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The problem: You need to prepare a CV for a job application in English but are not sure how to do it. Here are some tips to help you. The term CV (curriculum vitae) is the British English name for this document. The Americans call it a résumé.

What is the aim of a CV?

The aim is to get an interview, not a job. It is only the first stage in an application. Most companies will want to see you in person before offering you a job.

How long should a CV be?

In Britain, a CV can be two, or even three pages long. The length depends on how much experience you have. In America many personnel managers want to see CVs on only one page - this is considered standard practice.

What to include

The content of a CV will vary from person to person and job to job, but in many cases the following headings could be used:

Personal details (your address, phone number etc.)

Education

Career to date (put your previous jobs and work experience here)

Interests and hobbies

References (If asked for)

What not to include

When writing a modern CV in English we do NOT normally include:

The names of our parents and details about them

Our place of birth

A photo - we like to think that we give jobs to people based on their knowledge, not their attractiveness. In some countries employers are not allowed to ask for a photo.

A signature - we sign the accompanying application letter

A date - a CV is a general document which could be sent out on many occasions. The date is also on the accompanying letter.

The dates of jobs etc.

Normally, we write in reverse chronological order. This means your most recent job or educational course should be listed first, then you work backwards to your earlier jobs or schools.

The content of the entries

Most English native-speaking employers are more interested in experience than certificates. They want to know more than just the titles of the jobs you have had or the courses you have been on. Tell them exactly what you did, or what you were responsible for. Write this in note form after the firm's name and job title e.g.:

July 1995 to June 2000, Wilkinson Exports Ltd. London, Export Sales Manager:
Responsible for developing sales in central Europe. Leader of a team of six sales staff. Built up an annual turnover in my area of US$6m.

October 1990 to June 1993, Manchester University, degree in Business Studies:
Studied all aspects of economics and management. Specialized in marketing and the use of information technology.

Why should I list my hobbies?

Many applicants for the job may have the same qualifications and experience as you. In order to get an interview you want to stand out from the crowd. Hobbies show that you are an active person. Depending on the hobby in question, they may also show leadership potential, teamwork abilities, fitness, organizational skills or other skills relevant to the job. You should not include very general "hobbies" that most people do, such as "dancing", "reading" or "meeting friends".

Other points about the content

Put your name at the top in large bold letters so that they can easily find your CV in a pile of applications. Make the layout attractive and modern, not dull. Use a little colour if you can. Make sure there are no spelling mistakes!

Will I get my CV back?

No, not usually. In most English-speaking countries there is no law which forces employers to return CVs to their owners. Hundreds of applications are received for some jobs. Often only the applicants who are required for an interview will be contacted. The rest of the CVs are either thrown away or kept "on file" in case the company has a suitable job for that person in the future.

Should I send copies of my certificates?

Not unless the job advertisement asks you to. Normally, you should take your certificates to an interview. Unsuccessful applicants will not get the copies of their certificates back. Generally you should send only the CV and your covering letter.

What is a "covering letter"?

This is the application letter you send with your CV. Have a look at the article on application letters in English.