How to write a Curriculum Vitae: Learn the basics of CV writing

basics cv writing

When you are applying for a job, one of the first things you have do is to write a Curriculum Vitae (CV). A CV is a document that gives an overview of your personal professional information. Your CV is the first thing most recruiters and hiring managers will check, therefore this document is often the first impression you will make when you are applying for a job. That’s why writing your CV is one of the most crucial steps towards your new dream job.

The 3 core elements of the Curriculum Vitae

1. Personal details / Contact details

Always make sure that the recruiter or hiring manager can contact you. The following information should be included in this section:

– Name

– Address

– Email address

– Phone number

2. Work history

Your work history is in most cases the most important section of your Curriculum Vitae. As soon as you have your first real job, you have to put your working history section on top of your CV and your education section second. Write your work history reverse chronological, start with your latest experience and end it with the oldest. Using bullet points to sum up your responsibilities and tasks will keep your CV easy to read.

The following information should be included in your work history overview:

– Job title

– Company name

– Location, mentioning the city is sufficient (you can mention state / country when relevant)

– Date range of the employment (month + year)

– Short job description; relevant responsibilities, tasks and achievements

3. Education / Courses

Start your information about your education with the most recent diploma or certificate. Do not forget to include relevant courses you have followed after you graduated. It is important to show that you have been keeping your knowledge and skills up to date.

Include this information for each diploma or course:

– Degree obtained / Diploma title

– School or Institution and its location

– Year you graduated / completed the course

Other elements of the Curriculum Vitae

Besides the three core elements there are several elements that you can add to your CV. Not all of these elements are mandatory but you can select the elements that are relevant for your job application.

  • Personal Profile

We at GoSumo always recommend to write a short personal profile or a personal statement on your CV. A personal profile gives you the opportunity to summarize your experience, your character, your most relevant personal skills and/or your ambition. Use the personal profile as your elevator pitch at the top of your CV. Keep it short, just a couple of sentences is sufficient.

  • Objective

If you want to state your ambition on your CV you can write a short section called “objective” instead of a personal profile.

  • Skills

To emphasize the skills you have mastered over the years you can add a skills sections to your CV. You can add interpersonal skills to this sections but make sure to select the skills that are relevant for the job you are applying for. Most job posts will have some necessary skills mentioned in the job description. Make sure to add these to your skills sections when they are applicable to you (e.g. Computer skills, language skills etc).

  • Special Achievements / Certificates / Awards

When you have significant achievements to mention, like awards and honors, medals or certificates, you can add them to your CV. Add this section to your CV only if the achievements are relevant for the job or demonstrate positive interpersonal skill.

  • Personal Interests

If you want to show more about your personality on your CV, you can add your hobbies, sports and personal interests to your CV. Besides giving more insight in your personality , personal interests can demonstrate personal skills that are relevant for the job you’re applying for.

  • Extra-Curricular Activities: Volunteer work / community involvement

If you have done any volunteer work, we recommend to put this experience on your CV as well. Describe the work and tasks you have done and the organization/community you have done this for and the period of time you have done this work. Community involvement might not only have given you relevant skills for the job, it also gives a positive impression of your personality.

Other general CV writing rules

Besides all these elements there are some other general rules to keep in mind when you are writing your Curriculum Vitae.

Keep it short: A one page CV is considered to be best practice, a second page is acceptable for people with a long work history, but try to keep your information short and easy to read. Hiring managers and recruiters want to be able to scan your CV in a couple of seconds. To keep things short, you have to consider the relevancy of every bit of information on your CV. Only use the information that is relevant for the job you are applying to.

No typos: It goes without saying that your CV should be without any spelling or grammar mistakes. Don’t just trust the spell checker on your computer. Proof read your CV several times and ask a friend to proof read as well, just to make sure you will spot all the little mistakes.

Easy to read: Keep your CV lay-out clear. Divide your elements in clear sections with a bold title header for each element. Make sure to use white space between the every piece of information. Try not to cram too much text on your page and avoid using a tiny font to make it all fit.


These are the most basic rules for writing a CV. There is always a lot of debate about what a CV should look like, what should be in the CV, how long should a CV be, and how it should be written. Unfortunately not all of these rules and tips are applicable for every candidate, every job type or for every company you are applying to. You will have to consider your personal circumstances and the job you are applying for to decide which rules and tips to follow. If you want our opinion on several other CV tips, you can check our other posts as well. If you want to create a CV with a clear lay-out that stands out from other CV’s, check our CV templates.

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