Writing for Business

by Steve Roche

Writing a curriculum vitae (CV)

Consider your purpose in writing a CV (usually to get you an interview).

  • Find a format you like and use it as a guide. There are no set rules for the order – make your CV fit you. Emphasise your strengths.
  • Pay attention to spacing and margins. Make your CV attractive and easy to read by using plenty of white space and a decent-sized font.
  • Keep to one or two pages. If you have a lot of work experience, summarise it with bullet points (say, in a section called Professional Experience Before 1980).
  • Put the really important things on the first page – your reader may not even get to page two.
  • Write in the active voice and use short sentences. Use bulleted lists to save room. Start each bullet with an active verb. Vary your word choices (instead of writing programs, you could use develop, create or implement software).
  • Extol your strengths. Tell people how good you are. Be honest but don’t exaggerate. This is an acceptable time to boast.
  • Be specific and quantify where possible. ‘Improved sales’ is not as impressive as ‘increased sales by 40 per cent in the first year and 75 per cent in the second year.’
  • Use bold and italics sparingly or they become distracting and hard to read. Avoid underlining.
  • Make it look professional and appropriate for the position you are seeking. Have someone proof read it for you. Remember spell checkers don’t catch mistakes such as to/too/two.
  • Aim to set your CV apart from the others, but keep it appropriate for your profession. (For example, an advertising graphic designer and a computer software engineer would have different requirements for a professional looking CV.)