Formatting a Curriculum Vitae (With Tips and Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 August 2020

Having a curriculum vitae (CV) is the first and vital step in the process of applying for a new job. Your CV needs to be readable and present your educational and professional achievements in a lucid and organised manner. You can use either a chronological, functional or combined format to lay out your information. In this article, we will discuss how to use a CV as a tool to introduce your skills and achievements to a potential employer.

Why is a curriculum vitae valuable?

A curriculum vitae, commonly known as a CV, is a professional document prepared to illustrate your personal details, history of academic achievements and work experience. Your CV needs to be arranged logically and clearly. There are three widely used formats that are generally favoured by employers: chronological, functional and combined.

You can also include details of any scholarships and grants received, awards won and special commendations obtained. Other information worthy of inclusion in your CV are references to professional achievements like details of important projects undertaken, fieldwork and testimonials specific to your career. Additionally, you can include interests or attributes, skill sets and extracurricular feats on a personal level that may have a bearing on your professional life.

What to include in your CV

Here is a list of some key information your CV should reflect:

  • Contact details: Give your personal details including your full name, permanent and temporary addresses, mobile number, email address and social media handles, if needed. LinkedIn is a standard inclusion these days.

  • Academic background**:** Share details of all academic qualifications from high school onwards, including college, doctoral, post-doctoral and other specialisations. Remember to specify the name of the school, university or institution, the name of the degree or the title and the year of graduation.

  • Qualifications and skill sets: This is where you list the skill sets acquired during your career. These can be both hard and soft skills that are relevant.

  • Work experience**:** Document your work experience starting from your first job onwards, giving the name of the organisations, titles held and the tenure of your employment. Supplement it with a brief but concise summary of your work responsibilities and achievements.

  • Awards and recognitions: Detail the awards, recognitions and honours you received during your various stints. Spell out the organisation that conferred the award, the title, the year of receipt and any other information that distinguishes the recognition.

  • Certifications and licenses: As with the awards, mention the name of the organisations that gave the certificate or licence, the name of the certification, the year you received it and any other information, if required.

  • Scholarships and grants**:** Again, share the name of the scholarship or grant, the institution that awarded it and when it was conferred.

  • Published works and presentations**:** For any works published, provide a brief summary along with the citation, including co-authors (if any), the date and other information like page numbers and volume. For presentations, mention the venue it was presented at, the date and the title.

  • Professional associations and memberships: Provide the organisation's name, the specific zone, chapter or location and the dates the membership is valid.

CV formats

All three types of curriculum vitae are similar in the categories shared in them. The difference between the CVs is in the order in which information is displayed. The different formats are:

  • Chronological

  • Functional

  • Combination

Chronological

As the name suggests, this is a timeline in the order it happened. The chronological style is the most commonly used. It makes for easy reading beginning with personal details, academic qualifications and then professional achievements. This format is also helpful for the reviewer to determine a candidate's eligibility.

The chronological format works best for those who have a steady work history that can show continued progress in a linear manner. Here is a recommended outline:

  • Contact details

  • Academic background

  • Professional experience

  • Qualifications and skill sets

  • Awards and recognitions

  • Published works and presentations

  • Scholarships and grants

  • Certificates and licenses

  • Professional association and memberships

Functional

A functional CV focuses on the skill set and the aptitude of the candidate. If you think your skills outweigh the experience you have, go for this format. Here, the spotlight is on your qualifications, additional recognition like awards, honours and a proven record of your skills.

This format suits anyone who wants to bring attention to their functional competence over work experience. Ideally, this format works best for the newly graduated or those with a break in their career. This also works in cases of a switch in profiles or even industry mid-career. Include details such as:

  • Contact details

  • Qualifications and skill sets

  • Awards and recognitions

  • Academic background

  • Professional experience

  • Published works and presentations

  • Scholarships and grants

  • Certificates and licenses

  • Professional association and memberships

Combination

This is the hybrid approach to creating your CV, combining the chronological format with the functional. This becomes necessary when you need to give equal weight to your academic merits and work experience. You can choose the dominant content and improvise the sequence of the listing depending on your requirements. This gives you the flexibility to choose between functional expertise or the details of your work experience so you can structure your CV accordingly.

