chunks of text to describe your employment experience and make you gain valuable space.


Depending on how experienced you are, try to stick to 5-8 bullet points and use power verbs at the beginning of each one of them, to make them more impactful.


Highlight your achievements


Writing a good CV is much more than just describing key responsibilities from previous employment experience or education. You really want to highlight notable achievements, projects, and concrete results you contributed.


For each relevant work experience, make sure to include concrete examples (numbers, client names, project outcomes).


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Beware of "Best CV" templates you find online


While there are many great professional CV templates out there, beware of their format, notably from an ATS perspective. Some platforms might have developed CV templates that are not scannable by Applicant Tracking Systems, or not easily readable for hiring managers.


Make sure you keep your CV simple, with clear headings, and focus as much on the content as the aesthetics.


Leave irrelevant information out


Information you should include

  • Career path

  • Work experience

  • Education

  • Key skills

  • Interests

  • Contact details

Information you should leave out

  • Place and date of birth

  • Home address (stick to city + country)

  • Marital status

  • Religion

  • Sexual orientation


Avoid spelling errors and grammar mistakes


Well, this kind of goes without saying. If the English language is not your forte, we highly recommend you use spellcheck tools such as Grammarly for example.


Using Grammarly will help you focus on the content of your CV without worrying about spelling mistakes. It will also prevent you from sending a document full of typos, among the common CV mistakes many candidates make.


 

About Boost



Our objective


Boost - CV & Cover Letter Writers' objective is simple: help you highlight your education, your work experience, your soft skills and hard skills, and your personal profile.

Mainly, we aim to help you:

  • Craft a professional or academic CV

  • Highlight your career achievements

  • Adopt a clear CV layout or CV format

  • Access ATS-compatible CV templates

  • Land your next job (or first job!) smoothly


Our multilingual team


Our team aims to be a single source to answer all your questions.


While sharing professional and helpful tips, we help you create a CV that you can confidently send off to potential employers.


Our main focus is to understand your background, experiences, and career plan, and present these elements to the recruiter in the best possible way. We write in English, French, German, and Spanish.


Make your CV stand out with us! Go to our homepage and send us your CV and contact details in the chat. We'll get back to you within 24 hours with a free CV review.


Need a new cover letter?


While we can help you improve your CV layout and content, we also help candidates create an impactful cover letter.


Professional cover letters convince employers that you're the perfect candidate and potentially the best person for the job. Even if you write a CV catching employers' attention, your cover letter needs to be just as attention-grabbing, a page convincing employers that this job is made for you.


Writing a good cover letter requires solid writing skills, the ability to be concise, and to find an impactful example for each work experience you are writing about.

Employers seek candidates whose career plans and values are aligned with the company.


We excel at helping you write a cover letter bridging both!

 

Contact us today and boost your applications!




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