Before you start looking at job listings you should invest some time in writing an effective CV. A CV (or curriculum vitae) is a comprehensive summary of your educational and professional experience, including both relevant activities outside of work and any awards you have received. There are some similarities between a CV and a resume–enough that some people use the terms interchangeably. This is incorrect. A CV is a much more detailed version of a resume. It’s okay for a CV to run several pages, for example, which is a definite no-no for resumes.

Employers usually request CVs in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. US employers prefer shorter resumes, though CVs are used in the States when applying for academic positions. The particulars of CV formatting vary from country to country, but the structure is essentially the same no matter where in the world you are applying for work.

Basic CV Structure

All information should be listed in reverse chronological order. The most recent experience always comes first.

  • Contact Information
  • Personal Information (such as date and country of birth)
  • Employment History
  • Education
  • Professional Skills/Certifications
  • Awards
  • Publications
  • Professional Associations
  • Relevant Interests/Hobbies (if you are applying as a staff writer for an aviation magazine and happen to be a licensed pilot, you should mention this here. This is not a place to list your favorite movies)

Each entry in your CV should include relevant dates and brief descriptions. Keep these short and informative, use specific details rather than general statements. Don’t write that a position required “attention to detail.” Describe how your daily responsibilities included “proofreading a daily newsletter and reviewing copy for between 10-20 articles.” Remember that the goal of a CV is to show employers how your experience makes you the perfect candidate for the position. To view sample CVs for a number of different industries and countries click here.

Also remember that effective CVs are tailored specifically to the position being advertised. Don’t send the same CV to every single employer. Try and refine each to best fit the position being advertised. Employers hate seeing “generic” applications–they make it seem as if an applicant is only half-trying to get the job. Build a basic CV for the industry(ies) you are looking to work in and then adapt them for specific listings.

Bear in mind that a strong CV is the foundation for any job search. In most cases it will be your first and only chance to get an employer’s attention.