To illustrate the point, here are two scenarios. If you're fresh out of university with a prestigious degree and applying for an entry-level job as a researcher, you can choose to go with functional first and follow up with any experience you might have gained on a college project. But, if you have solid work experience and are applying for a senior or even supervisory job, choose to go the chronological way.

Tips for writing a good CV

Here are some best practices for getting the format, and thereby the effect, of your CV right:

  • Use a readable font type and size

  • Crosscheck the margins

  • Use space effectively

  • Ensure impeccable writing quality

Use a readable font type and size

One of the most critical points in making your CV readable is choosing the right font type and opting for the right size. Anyone who picks up your CV should find it legible and easy to read.

Among the main font categories, serif fonts have a slightly more artistic touch to them. Fonts in the serif category are known for their flourishes that are noticeable in, say, a Times New Roman, Georgia or Courier. These tend to distract and, therefore, are far from ideal. Instead, stick to the conventional font category of sans-serif that includes the more readable Arial, Geneva and Helvetica fonts, to name a few.

Once you choose the right font, remember to get the size right too. Keep your text size between 10 and 12 points to make the overall copy readable.

Crosscheck the margins

As with the font and size, margins can be another factor that improves readability. Make sure you leave between 2.5 to 3.5 centimetres, which is optimal for easy reading. This will help ensure the empty white space is neither overwhelming nor too small, which could make the page look too cramped.

Use space effectively

Another crucial factor in getting the format right is the best use of space. If you are experienced enough and have much to include in your CV, make sure your content is spaced out well to improve legibility.

To achieve this, there are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Avoid cramping the content by opting for bullet lists that help separate individual points like the list of certifications done or awards received.

  • Use section headers to separate your points by going for a larger font, using bold or italics or even underlining content.

  • Add a differentiating touch to separate certain portions by using bold or italics to make an impact.

Ensure impeccable writing quality

Finally, it is vital that everything you have written in your CV is of the highest standard. Ensure the basics like spelling and grammar are free of any errors. Also, make sure the readability is further enhanced with the correct syntax, apt vocabulary and a simple yet concise style of writing. This also helps to project you as capable and professional.

The idea behind crafting an ideal CV is to promote yourself in the best light to anyone considering your candidature. With a well-written and perfectly formatted CV, you might well have a better chance of landing that dream job.

CV example

Take a look at the sample below to create your own CV:

*Sa****muel Lopez***

25 Mnimbah Road, Northbridge, NSW 2063

0238967528**, sam.lopez@email.com

Education

Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering, 2010

University of New South Wales

Experience

Northrop Consulting Engineers

Head of Business Development 2015–Current

  • Heading a team of business development managers.

  • Performing strategic due diligence in mergers and acquisitions

  • Coordinating and supporting integration planning, tracking and processes for new acquisitions

  • Creating investment proposals with supporting analysis

AutoNova Corp

Manager, Corporate Strategy and Operations 2011-2015

  • Coordinated with client management team and external consultants in financial due diligence

  • Managed accounting due diligence pertaining to targets for acquisitions

  • Prepared client reports on acquisitions and disposals

  • Analysed vendor financial statements to determine merger target's ability to successfully perform services

Skills

Project coordination

Mergers and acquisitions

Fluent in English and Spanish

Awards and Honours

Mechanical College Awards

Sir George Julius Medal, 2017

Licenses and Certifications

Certificate in Engineering Design Skills, 2012

Association for Applied Engineering

Grants and Scholarships

The AGM Michell Grant for Mechanical Engineering, 2009

National Committee on Engineering Design