How to Write a Professional CV

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When you're searching for a new job, a resume is often the first impression that a prospective employer will have about you. If it rambles on for multiple pages, is printed on cheap paper or is full of typos and grammatical errors, it's not going to result in an invitation to come and talk about your accomplishments in person before a panel. Make sure your CV puts you head and shoulders above the competition.

Review the specifications of the job that you're applying for. Successful candidates often subtly borrow some of the buzz words used in the specs to describe their own experiences; subconsciously, the reader may feel a comfort level and kinship with the applicant even prior to meeting face to face because the content has a familiar tone.

Identify the jobs that you have held in the past, the duration of each job and a brief summary of the duties that each job entailed. For some situations, a prospective employer may also want to know what your salary range was and your reasons for leaving. Unless this information is specifically requested, however, leave it off.

Use active verbs to succinctly describe your duties and responsibilities. Unlike a narrative story that might read, "One summer I decided to go to work for my Uncle Stanley and help him stock the shelves of his store and wait on his customers", a CV cuts to the chase with: "Processed deliveries, displayed merchandise, maintained inventory, assisted customers." Wherever possible, focus on results-oriented outcomes. If, for instance, your activities helped decrease expenses, increase sales or improve upon an existing way of doing something, be sure to reference them.

Divide your resume in the following six sections: contact information, employment history, honors, awards and professional memberships, education, additional skills and references.

Set up a document in portrait view with one inch margins on all sides. Use a Times New Roman, Courier, Bookman or Palatino font in 12 pt.

Place your name and contact information (address, phone, email and web address) on separate lines and centered at the top of the page. Your name should be in capital letters. It's also permissible to use a font for your name that is one size larger than the rest of the document's content.

Identify the position you're applying for. This should be 2 to 3 lines down from your contact information and at the left margin. Many government jobs, for instance, will ask that you specifically use the job title and a reference number so that the receptionist will know at first glance where to direct your correspondence. If your CV is of an unsolicited nature (i.e., the equivalent of a cold call to see if someone is hiring), specify what type of position you're seeking.

Type "Employment History" two lines below the job title. This should be in all caps or underlined. Drop down two spaces and list your most recent/current job first so that it looks like this: "Marketing Consultant, Honeywell Corporation (2006-Present)". On the line directly below this, type "Duties" and briefly list your scope of responsibilities. Continue this format, working your way through a reverse timeline of employers and experiences.

Type "Honors, Awards, Professional Memberships" two lines below the final entry under your employment history. These can either be written down as a list with one line per special achievement/membership.

Type "Education" two lines below your last entry and identify your degree, your major and the institution of higher learning from which you acquired it.

Type "Additional Skills" two lines below the last education entry. This will be for items that you haven't necessarily used in a past job but that could be useful to a prospective employer.

Type "References" two lines below your last entry. In most cases, you'll simply type the words "Available upon request". An exception to this is if you have someone to vouch for you whose name recognition will instantly strike a chord with your prospective interviewer.

Print your resume on high-quality paper. While white bond is traditional for CVs, it's also permissible to use ecru, light gray or light blue.

Tip

Resumes aren't necessarily a one-size-fits-all promotional tool. If you have talents in multiple areas, you may want to have several different versions of your CV available. Always keep your CV updated. In uncertain economic times, it's better to have a polished resume at the ready to start knocking on doors the day after you lose your job than to try to assemble anything coherent when you are in the throes of panic about becoming unemployed.

Warning

Never exaggerate or lie about your education or experience. These things always have a nasty way of coming back to haunt you.

About the Author

Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.

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