How to Write a Professional and Effective Curriculum Vitae

Your Curriculum Vitae should:

  • Make you stand out among your peers.
  • Provide potential employers with an accurate description of your background and training.
  • Compel hiring authorities to contact you for an in-person interview.
  • Serve as a reminder of your unique qualifications for the position after your interview is over.

All this is expected of an unbound, non-interactive, black and white, five- or six-page document. No wonder writing your CV can seem daunting!

Over the past two decades we have reviewed hundreds of thousands of CVs and have concluded that there are a handful of basic rules that make a CV effective.

RULE #1: Give your CV a voice and make it speak for you.

If you would not say it in a personal interview, do not put it in your CV. If you speak in a formal manner, write in a formal manner. If your style is more casual, allow that to come out in your CV. You would probably not tell someone to "please contact references cited in the addendum to this document" if you were handing them your CV, so why write that in your cover letter? Try to loosen up and write as you speak. Of course, this does not mean you should break grammatical rules or violate rules of good taste, but allowing a bit of your own personality to come out in your CV will make yours more memorable and more representative of who you are.

RULE #2: The most important thing about you is not your address.

The most important news story of the day is always placed in the upper right-hand corner of the front page of the newspaper. Radio and TV reporters refer to the most important news story of the day as the "top" story of the day. The top of the first page of your CV is prime real estate, so don't waste it. After your name, the most important information is not where you live, but how you can be contacted. If you do not want to be contacted at work, do not include that phone number. If you want to be called on your cell phone, list that just below your name.

RULE #3: The older it is, the less important it is.

This is true of both practice experience and education. Where you attended undergraduate school matters less to a potential employer than where you are receiving your current training. List both education and practice experience in reverse chronological order.

RULE #4: Know your audience.

If the CV you send to a practice in Oklahoma City lists your hobbies as deep-sea fishing and beach combing, the hiring authorities may think you are careless with details, not truly interested in their position, or both. If you don't want to customize each CV to the audience who will review it, refrain from including specific information that might seem illogical.

RULE #5: Bigger is almost never better.

A larger CV does not necessarily translate to a superior CV. In today's competitive job market, potential employers receive hundreds of CVs for each practice opportunity. An unusually lengthy CV, particularly one that is not well organized, may be daunting. As a rule of thumb, exclusive of the Research, Presentations, Abstracts, and Publications sections, your entire CV should be no longer than five pages. However, leave no time period unaccounted.

RULE #6: Neatness counts.

Make sure the finished CV is printed on the highest quality paper you can afford, using the best printer available. Use high-quality envelopes as well.

Do not fold your CV. Despite the fact that you can cram a folded 10-page CV into a business size envelope does not mean you should. Not only does it appear slipshod, but it also makes photocopying and circulation of the document problematic.

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