Composing A Well-Written CV

Composing a Well-Written CV. A CV is essentially the first impression. Employers cannot possibly meet every candidate, so your CV is effectively the first round of interviews. No matter how knowledgeable or charming you might be in real life, if that doesn’t come to life on paper, you may miss out. A well-written CV should, therefore, showcase your key skills, strengths, and achievements to potential employers clearly and succinctly.

There are three style options when writing a CV:

  • Chronological: The chronological style is the most widely used and should demonstrate increasing job responsibility and consistent progress throughout your career so far.
  • Functional: However, if you’re switching from one field to another, a functional CV might be a better alternative, as it shifts the focus from previous job positions and employment dates to transferable skills. But be aware that potential employers can be wary of functional CVs, as it is difficult to follow an employment record.
  • A mix of both.

The five-second rule

Unless you are applying for a very senior position, chances are that your CV is one of the hundreds that the company has received.  In such a situation, the person going through the CVs will likely look for a few important criteria and keywords rather than reading the whole document. You, therefore, need to make sure that you have the most relevant information upfront and don’t include anything unnecessary that may distract the reader.

Your most recent work experience should generally be at the top. Feel free to highlight certain things that you want to pop out in bold. When formatting your CV, try to ensure that it is equally effective when reviewed for five seconds as well as for five minutes.

The right length

The best length for a CV is two A4-sized pages, which should highlight all previous positions and responsibilities. If you are just out of college, a single page may be enough but try to avoid any space at the bottom. For example, if you have 1.5 pages worth of information, edit to cover a single page or two full pages.

Longer CVs might also be acceptable and are sometimes necessary, but exceeding three pages is generally not recommended. The length is sometimes affected by the way the content of the CV is organised. Bullet points and numbering are advised as opposed to using whole blocks of text to make it easier to read. It’s also recommended that CVs be written in the ‘third person’ form, as it’s more formal and professional.

CV content

  • Full name
  • Address and Contact details
  • Employment history, including company name, job title, employment dates, main duties and responsibilities and noteworthy achievements (focusing on the most recent roles only),
  • Professional qualifications (including those that are ongoing with anticipated completion dates)
  • Education (New graduates should list key academic achievements)
  • Brief personal profile
  • Other relevant information e.g. language skills, IT skills

Some people also include their age or date of birth, but that is very culture-specific. For international roles, your nationality and residency status may also be relevant.


When emailing the CV ensure the attached file is saved as your full name (and not ‘CV’) to prevent loss by the potential employer. The CV should be in black on white in a professional-looking font like Arial or Times New Roman (11 or 12-point font size). Formatting such as bold or italics should be used for major headings.

Tailoring the CV

CVs should be tailored for each job application, matching the profile to the job description. Some people maintain two or three different versions of their CVs, each highlighting different skills or projects for different kinds of roles.

Reviewing the CV

Proofread thoroughly for grammatical, spelling, or typographical errors. It’s usually a good idea to run your CV past some colleagues or friends who may spot mistakes more easily.

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