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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.
"Everybody who is going for a job needs a CV. The point of the CV is to get you an interview. Think of it as a one-page marketing document. It needs to tell an employer what skills and attitudes you have that are relevant to the job you’re applying for, as well as a bit about you."
Sarah McIndoe, Career Consultant
What should you include in your CV?
There are only a few things which are a must to include in your CV, such as your name, your contact details, your skills and your education. Whatever else you include, and how you present it, depends on the job you are applying for, and what type of CV you are creating. The CVs on this site come under three categories: functional, chronological, and a combination of those two styles.
What can you include in your CV?
Your name and contact details
Along with your name and address, include an appropriately named email address that you use regularly. If you have online work information, such as a LinkedIn profile, put it here as well. Also include a phone number, preferably a home number.
A short paragraph of 30 to 50 words stating what you currently do and where you want your career to go.
If you’re creating a functional CV, listing your skills is essential. Use major skill groupings according to the work areas you have experience in – for example, communication, leadership, or teamwork. Try to identify what you did, the setting in which this activity was carried out, and what was achieved. Make sure that these skills are true to you. Don’t exaggerate just to impress employers. Include:
- transferable skills – skills you already have that can be applied in your new work situation
- job-specific skills – skills that the job requires.
Find out more
- Skills employers are looking for
- Complete the Know Your Skills online module
- Figure out your skills exercise - helps you select and give examples of your skills
If you are creating a chronological CV, your work history will be the main focus of your CV. List your most recent experience first. Include your job title, the tasks and skills you performed in the role, any notable achievements, and how long you were in the role.
Work history can include work that is part-time, voluntary or self-employed.
- The date of employment can either be monthly or yearly, depending on how specific you want to be.
- Adding a reason for leaving older jobs can show motivation and a distinct career path.
- Work history can include any sort of work or employment, be it part-time, voluntary or self-employed.
It is important to include education and qualifications in your CV. They should be listed after your work history or skills, depending on what type of CV you are creating.
- Include the name of the course or qualification you completed, the institution you attended and the year(s) of attendance.
- Start with your most recent education first.
- Include any special projects, thesis, or dissertation work that is related to the job you are applying for.
- If you are just starting work, include secondary school courses if they are relevant to the job. Once you have been working for a few years, you do not need to include these.
- Include professional development courses you have undertaken, including conferences and workshops, if they relate to your job application.
Information about interests and actvities outside of work should be kept to a minimum. It is best to include interests that display skills or experience in relation to the job you are applying for. For example, including coaching sport may display leadership, or Kapa haka for teamwork.
It is okay to add some individuality, but remember that CVs are a formal document.
You should include the names of two or three referees on your CV. They may be people from work or former employers, a teacher, someone from your religious community, a sports coach, or any person who knows you well and can vouch for you.
Referee contact details should include a name, their status in relation to you (such as Manager at Working Life, or CEO of Careers New Zealand); a location, (such as Wellington – a full address is not usually necessary); and a phone number they can be reliably contacted on.
- If you have a written reference, include that at the back of your CV.
- Always make sure you contact your referees and let them know they are appearing on your CV, and may be called upon to give a reference.
- Some styles of CV do not include the details of referees, but instead state ‘Referees can be provided upon inquiry.’ There is nothing wrong with this, and it may provide you with an indication that you are at the next level of the hiring process. However for the convenience of the hirer, it is easier to have your referees pre-arranged and listed.
Creating the best CV for your work history or situation
What stage you are at in your career will affect what you should include in your employment history.
Are you applying for your first job?
If you are applying for your first job, a functional CV will best emphasise your potential as an employee. A functional CV will display your strengths and transferable skills that relate to the job you are applying for.
Use skills and experiences from your non-working life for your transferable skills. Any sports, volunteering, or practical experiences you have may contain transferable skills that relate to the job you are applying for.
Have you got a long work history?
Include the most relevant, recent experience. Jobs that you held more than 10 years ago can either be listed or covered briefly, emphasising what you learned.
Have you spent a long time working for one employer?
List the different positions you have held with your employer to clearly show how you progressed through the company. Explain what skills you learned in each role.
Have you been out of paid employment for a time?
If so, don’t include dates and times. Use a functional CV to display the skills and attributes that relate to the job you are applying for. If you do put in work history, display the dates you worked in years, rather than months.
Emphasise the positive things you have been doing with your time, such as helping to look after the family, travelling, job searching, doing up your house, or training. Highlight any new skills or qualifications you gained.
Are you returning to the workforce after full-time family work?
You will have developed a wide range of transferable skills while looking after your family. List these in your CV. Examples include: planning, decision making, budgeting, and organising.
What your CV should look like
Employers may take just 15 to 20 seconds to scan your CV, so it needs to be organised and well set out. If you make a good first impression, employers will read your CV more closely and critically.
How to structure your CV
- Organise your CV in sections (work history, skills, achievements, academic record) and order the sections in a way that best meets the requirements of the job vacancy.
- Keep the information to a bare minimum so that your CV can be skimmed quickly. Details, explanations and non-factual information can instead be included in the cover letter.
- Be consistent with formatting, font styles and sizes.
- Use spacing to create divisions between sections.
- Your CV should be no longer than two pages.
How to word your CV
- Use plain, simple language in a professional and business-like tone. Avoid jargon, clichés and abbreviations that might be unfamiliar to employers.
- Give enough detail to convince careful readers that you really have the skills you say you have.
- Avoid long descriptions and use lots of bullet points and key phrases.
- Do not use ‘I’ to refer to yourself – the subject of the CV is assumed to be the person named in the heading of the CV.
- Don’t put ‘curriculum vitae’ or ‘CV’ at the top of your CV, it is unnecessary.
- Check for any spelling and grammatical mistakes. Always get a friend, teacher or family member to read over your CV before you send it.
How to present your CV
- Use clean, white, or off-white, A4-sized paper.
- Leave plenty of space around the edges and a clear space between each paragraph or section.
- Keep borders and line divisions to a minimum, or even better, don’t use them at all.
- Use a plain font, such as Arial, or Times New Roman.
- Don’t include a title page unless one is specifically asked for.
- Make sure your CV is clean and free from crease before sending it out.
- Always attach a cover letter, even when emailing your CV. when emailing a CV, make sure it is in a very simple file format. Some CVs can arrive as a jumbled mess if the recipient does not have the same programs. If in doubt, email the CV in a PDF format.
Tips for a great CV
- Tailor your CV to each job. This means making sure your CV highlights the key skills, experience, and achievements you have that are listed in the job description, or are relevant to the job.
- Reflect the words used in the job description and job advertisement. If they talk about "personnel", use the word "personnel", rather than "human resources".
- Put your name and phone number in the footer of the CV as pages may get separated.
- Include skills such as being able to speak other languages, or having a driver's licence.
- Make everything in your CV positive. It should convey an image of you progressing confidently through your career.
- Regularly check to see that your referees are still happy to be on your CV. They'll appreciate you checking in, and they won't be caught off-guard if they get a call.