How to Write a Good CV

How to Write a Good CV

CV, or Curriculum Vitae, is a brief account of one’s professional education, qualifications, skills and previous employment. It is an integral part of any job application. Applying for an award or a grant also includes CVs which should be tailored to that specific award/grant requirements, as there is no such thing as a generic CV. This does not mean that entire CV has to be re-written each time you apply for a certain position or award, but rather the details should be adapted to highlight the most relevant information.

While preparing CVs for grant applications, there are several useful tips to have in mind. Format is somewhat universal for different purposes, except for length. Structure can be modified in order to emphasize the points that are essential for the specific application.

1. Format

A two-pager is standard for most types, except for academic CVs. Research proposals embrace more flexibility on length. In such cases, even four pages is adequate length. Any extra information that is relevant to the proposal is helpful to the academic reviewers.

Photo – yes or no?
CV picture trends are constantly changing, yet leaving out your photo from the CV is currently believed to be the best practice. Keep your experience, skills, and achievements to the forefront of consideration when submitting your application.

Standard font types like Arial, Times New Roman or Calibri, are the best choice. Unusual or peculiar looking fonts do not seem professional and are frowned upon. As far as size goes, 11 to 12 point and headings between 14 and 18 is ideal. The text should be easily readable, with a consistent font type throughout.

The margins should not be reduced, as standard-size margins should be fine (such as 1 inch or 2.5 cm). This ensures that the text is legible and not over crammed.

Bullet points are effective when you want to present your credentials concisely. Consistent style should be kept for all headings and sub-headings, as well as main text and bullet points. Bold and italics are used for special emphasis - avoid using underlines, as they might be mixed with hyperlinks.

2. Structure

The title of your CV should not be Curriculum Vitae, but your name, professional title and contact details. A standard job application CV should cover some common sections:

  • personal information
  • education and qualifications
  • work history and experience
  • relevant skills to the job in question
  • own interests or achievements
  • some references

Academic CV should showcase your academic and professional achievements as effectively as possible. Strategically place the essential sections at the top, e.g. for a research focused application, the CV should accentuate research. Apart from the standard sections, an academic CV should include publications, research, as well as funding, awards and prizes, teaching roles, administrative experience, conference and seminar attendances.

Do not forget to put your current position first, your first position last. This also applies to education history, as it showcases the most impressive experience first. In fact, a reverse chronological order is a prerequisite.

Finally, ensure that spelling and grammar is perfect. Re-read the CV a few times after writing it, to be certain there are no mistakes. Make sure that information you provided is concise, accurate and relevant, without jargon or bland phrases such as "in charge of different duties". Good luck!