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CVs - Getting started

The purpose of a CV is to get you an interview. It needs to show what you can do, and why you're a good fit for an employer. Learn more about what your CV should look like, and what information to include.

Contents:

Key things to keep in mind
Which CV style to choose
Things to consider depending on your employment history

Key things to keep in mind:

  • Employers may take just 15-20 seconds to initially scan your CV, so it needs to be well organised and clearly set out. If you make a good first impression, they will read your CV more closely.
  • Tailor your CV for each job. This means making sure your CV highlights the key skills, experience and achievements that are relevant to the job you are applying for. Look at the job advertisement for clues on what an employer is looking for.
  • Use plain, simple language in a business-like tone. Avoid clichés, and jargon and abbreviations that might be unfamiliar to an employer.
  • Look at the job advertisement and reflect the words used in the job description. If it talks about 'personnel', use the word 'personnel' rather than human resources.
  • Avoid long sentences – bullet points and key phrases keep the word count down and your CV looking tidy.
  • Do a thorough spell check before sending off your CV and have someone read over it to check for mistakes.
  • An application for a job should always include both a CV and a cover letter.
  • When emailing a CV, make sure it is in a very simple file format, such as a Word doc. If in doubt, email your CV and cover letter as a PDF.

Parts of a CV
Find out about the sections that make up a CV and what information to include in each of them.
Contents:
What your CV should include
Name and contact details
Personal statement
Skills
Work history
Education
Achievements
Interests and hobbies
Referees
Next steps once you've created your CV
Find out more
What your CV should include

Typically a CV contains all or most of the sections listed below:

Name and contact details
Personal statement
Skills
Work history
Achievements
Education
Interests and hobbies
Referees.
What sections you include in your CV and the order in which you display them largely comes down to your work history and personal preference.

However: name and contact details are essential a personal profile is recommended
though including both a skills section and a work history section is recommended, depending on your circumstances choosing one or the other is acceptable (see the work history and the skills sections below) listing your education is essential

the achievements section and interests and hobbies section are optional
you must either include referees in your CV or note that referees are available on request.
The way in which you order these sections is usually as listed above. However, you can put emphasis on your skills or your work history by placing either of these sections at the front of your CV, after your personal statement. 

Work-focused CV
Skills-focused CV.
Find out more about CV styles

Things to consider depending on your employment history

Name and contact details

Include:

first and last name (this should be in a large bolded font)
phone number (preferably a landline and cell phone)
email address
physical postal address, including area code.
If you have an online work profile, such as LinkedIn, put it here as well.

Personal statement

The personal statement is a paragraph or two about yourself that comes directly after your contact details. It is up to you whether you include a personal statement in your CV.

The personal statement gives the employer a little insight into who you are. It typically includes information such as:

what you are currently doing for employment or education
what it is about the job you are applying for that attracted you to it 
your reason for wanting to change jobs
your career aspirations.
It is important to tailor your CV for each job you apply for.

The personal statement is usualy an employers first impression of who you are, so don't be shy – sell yourself. But remember to keep it concise – three or four sentences will usually do.

Skills

If you're creating a skills-focused CV, listing your skills is essential. If you decide a work-focused CV better highlights your strengths, you might want to keep the skills section to a minimum, or not include one at all.

List at least three or four skill headings (in a bolded font) with examples of how you have demonstrated each of them (typically listed a bullet points below the heading). Skill headings can include transferable skills such as:

leadership
teamwork
planning.
Or more specific skills such as:

customer service
sales and marketing
machine operating.
You can write these headings as key words, as listed above, or as phrases:

excellent leadership skills
strong customer service and sales ability
skilled heavy machinery operator.
It's best to stick to one heading format – don't jump between key words and phrases as this will look untidy.

Under each skill heading, identify how you have demonstrated the skill:

Confident and able communicator

member of Southwest High School senior debating team
chaired the Mount Gibson neighbourhood watch committee for two years.
Find out more about what skills to include in your CV
 
Work history

List your most recent job and work back. Start by stating when you held the position, the job title/position, the name of the employer and where the job was located.

Beneath this, list the tasks you performed. You can also list any notable achievements you accomplished.

How much information you include about each job you list will depend on what type of CV you have chosen.

Find out what CV style is best for you

Skills-focused CV work history example

If you have decided to create a skills-focused CV, you may just want a few bullet points briefly illustrating some of the key skills required of the role:

July 2012 – August 2013
Counter assistant, USA

 Responsibilities:

customer service
replenishing stock
coffee making
cash handling.
Work-focused CV example

However, if you're creating a work-focused CV you might want to provide more detail. You can include an introductory sentence giving a brief description of the role, followed by more detailed bullet points outlining your responsibilities and achievements:

January 2012 – July 2013
Sale assistant, USA

FonesRus is an independent mobile phone retailer specialising in budget smartphones. My job was primarily customer focused, but also involved stock purchasing. 

Strengths and achievements:

excellent customer service skills
keeping up to date with the latest in mobile phone technology
overseeing a major contract to supply mobile phones to a large nationwide media company
negotiating with Fujimatrix for FonesRus to be the official Wellington distributors of their products.
Education

It is important to include your education and qualifications in your CV. It should be listed after your work history or skills, depending on what style of CV you are creating.

If you have no formal qualifications, you can just list the school/schools you went to and the years you attended.

Start with your most recent qualification and work back. Include:

the name of the course or qualification you completed
the training institute you attended and the city it is located in
the start and finish date that you undertook the course or qualification.
 You can also include:

a  brief description of the qualification and any projects, thesis or dissertation work related to the job you are applying for.
the subjects you took and the grades you achieved, if you are a recent school lever.
professional development courses you have undertaken, including conferences and workshops, if you feel they add to your job application.
Achievements

Include an achievements section in your CV if you feel there are noteworthy successes you have not covered in the skills or work history sections of your CV.

You can include things such as awards, successfully completed projects, commendations, or examples of how you helped a former employer meet their targets.

For each example, note what the achievement was and when and where you achieved it.

Interests and hobbies

The information you include in this section should be kept to just a few sentences.

It is best to include interests that demonstrate skills or abilities that an employer may be looking in an employee.

For instance, including coaching sports shows leadership qualities and being involved in a kapa haka group shows you can work as part of a team.

It is best to avoid generic interests like reading, going out with friends or watching TV, as they do not add much to the picture of yourself you are creating for an employer.

It's OK to add some individuality, but keep in mind CVs are formal documents.

Referees

Referees provide an employer with further insight into your skills, work history and personality. They can be a former employer, coach, teacher, or any credible person who will support your job application. Family members and friends do not make the best referees, as employers may question their impartiality.

Referee contact details should include:

their first and last names
their position
their relationship to you (for instance, high school teacher, former employer)
contact details (phone number and email address are usually enough).
It's important to contact each referee to let them know they are appearing on your CV and may be called upon to supply a reference. Provide your referees with some context about the job you are going for – to give them some background information, provide them with a copy of the job advertisement.

If you do not want to add referees to your CV, include the line 'referees available on request' at the end of your CV. This does not mean you can do without them altogether – referees are important and it is likely employers will want to contact them.

Next steps once you've created your CV

1. Do a spell check

If you have created your CV using Careers New Zealand's CV Builder, click on the 'save to my computer' link on the Save and Preview page to save your CV as a word document. This will allow you to save your CV, as well as make any additional formatting changes.

2. Get someone to check your CV

Having a second set of eyes read over your CV is important. It's far too easy to miss errors/issues with a document you created yourself.

3. Write your cover letter 

You should always include both a CV and a cover letter as part of a job application. Click on the link below to find out more about writing a cover letter.