Whether you are a seasoned professional in your sector searching for a new company, looking to change roles or you feel it’s time to move a rung up on the career ladder, you will be in need of a professional CV to apply for a new job.
With today’s job market being so competitive, your professional CV cannot simply follow a standard set of rules like it may have in the past but must include the most relevant information and pertain exactly to the job vacancy you’re applying for.
The following guide will give you some tips and advice on writing an effective, professional CV with regards what to include, how to structure it and what extras you may need to consider for your professional job application.
How to write a professional CV
First impressions count! Which is why it is paramount to know how to write a professional CV which will catch the reader’s eye in the very brief, average time of 6 seconds that a prospective employer will take to look over your CV.
Your professional curriculum vitae for each job vacancy is your first chance at selling yourself to a potential employer so it’s vital that you create an application which not only includes all the pertinent information regarding your professional profile but that is also pleasing to the eye, clear, concise and includes something to make your candidacy stand out of the crowd.
Using an online CV maker may help candidates create an application which is more efficient to make them stand out in their job hunt, not to mention save time and effort that would usually be spent when unnecessarily creating a CV from scratch.
Professional CV format
Formatting a professional CV is extremely important because no employer is willing to wade through a jumbled and confusing CV in order to find the information they need. It is crucial that all job-seeking candidates create a concise application which is clear and well structured with all the vital information easy to find and well presented.
In order to make an optimised CV for professionals, each candidate must not only consider the content but also the different aspects of the professional CV layout and focus on each one individually.
The factors to be considered in a professional CV design include the overall length, font sizes and types, the headings and margins. It can be difficult for some candidates to know what is best for their personalised CV in terms of these different structural elements, which is why using professional CV templates is an expert way of avoiding any possible errors when it comes to formatting their resume.
- Regarding the optimum CV length, in the UK, it is appropriate for every candidate to have a 1-2 page CV including the usual sections but for some industries or roles, it is also possible to include a third page or extra sections that apply to the specific vacancy or profession.
- The headings should be clear and bold to easily mark the different areas of a person’s professional CV.
- The font size and type should be easy to read and of a professional style such as Arial or Calibri, sized between 10-12.
- Finally, the management of white space on a professional CV is critical because it influences the reader’s vision of a cluttered or clean CV. Candidates are recommended to maintain a certain margin around the content which will create the impression of a well-formatted application.
Another possibility to improve your chances of creating a winning professional CV is by using an online CV builder that offers advice each step of the way regarding formatting and designing the right application for your career.
What sections should be included?
Every professional CV should include various sections which correspond to different factors of a candidate’s professional profile in order to convey the relevant information to the prospective employer in an ordered manner.
The following are the sections that should be included in a professional CV in order to get the most out of your job application:
- Name, title and contact information – The first section that should be included in the professional CV layout is the title section which includes the full name of the applicant – no nicknames – the contact information with a contact number and email being the most important and a professional job title/description in a few words.
For example: Intuitive and outgoing sales director; detail-oriented accounting assistant; Friendly and helpful customer service agent etc.
- Personal Statement – This first introductory section in a professional CV is similar to the American resume summary statement or qualifications summary that may be found in different styles of CV and replaces the more basic CV objective section. Sometimes also referred to as a personal or professional profile, this section must be unique to each candidate and be adapted to different vacancies.
- Work experience – The most commonly accepted form for writing the work experience section on a professional CV is in reverse chronological order with the most recent position first working backwards and including approximately 10 years if all the positions are relevant to the current vacancy.
In addition to including the job title, company, dates and location, professional candidates are expected to write either a bullet point list or small description regarding the achievements and responsibilities held in each previous position.
- Skills – The skills section on a professional CV is vital and nowadays it is becoming more and more essential for all types of careers. It is crucial to include at least 4-6 different soft and hard skills which are relevant to the position you’re applying for.
- Education – Usually in a professional CV, the education section will go towards the end, after the job history but this can vary depending on the vacancy and sector. This section should include the name of the qualification, the institution, the grade or mark given if applicable and the corresponding dates for all academic and training certificates.
- Other – In addition to these core CV sections, candidates can also add other parts which they consider relevant to their application such as work experience, awards, hobbies, publications etc.
Tips for writing the best professional CV
Getting to grips with the perfect job application can be complex so we’ve added here some expert tips for making a professional CV the best it can be regarding each section and every industry.
- As well as the core sections of a professional CV as mentioned above, and as the world of recruitment expands and businesses now make their company culture a priority when looking to hire new employees, one of the extra CV sections that people have begun using is hobbies. The possibilities here are endless as you show a part of your personality to the employer and just as you do with skills or experience, you can tailor the activities you include to fit the profile of the vacancy.
- Another top tip for writing a professional CV is to use powerful verbs and vocabulary. Take care not to overdo some key terms that are now very cliché and disliked by employers but do remember to include words which highlight your skills and achievements and strengthen your profile for the specific position, such as negotiated, assessed, trained or analysed etc.
- Another point which is imperative for a professional CV is to add your LinkedIn page as a digital link where the employer can see your achievements and work trajectory easily, online. Ensure that your profile is updated and easy to read!
- One thing that people do not realise they do that is often regarded as highly unprofessional, is putting a title which is either CV or Curriculum Vitae instead of their name. This comes from carelessly using standard CV examples unlike those in the Online-CV online CV builder which are HR-approved.
It is vital that you remember to create your professional CV with one thing in mind throughout: What can you offer the company? What have you done or learnt that can have a positive impact if you were to get the position on offer?
