How to Write a CV / Résumé

The baseline must for any job seeker, the CV (or the résumé, if you are from the US) is a tool sometimes not used to its full potential.

In brutal agricultural terms, a batch of incoming CVs is like a herd of livestock which must be culled. Here’s a few fundamental suggestions on how to give your avatar chicken some good chance of survival.

Application Resume CV


What is a Curriculum Vitae / Résumé
Curriculum vitae (from the Latin expression “course of life”) or, in the US, a résumé, is a brief summary of your professional life up to now. Its use could be linked to the popular children’s toy where the toddler tries to hammer circles through square holes. It shows the employer whether you are mostly a circle or a square (or a star) for his specifically shaped position. Only once they are fairly persuaded that you might possibly fit, they can invite you for an interview – a personal evaluation. And therein lies the sometimes missed potential.

Many people simply write their one CV and send it out to many open job positions. But it may be worth your while to take a minute (or thirty) and customize your CVs for each of the positions you are applying for, making sure (to stretch the simile) to point out your roundness (or star-ness) to help you through the initial sieve. The position of a sales manager in three different companies might sound the same, but mentioning your love of hiking and canoeing in a CV sent to an outdoor equipment company might be a good idea, though a bit redundant when you’re applying for the very same position in an auditing firm. This applies to courses you’ve taken, extracurricular work you did during your studies, the way you describe your previous positions and their responsibilities and other aspects of your life, including which points you stress.

What Should Your CV Contain (And What Not)
First point, and one which goes without saying, is what it should not contain, i.e. fibs. I think I actually did fib once in my very first CV, claiming I love sports to make myself sound a little more action-packed and the right sort of girl. Luckily for me, nobody remembered and pointed it out to me as I lay, sweat-faced and half suffocated, after a moderately demanding bike ride in the mountains during a teambuilding weekend. Had I resorted to fibbery in a more important area, I might not have escaped quite so easily. Like in the less amusing example of a candidate I actually had to come in and interpret for at her interview with the English speaking CEO, even though she put “excellent knowledge of English” on her CV. The position she was being interviewed for didn’t even absolutely require English and eventually a person with very poor knowledge of English was hired for his other excellent skills; this candidate was dismissed automatically, if politely, simply because of this discrepancy in her CV, despite any other fantastic abilities she may have had.

As its name suggests, a CV should contain a brief recap of the relevant parts of your life until now. It is structured into sections and should provide the reader with an easy overview at a glance, any passion for story-telling should be curbed heavily at this stage. What should not be missing in your CV:

Hello I am

 Personal Information – Your name, address, date of birth (if you wish to provide it), contact details – e-mail address, mobile number. One note on e-mail address – unless you are applying for a company known for its relaxed and fun-loving approach or unless you’re counting on originality getting you some extra points, it is advisable not to use e-mails such as and rather create a new, soberer one. You may also choose to add a neutral, smiling passport-type photo – this might help you in that the person going through the tons of CVs will remember you better, but beware, especially in the UK and in the US including a photograph may be seen as a breach of equal opportunities and is only advised if you’re applying as an actor.

Summary of Your Skills or Important Highlights - A brief sentence or two just below the header summarizing why your prospective employer would do best to choose you. Try to avoid  clichéd expressions such as out-of-the-box, proactive, hard worker etc. The recruiters see or hear them approximately a million times a day and you want to stand out!

Education – Start with the most relevant and recent. Again include times, name of the institution you studied with and your majors and any academic titles achieved. If this is your first post-college or post-university job, you may want to mention your grades in brackets (unless, of course, you prefer them to remain unmentioned). Apart from your formal education (high school, university etc.), list any other courses you may have done. Give it a good think, apart from the ones you’ve taken (and paid for) on your own and therefore surely remember, there might also be some courses or trainings you have done in your previous jobs that you may have forgotten about.

Work Experience – Start from your most recent employment. Each entry should contain the time when you were employed/worked on that position, your position and your brief job description. This is the part where you can customize your CV to your desired position the best – point out activities / responsibilities that correspond best to the position you’re applying for, and also any relevant achievements that separate you from the crowd. The same job – for instance that of a sales administrator, can be represented in different ways when you’re applying for different positions. For a job in the finance area, you will want to mention first these parts of your previous job: “running expenses agenda, updating budget sheets, participation in budget meetings, devising invoice allocation system for the company’s seven sales regions and its incorporation into the budget tracking program….” etc. while you may choose to put first these aspects of that same job for a more boho position, for instance PR or event manager: “fully organizing smaller to large sales presentation meetings (10 to 1,500 participants), arranging press participation on selected sales events, preparing press releases for sales-related activities, interpreting for expat company owners at press conferences, participating in a small group of employees (5) appointed by management to suggest and review progressive changes within the company” etc. Shrink not from using action verbs such as plan, initiate, organize etc.
If you occupied two or more positions with the same employer, state them separately, again giving the time you occupied that position. It shows that your previous employer recognized your potential. You may also list any unpaid/voluntary work you did, vacation jobs – provided you find them relevant.
Skills – Whatever may be relevant to the desired position: Computer skills – list of programs you are familiar with and to what degree – e.g. very good working knowledge of MS Office, particularly Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access; Adobe FrameMaker; basic Photoshop, MS Expression Web; good orientation in various subtitling programs, e.g. Subtitle Workshop, Aegisub etc. Language skills, again it is good to note your level of fluency – based on a realistic evaluation. Driving licence – type; and any other skills you may deem useful.
Interests – This is another part of your CV that should be very much customized to the position you apply for. The list shouldn’t be long; to maximize its potential, you may very briefly expand on each interest and list your achievements. It is a slightly tricky endeavour since you’ll be balancing between being too brief and being Miss/Mr Goody-Two-Shoes, but it’s well worth the effort. You may even surprise yourself and gain extra confidence if you put it on paper.

