4- General CV writing tips

General CV Writing Tips

Provided by: Maamoun Salam, Bilal Khawam.
Last updated: 13/7/2007

  • Some Guidelines and What You Might Include
  • What makes a CV stand out?
  • What should you leave out?
  • Why are CVs rejected?

Some Guidelines and What You Might Include

o These days you can write your CV in the first person (i.e. I have) or the third person (i.e. he/she has). However, you do not need to use 'I', 'he' or 'she' in a CV because its use is implied.

o Do mention things you are good at, but do not go over the top. You can oversell yourself.

o Don't mention things that you are bad at or say negative things about yourself in your CV.

o Make sure that the CV you write conjures up the right image of you and your skills, capabilities and achievements. Truthfulness is very important in writing CVs or any official application, if you do not match the picture you have painted with your CV at the interview, then your application will not be taken further.

o Be careful when you use abbreviations - they can be misunderstood.

o If you are not happy with your CV or you only seem to get rejection letters, then please get a professional CV writing service to write it for you. Yes, you will have to pay for it. But, it could save you a lot of time, lead to you getting less rejection letters and hopefully you should get an interview that much quick.

o Titles and duties say nothing about performance. Tell the residency director what you can bring to the program that is unique and worthy of consideration.

o Quantify what you are "selling" by actual projects done, services performed, or papers published.

o Use underline and italics carefully.

o Conservative approach is key.

o Be consistent in your format. If your listing is in reverse chronologic order, then all sections of the CV should be that way. Don't switch back and forth. I would recommend listing them in reverse chronological order as your most recent accomplishments are usually more relevant than something done in college.

o Do NOT lie about what you have done or your background / hobbies / interests - be able to substantiate your claims in all aspects of the application process. (This is obvious.)

o Once you have figured out the content of your CV, work with the arrangement to achieve visual balance to the page. Spacing around the page should be approximately 1". Make it look "clean" and legible, not cluttered.
o Although it should not be perfectly symmetrical, your CV should appear balanced at first glance.

o Yes, it's true. The first page gets the longest look; however, don't break your neck trying to fit everything on one page. Carefully select what you want to put on page one.

o Some categories listed on the examples may not be applicable to you. Simply ignore those categories and include relevant ones in your CV.

o Unusual experiences should not be ignored. If appropriate, list under Extracurricular Activities, Projects, or Leadership Experience.

Some other things to include, in addition to the usual stuff:

o Volunteer activities and memberships
o Computer skills
o Special Projects and assignments
o Seminars and workshops attended
o Unique Externships
o Pager/voice/fax/e-mail/web page address

o Remember to be descriptive

- When describing your background, be descriptive, use numbers and paint a broad range of your experience.
- For example, compare the following section from Sandra's before curriculum vitae. It is representative of what the rest of her C.V. looked like.

Professional Goal: Nurse Practitioner in rural setting.

Education: June 1996 -- Bachelor of Science in Nursing, University of Utah

Employment: August 1972 – Present
Staff Nurse - Duties include primary care of patients.
Harborview Medical Center

June 1988 - August 1990
Staff Nurse - Member of the IV Team.
Harborview Medical Center

Now compare the after curriculum vitae, shown below, after taking care of the descriptive way of writing CV. Which one does a better job of pulling together the best of Sandra's qualifications for acceptance into a Nurse Practitioner program? This program specialized in training of Nurse Practitioners for rural community service.

Objective and Summary of Qualifications

Seeking acceptance into a Nurse Practitioner Program with goal of providing rural community service utilizing my extensive primary background.

Over 18 years Registered Nursing experience includes

• Providing full-range of nursing care to patients and families of all ages from economically and culturally diverse populations.
• Management in a department serving over 30,000 patients annually.
• Training and supervising over 40 R.N.'s; assuming direct responsibility for total patient care; narcotics control, assessment and risk management.
• Bachelor of Science in Nursing with Honors, University of Utah 1972

As you can see, Sandra's after C.V. starts off much stronger and summarizes her top skills at a glance. You may be thinking, "But, I don't have any valuable work experience." If that's true, then follow a similar strategy but instead list whatever academic, volunteer or extra curricular activities that form a foundation of skills or knowledge that relate to and support your objective. The section from Sandra's C.V. shown above was then followed by many of the topics listed earlier on this page.
When applying to academic programs it's wise to analyze the program's brochures and look for key words and phrases to integrate into your C.V. These same strategies should be applied when preparing a C.V. for internal promotions or employment.