Enhance Your CV Using These 14 Helpful Suggestions
Updated June 30, 2023
Crafting an effective curriculum vitae (CV) means revising and reviewing it throughout your professional career. You may find it helpful to update your document once or twice a year to reflect your experiences and abilities accurately. Understanding how to improve your CV may help you create a document differentiating and highlighting your qualifications to employers.
In this article, we discuss what a CV is, why it's important to do and 14 ways to enhance your CV to help you ensure you're taking advantage of the right career opportunities for you.
What is a CV?
A CV is a professional document, longer than a typical resume, outlining your educational credentials and experiences with your other professional achievements in detail. The document can include extensive information about the college courses you completed and the specific projects or research essays you wrote. Often, you can use a CV in place of a resume when a job asks for it, especially if you're applying for a role in academia. The key elements to add to your CV can include your:
Related: Q&A: How Long Should a CV be?
Why's it important to improve your CV?
It's important to update your CV because you can stay up-to-date on CV trends to incorporate them into the document. You can also use this as an opportunity to refresh your writing while adding additional education and work experiences you have acquired since the last time you updated the document. Frequently updating your CV allows you to submit your document to employers quickly by spending minimal time on revisions. Improving your CV could also raise your chances of receiving an interview because you updated your document with the most up-to-date skills and qualifications a company might seek in a professional.
14 ways to enhance your CV
Here are a few strategies to enhance your CV and potentially improve your job search success:
1. Change your objective to a CV profile
A CV profile or a personal statement can provide a thorough qualification summary, allowing employers to gain a brief synopsis of what you can offer to the company. You can craft the summary to be about two to four sentences, highlighting your most applicable skills. Place the profile near the top of your document, below your name and contact details.
You may also include the following components in your CV profiles:
Professional profile heading: Use the heading "Professional Profile" or a relevant title to introduce your statement. You may also title it, "Career Objectives," "Personal Statement" or "Profile Statement."
Skills heading: This is an optional component of your CV profile, but it allows employers to understand your qualifications for the position.
Bulleted list of skills: Include a bulleted skills list under the "Skills" heading where you can introduce relevant skills along with your current certifications. Structure this section to include groupings of three or four bullet points that take up horizontal space.
Related: Q&A: What Is a CV Profile?
2. Add quantifiable statements
Similar to a resume, show employers what you have accomplished in your career and your current and previous job responsibilities when describing your achievements by quantifying your impact. Quantifiable statements can help employers determine the work ethic and passion you can bring to their business. Including numbers to your accomplishments can provide validity to your claims, and it may show hiring managers if you exceed goals and expectations regularly.
For example, rather than saying, "I coordinated events while overseeing a team of event specialists," try saying, "I coordinated over 200 events while overseeing a team of 15 event specialists."
3. Ensure your CV is two or more pages
CVs encourage professionals to discuss their experiences and qualifications in-depth, meaning it's suggested you exceed more than a page compared to a resume. Using two pages is effective if you're in the beginning stages of your career, and you may focus more on your academic experiences and achievements. If you're an experienced professional who has held multiple jobs, achieved several certifications or completed numerous volunteer hours, use the CV's length expectations to your advantage and aim between two to four pages.
4. Create multiple CVs for different roles
Create multiple documents for different areas of your expertise. For example, if you have experience working as a history professor, but you also have experience as a researcher and author, consider creating three different CVs highlighting each area of relevant expertise. If you wish to pursue writing jobs, create a CV specifically showcasing your previous educational experiences and jobs that qualify you for a writing position. This enhancement tactic allows you to organize your various skills and credentials to discuss them in greater detail.
5. Revise fonts and formats
Consider revising the overall format of your CV for a more engaging presence. Review your fonts and determine how you can professionally incorporate two to three complementary fonts to add more distinction to your sections. Some standard professional fonts include Times New Roman, Calibri, Avenir and Helvetica, while individuals may use other fonts like Courier, Futura and Comic Sans in creative and decorative circumstances. Consider choosing a sans-serif font and a serif font, one for the heading and one for the body to add a visual appeal.