In the past it is possible you would have been advised to make a CV highlighting your career objectives but that is no longer the priority for prospective employers, what is now important to them is how you can improve their working practises and what you can bring to their company.
- It is extremely important that your professional CV includes keywords. These are words or phrases usually taken from the job description that are pertinent to the vacancy and the person specification. Keywords are vital on professional CVs because it is possible that the company use Applicant Tracking Software to filter through the volume of applications they receive and keywords are one of the methods you can use to ensure you ‘pass’ the ATS phase.
- When you have finished compiling your professional CV, it goes without saying that you must proofread it but we would also recommend asking a peer or friend to take a look, just in case there is anything you missed and you never know, they may be able to offer suggestions which will help your application.
Using these tips and general guide to writing a job application, candidates can ensure a better possibility of creating a CV that stands out in the application process but a surefire way to make a fully optimised resume, is to use a professional CV builder which offers tips and practical examples for different industries and vacancies.
Select the best type of CV
There are 3 different styles of professional CV formats including the Chronological CV, the Functional or sometimes known as Skills-based CV and the Combination CV. Each distinct type has different advantages and disadvantages and is more suited to a specific type of job-seeker profile.
- Chronological CV – This is the most common of the three CV layouts and the most recommended for professional CVs due to the clear and concise construction which allows potential employers to find the information they require quickly and easily.
The reverse chronological CV layout offers the candidate’s work experience as the pivotal section of the application, describing each previous relevant role in order of most recent to oldest.
- Skills-based or Functional CV – This type is not recommended for professional jobseekers as it has a bad reputation among employers as a way of hiding any periods of unemployment, however, it is still a strong CV format for career changers and even student CVs because it focuses on the skills that a candidate possesses and can therefore transfer from one job to another.
- Combination CV – The most modern of the three CV structures is the combination CV which combines the chronological and functional styles to include a heavy focus on skills with a brief description of previous job roles in a reverse chronological order.
This CV format is best suited to those who have some work experience but not at a professional level such as basic CV candidates looking for a first job who cannot rely on their experience alone to provide evidence of their suitability to the vacancy.
What not to include in the CV
To make a good impression, job seekers must not only consider what to include but also what not to include in a professional CV in order to avoid adding any information which could be detrimental to their application.
First things first, do not lie! It is imperative that you never lie on your CV, you will be found out, especially with today’s easy online background checks. If not at the initial application stage, then it will be very embarrassing and uncomfortable at your interview when a question comes up on something you do not know because of a lie of your CV.
When it comes to writing a professional CV for the UK, unlike some European CVs, it is not necessary to include any of the following within the contact or personal details:
- Age or Date of Birth
- Marital Status
- Nationality (unless necessary for work permit information).
The 2010 Equality Act makes including this information in a CV for the UK null and void so it is better to avoid them altogether.
Additionally there is no need for extra information that is not directly relevant to your professional profile or the job vacancy, so make sure to tailor each CV to every different job application by removing or adding information that is 100% pertinent.
Finally another more classic section of a CV which is now no longer required is the CV references section. There is no need to add reference information to your professional resume unless it is directly requested in the vacancy.
Do not waste the space available by adding any of these details on your professional CV and remember to consider your audience at all times, tailoring your application to the right position.
Easy to read
The content of your professional CV is of vital importance but it is also just as significant to ensure that the presentation follows certain guidelines and is clear and comprehensible throughout.
You need to make sure your professional curriculum vitae uses simple and straightforward structures, language that is easy to understand and no technical slang that a hiring manager might not be used to.
For formatting guidelines such as how long it should be and what margins or font to use, take a look at our CV layout guide or this useful guide to writing a CV with information for each section and what to bear in mind before sending off your winning job application.
Cover letter for a professional CV
A professional cover letter, which accompanies the CV for any job application, is a jobseeker’s personal introduction to the employer. This part of the application process allows the candidate to sell themselves to the hiring manager and explain in more detail any parts of their CV which they feel make them the most suitable person for the position of offer.
Although a cover letter may seem the perfect chance for an applicant to develop descriptions of each role they have held and what they have achieved, it is crucial to remain focused on the role at hand and fight the temptation to write a long, heavy-handed letter explaining too much.
Relevance and clarity are key in a cover letter for a professional CV.
Remember that an expert cover letter should not be longer than one A4 page and is a method for employers to get a better understanding of who you are, what you see as your strongest accomplishments and how your experience have made you the ideal candidate for their vacancy.
Employers do not have time to read through pages of extra information so keep your cover letter short and sweet and pertinent to the role, explaining how your skills and achievements make you the right person for the job, to ensure success.
Another important factor to consider when writing a professional cover letter is the need to customise and create a different cover letter for each application, the same way you would with your CV. The keywords, achievements and experience that you highlight will be different depending on the company and position you’re applying for so you cannot use the same cover letter for every vacancy.
Professional CV templates
Creating a professional CV from scratch is not only time-consuming but also can be very difficult for people who have never had to write one before, which is why professional CV templates are such a useful tool for anyone who needs a little boost to get their job search on the go.
Professional CV examples allow candidates to get ideas about how to fill in different CV sections which address various strengths, such as skills, work experience and education.
Not only do professional CV samples help job seekers to create the content for their personalised curriculum vitae but they also save time and energy by offering a ready-made professional CV with the structure and layout done for you.
The best way to ensure you have a professional CV format, is by using a template on an online CV writer that allows you to complete different sections as you go and add or remove aspects that are more relevant to each job application, as well as permitting the candidate to create more than one CV easily and quickly by transferring information and updating only certain areas.