References – This is usually very important for employers, but does not necessarily need to be mentioned already on your CV. However, unless you’re running out of space, it is a good idea to include them already here. Two referees would be the usual number, one would ideally be your senior in some of your previous position, the other one your colleague. If you are applying for your first, or one of your first jobs, you can also name your tutor or professor. You may also choose to simply say that References available on request but since that is automatically expected, such a sentence may feel redundant and be best left out.

Other Important Notes
Generally speaking, your CV should be one or two standard A4 pages long, using one of the regular fonts and most importantly, well structured. Use indenting, bullets, anything to make it easy to look at and find relevant information fast. People looking at CVs usually look at a lot of CVs at once and tend to toss aside those that make it hard for them – it is, after all, showing poor preparation.
And finally, use the spellchecker. It is very fast and will save you from falling into the 56 % of candidates with spelling or grammar mistakes in their CVs. Glaring typos are a very popular reason for an automatic chucking of a CV. And double check if you are using the autocorrect function – this wild and uncontrollable beast is often responsible for many interesting, if undesired, statements!
We genuinely wish you the best of luck in your search, keep your head high and take pride in what you have to write on your CV. May the force be with you!

How to Write a Cover Letter

Curriculum Vitae

A cover letter is a brief introduction of yourself and statement of your purpose in sending in your CV. It is an additional aid to your CV and a chance for you to tell your prospective employer why you are the right choice. It may not be the easiest thing to write, a good cover letter is a relatively small state sharing borders with Cliché and Goody-Two-Shoes, but, with a bit of common sense, one that is not only easy to inhabit, with a surprisingly rich landscape, but also a very thriving and useful one.

Here is your chance to add personality to the cold, hard facts of the CV, to show your communication style and a bit of yourself. Not too much though, the majority of employers prefer the cover letter to be around half a page long and you should never go beyond one page.
A cover letter should always be tailor-made to each position you apply for. If you are applying for your dream job, give it the extra time and take a look around the company website, pay attention to their communication/writing style and make your cover letter mirror that to a certain degree.
The How
The salutation is the first thing people read. If you know the name of the person, that point is clear, otherwise you may choose from a wide range of standard greetings – Dear Sir/Madam; To whom it may concern; Dear HR Manager or even Dear (name of company) team or Dear recruiting team (if applying to an agency) – or any other you may see fit.
In the first part (paragraph) of your cover letter, you should make it clear to the reader on which pile they should place you – refer to the job you are applying for and with whom; if you’re sending your cover letter to an employment agency, state as well the number assigned the position. These should also be stated in the Subject if you are writing the cover letter as an e-mail. You may also mention where you found out about the vacancy – newspaper ad, online listing, recommendation from a friend who is already employed etc.
This part shouldn’t be long – one or two sentences will suffice.
The second part – one or two brief paragraphs at the most – is where things get personal. You should state why you are drawn to that position – or even the company, why you find it interesting. And then explain what makes you the right person for the job. Why are you a qualified candidate, how do you plan to benefit the company on this position, what experience of yours makes you especially suited to the job? Be concise and specific. Here you may (or may not) also bring into play your current or previous job and link it to the new one – perhaps your current job only has a limited array of responsibilities or duties that you find fascinating and which abound in the new position. If you mention your previous job, always try to avoid negativity – rather than saying you couldn’t use your full potential or were bored, say that you are looking for a new, bigger challenge, or whatever the case may be.

To close off, it is always nice to thank the person for their time and express your hopes for a future meeting.
Once you’re finished, do run a spellcheck on the letter. And when that is done, read it through again to crush to death any typos or grammatical errors the spellchecker cannot catch out – send/dens, detail/dilate or through/trough may sail through the spellcheck with flying colours and still damage your impression.
And – good luck!



All articles are written by the Czech translator and interpreter Katerina Janik

 © Michael Janik - Internetagentur