Youth Writes

What makes a good CV?

What makes a good CV?

“HIRE ME!” is what your CV needs to scream at the top of its lungs! Employers want to see a CV with ‘a spring its step.’ From the first line to the last bullet point, your CV should capture the audience’s attention as well as show your true talent. Even with relatively little experience, you want to project the abilities and potential that you can offer to a prospective employer. YOU are an asset and the experience you have is simply a bonus. From talents, skills and projects, you can portray your personality and character in your CV as an alternative to actual employment.

Personal Details

This section is simply for quick and easy identification—including your name, address, email address and telephone number. You may consider adding your LinkedIn profile and/or your personal website to highlight further relevant skills and experience.

Profile / Personal Statement

Most likely, the recruiter’s initial attention will fall on this section, the so-called ‘CV hotspot’. In a few short sentences (three or four), you want to make a great first impression. Write about what you have achieved up to now and where you see yourself going; give the recruiter a sense of your career objectives and ambitions. This section can also serve as a summary of your CV, highlighting your strengths, or, in marketing terms, your unique selling points. This is your sales pitch—to sell yourself to a potential employer.


Many recent graduates do not have a great deal of work experience under their belt. For this reason, you may opt to present your education first as an important asset. Be sure to include elements of your degree, such as specific projects or modules that are relevant to the job description and to the skillset an employer is looking for. Grades are also a great way to show concrete evidence of your academic achievements. You can also show initiative by explaining how you further developed your knowledge and skills whilst working on the specific elements you list.

Work Experience

Clearly, this section becomes a lot more relevant if you have industry-related work experience. Depending on the amount and kind of work experience you have, you can divide this section into two: directly relevant work experience and general work experience. For example, if you are applying for a position in a marketing firm you can create a section that is linked directly to the job description – ‘Marketing Experience’, and then a general section – ‘Further Work Experience’. Remember that any work experience, from a part-time job in retail to a service industry job, can still give evidence that you have what the employer is looking for—just emphasize the transferable skills such as communication, teamwork and time management and a work ethic.

Extracurricular Experience

Extra-curricular activities such as volunteering, university societies and hobbies can be used to demonstrate your skills as well as your depth of character. It is not always a matter of quantity, but a matter of relevance. So for example, if you have had been volunteering for just two or three weeks at a related to your field organisation, use this as relevant evidence of skills during that ‘short’ experience.


Make sure you are picking the right referees! Ideally, one providing you with a reference should be someone with whom you have worked on internships, volunteer or other academic projects. If you do not want to waste space on your CV, you may opt to listing your referees by just stating that it is ‘Available upon Request’. Either way, you should inform your referees in advance.

Unwritten Rules

Though no two CVs should look the same, a recruiter would expect some standards from your CV.

  • Use descending chronological order (most recent first).
  • Be clear, specific and accurate with your points.
  • Be brief. One-or two pages is a reasonable length for a CV—after all in most cases employers skim through many CVs and make ‘cut’ decisions in a matter of a minute.
  • Make it presentable and appealing to the eye, printed on crisp white paper or converted to a PDF file format when sending it electronically.
  • Invest time in understanding what the job description, the company and the specific skills the employer is looking for.
  • Customize each CV for each position you apply for –do not just send a generic CV to every employer.

Writing your first CV is a challenge as it is a stepping-stone on the path of life, your chance to burst out of the bubble of academia into the ‘real’ world. Creating your f Curriculum Vitae, a Latin phrase translated as ‘the course of life’ is your chance to examine the direction of your own life. In a way the act of writing a CV is an act of self-expression—a chance to show your true self. It is a way to set the direction of your life and put yourself out there–believe in your potential!

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