Additionally, review the amount of white space in your CV. Restructure your document so each section fills any excessive white spaces you may have on your page. You can do this by centering headings and making horizontal lists. Make sure the margins are about 0.5 - 1 inch.
6. Summarize what you learned from each experience
Summarizing what you have learned from past roles is optional, but it can be beneficial to increase page length while showing employers your specific skills, habits and lessons learned. For example, if you're applying for a marketing manager position, you may include, "In my time as a marketing manager at Clawson Marketing Solutions, I developed an understanding of inbound marketing strategies and how these methods may invoke cost-saving initiatives within larger campaigns."
Hiring managers can review the statements of what you have learned from previous experience and determine how you can apply those skills to benefit their company. Additionally, you may find including this section helpful if you're gaining experiences in the early stages of your career.
7. Remove references to create more space for experiences
Consider removing references you may have included for past jobs. You can give these references to an employer as a separate document along with your CV if they request it. Eliminating your references can give you more room to expand on your relevant experiences. If you wish to keep your references, you can also simplify your recommendation section to include the name, relationship and contact details for two or more references. Additionally, double-check with your references that they still consent to you using them as a reference.
Here's an example of a simplified reference list:
Relationship: Former supervisor
8. Shorten paragraphs for enhanced readability
It's important to make your paragraphs small, between two to three sentences. Brief sections are more appealing and can make it easier for employers to skim through your qualifications. You can also shorten paragraphs by transforming written lists into a bulleted format where appropriate.
For example, instead of saying: "I learned how to communicate better with teammates, prioritize time management and develop problem-solving skills," you could say something like, "From my role as a project manager, I learned to:
Streamline communication with teammates
Prioritize time management
Develop problem-solving skills"
9. Incorporate CV keywords
Keywords may improve the chances of an employer selecting it over other similar professionals. Review the job posting for a company's desired candidate skills and qualifications list and include the ones you possess on your document. For example, a civil engineer job posting may express the requirement for dedicated, spirited and experienced professionals in physics and geology. Use the keywords "dedicated" and "energetic" in your CV profile and highlight physics and geology under your skills.
If the employer uses an applicant tracking system (ATS), the company programs the system to select applications that include relevant words and phrases from the job description.
10. Use action words
Using action words on your CV is essential because they provide clear and concise statements to summarize your experiences and abilities. Action words help encourage the reader to move quickly throughout your document, which can help the hiring managers skim through and determine if you're a qualified candidate. Here are some action words to consider using on your CV:
11. Include impressive skills and achievements
Including impressive skills and achievements on your CV may help the hiring managers understand what makes you different from other professionals with similar backgrounds. Consider including your abilities and accomplishments that might not be as common among professionals. These credentials may help you find more success in your job search or gain new opportunities to expand your career. Here are some examples of impressive skills and achievements you may include on your document:
First aid abilities
Commercial awareness skills
Internal and external negotiation abilities
Data protection skills
12. Add additional sections as needed
If you have other accomplishments and abilities you wish to detail in your CV, consider adding additional sections to highlight them. New categories can help you expand your document's length to the appropriate amount, which might be helpful if you're still in the starting stages of your career. Here are some additional sections you may incorporate into your CV:
Academic or professional achievements
13. Consider using a template
To help you with organization, consider using a CV template. A template can help you add in your information to the existing structure, allowing you to customize it where needed. Using a template may also help you focus more on articulating your information well and less on the formatting elements because it's already pre-determined for you. Additionally, templates may help you save time when enhancing your documents, especially if you have multiple CVs.
14. Proofread your document
Be sure to proofread your CV for grammar, spelling, and punctuation before submitting it with a job application. You might notice mistakes and make corrections to improve the quality of your document. You can also print out a copy of your CV to look for mistakes, install a software program invented to catch errors or have someone else read over your CV to identify potential mistakes.
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