How to Write a CV

By 12 July 2018 No Comments

Welcome to CV 101! Let me take you through a step by step guide to constructing a CV that is a cogent and appealing representation of your career path.


Basic Information

  • Your full name, the city and country you currently live in, your contact details (phone number, email and skype ID), and your LinkedIn URL.
  • Unnecessary Information: A photo of yourself, your age, your marital status or whether you have children, any religious affiliations, or any other extraneous information.


  • This section is a brief outline of why you have the right expertise for the job. Write a synopsis of your career path that is tailored to the role you are applying for.
  • State how many years of relevant experience you have.
  • Highlight the areas in which you have excelled and your achievements.
  • Use applicable key keywords from the job specification.
  • Can be a short paragraph or bullet points.
  • Do not write a laundry list of skills or a long paragraph of everything you can do. Keep it to five or six of your most impressive points.
  • If you are having trouble with this section, ask a colleague what they think your strengths and achievements are.

Professional Experience

  • Chronology of your working history listed from most recent to least.
  • Clearly state your job title, the organisation, the location of the role, and the dates (month and year) you worked there.
  • Don’t just list the duties you performed. Be analytical. Write concise bullet points of your achievements and where you excelled. Again, no laundry list of skills. Write about what you are good at and the skills that show you have the expertise needed for the role.
  • You do not need to list every consultancy you’ve ever undertaken, only the most relevant and only briefly.


  • List your highest degree first.
  • Include the qualification you obtained, the name of the institution, the location, and the year you completed it.
  • Any accomplishments or accolades, in brief.
  • You do not need to include every training course you’ve been on, only those that are directly applicable to the role you’re applying for.


  • Only provide a list of your publications if the job specification requires it.

Volunteer Experience

  • Concise bullet points of volunteer positions that are relevant to the role you are applying for.
  • Include only pertinent details and accomplishments.


Grammatically correct and easy to read prose is as important as showcasing your career path. Channel Ernest Hemingway when you write a CV. Write short, simple sentences in active tense. Avoid passive tense. No flowery adjectives.

  • Use simple fonts – kooky, old-fashioned or quirky fonts (looking at you, comic sans) are only a distraction. And keep the same font throughout.
  • Small font sizes make for recruiters with sore eyes. Nothing smaller than 11 point font, please!
  • Be liberal with white space. Each section should be clearly delineated and readable.
  • Use bold and italics sparingly, ideally only for headings.
  • Bullet points are great! Keep paragraphs short and to the point.
  • Use consistent margins and spacing between sentences and sections.
  • Any formatting you use must make it easier to read and be used consistently throughout.
  • Correct spelling and grammar are crucial. Have someone proofread it for you. Use Grammarly or another writing application to check for spelling and grammatical issues.
  • Your CV should be between two and three pages in length. No more than four, if necessary.

Additional Considerations

  • Have a copy in Word and PDF. Follow the application instructions for which document type to upload or send.
  • If you want to use a design programme to create a CV with graphics and better formatting than Word can offer, follow the same guidelines and make sure it’s not too cluttered with graphics. Any colours should be muted and used judiciously – no acid green or punk rock pink. A simple black font is best.
  • Information on your LinkedIn profile should be the same as on your CV.
  • Only apply for roles where you meet most of the criteria. The most perfectly written CV in the world won’t get you an interview for a job that you are not qualified for.

The Cardinal Rules of CV Writing

  • Keep it short, simple and easy to read.
  • Be consistent.
  • Typo-free and grammatically correct.
  • Write to your audience: clearly and concisely provide information that illustrates how you meet the job specification.
Jamie Phillips

Jamie Phillips

Jamie joined Oxford HR in 2015, and has experience recruiting experts in International Development for private sector development, finance, environment and climate change, agriculture and agribusiness, food security, health, and economic development.