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Written by Rolf BaxRolf Bax

How to write a powerful CV

23 min read
How to write a CV
Artwork by:Katya Vakulenko
Our top tips and tricks for creating perfect professional CVs.

Crafting a polished and compelling CV is an essential part of standing out to potential employers. Here at CVapp.ie, we've created a special writing guide that lays out the essential elements for building a powerful CV that commands attention from employers and gets you hired faster. 

About our authors: With our job-winning CV templates, CVapp.ie has helped millions of job seekers create powerful, impressive CVs. Our team is committed to not only enabling you to achieve your dream career but also ensuring that your professional journey is hassle-free and easy.

So, where do we begin?

How to format a job-winning CV:

Formatting your CV correctly is important. While neat, tidy and well-structured formatting can get you in the door with employers, poor formatting can dramatically decrease your chances of getting hired. CVs can suffer from inadequate formatting when using basic text editors such as Microsoft Word or Excel. Using more specialized tools, such as our CVapp.ie CV Builder and CV templates can be more effective in creating professional-looking documents. 

Do

Optimize your CV's professional appeal by using one of our professionally designed layouts and tools that have been tested with hiring managers. 

Don't

Rely on outdated text editors that can be time-consuming and cause formatting issues. Instead, use our CV Builder and CV templates with enhanced features and flawless formatting. 

Make a great impression with attractive presentation

Presentation plays a vital role in making a great first impression with potential employers. A visually appealing CV immediately catches the eye of employers and hiring managers and can often mean the difference between being selected for an interview or having your CV tossed in the “unsuccessful” pile. This is where we come in. We help applicants create visually stunning CVs that stand out from the crowd. With numerous templates and designs to choose from, users can tailor their CVs to match the industry they’re applying to, highlighting their skills and experience in a clear and concise manner. 

Expert tip

Add icons to your CV to help you stand out from the crowd

Do

Choose templates carefully as they express character, personality and mood. 

Don't

Spend hours or days creating the perfect design or layout from scratch only to later find out that it has technical problems and formatting flaws.

At CVapp.ie, we offer a variety of templates that are tailored to specific career paths, industries, and job requirements. These templates are carefully crafted by our team of professionals and have been tested for effectiveness. As a result, candidates can choose from a diverse range of templates that are designed to fit their needs and improve their chances of success in the job market. To give you an idea of the quality of our templates, check out the following examples: 

CV Formats

Most CVs follow these formats: 

  • Reverse Chronological CVs
  • Functional CVs
  • Combination CVs

The reverse chronological format is not only the most popular format, but it's also widely accepted across different industries and employers. One of the main advantages of this CV is its clear and straightforward structure that highlights your experience in a linear and chronological manner. Essentially, it showcases your previous work history starting with the most recent accomplishments, which are often the most relevant for the job you're applying for. However, if you're a recent graduate or have gaps in your employment background, you might want to consider using either a functional or combination CV format instead.

Expert tip

To get the most out of employers' limited attention spans, use a reverse chronological CV format to showcase your most recent and impressive achievements first!

Functional CVs: Functional CVs focus on skills over professional experience. If you're an entry-level job seeker with limited experience, have recently finished University or you’re transitioning to a new industry, the Functional CV format might be the best option for you as it focuses on your soft and hard skills. Additionally, you can strengthen your CV by including details about past projects, social initiatives, and experience in other fields.

Combination CV: Focus on skills and work experience. Combination CVs can be a great fit for more technical and technological professions, though they can also be suitable for a range of careers.

CV Sections

Unsure about what sections to add to your CV? We’ve got you covered! In general, and for Reverse Chronological formats, we recommend the following:

  • Contact information and basic personal information
  • Summary, including personal profile
  • Employment history
  • Skills
  • Education

You can also include: 

  • Accomplishments
  • Awards, certificates and relevant organisation you may belong to
  • Hobbies and interests
Do
  • Focus on highlighting sections of your professional experience that demonstrate your key strengths and achievements
  • Determine sections that are important to your profession. For example, if you’re an accountant you might like to include your accounting certifications in a separate section!
Don't
  • Include irrelevant sections just to take up space on your CV
  • Include social media sites that may show you in unprofessional settings

Professional profile

A professional profile is a crucial component of your CV that gives you the opportunity to showcase your unique personality, character, and passion for the job role. This section enables you to add some colour and depth to your work experience, education and any other section you might like to include. It serves as a platform for you to display your determination, enthusiasm, and positive outlook, which can help set you apart from other applicants.

Your professional profile gives you a chance to tell your story in a compelling and engaging way. It allows potential employers to get a glimpse into your personality and lifestyle, and how those traits would bring value to their team. Your professional profile is your chance to differentiate yourself from the crowd by showcasing your individuality and conveying the type of employee you would be.

Do
  • Write a professional profile that showcases your personality in a professional manner. Use appropriate action verbs and try to match your tone of voice to that of the company – check out their websites or social media if you’re unsure of their tone of voice!
  • Avoid using unnecessary words and phrases that don’t add any professional value. Your professional profile should be concise – try not to ramble!
Don't
  • Forget to mention relevant and important facts or achievements that highlight the value you can bring to a potential job role. Employers want to know why you’re the perfect fit!

Overall, when writing your professional profile, it’s important to write in a way that captures attention and captivates potential employers. By using strong descriptive words and avoiding lengthy or complicated phrases, employers will be able to understand and appreciate the professional value you have to offer. Remember to tailor your professional profile to the industry and audience you’re applying for – this means considering specific qualifications or skills that potential employers may be looking for and highlighting those aspects of your background and experience. 

Work experience

The work experience section of your CV serves as the foundation of an impressive, impactful CV. It provides recruiters and employers with a detailed overview of your career trajectory, the skills you've gained, and the practical applications of your knowledge in the relevant fields. By showcasing your previous work experiences, you are providing evidence of your suitability for the role you're applying for and demonstrating your ability to successfully carry out responsibilities.

Expert Tip: Be specific! Highlight your professional accomplishments by using numbers, facts and figures to demonstrate your productivity and showcase the positive outcomes you’ve produced for previous employers. Did you play a role in saving your employer money? Including specific details with actual numerical amounts can be an effective way of highlighting your professional value to employers. 

A recommended format to follow when outlining each position in your employment history is as follows:

  • Job position, company name, location
  • Month and year you started and ended your position
  • Summarise, in bullet points, any important accomplishments or responsibilities you achieved at the company

A helpful tip to ensure you’re always prepared is to document any accomplishments, projects or important facts and figures in a list. This way, you’ll be able to access the list when needed and have examples to help you convey your professional strengths. 

Expert tip

Have you been promoted recently? Be sure to update your CV and showcase your new position! Keeping an up-to-date and accurate CV is important and helps highlight your professional growth.

Skills 

Think of your skills section as your showcase for your professional abilities and strengths – this is where you want to demonstrate your professional superpowers! This section is important because it’s where you’ll be evaluated and compared against a certain set of skills that potential employers and automated systems are looking for. 

For example, if you’re an architect you’ll want to include any technical skills that architecture companies would consider essential, such as proficiency with CAD software. To increase your chances of getting noticed by Automated Tracking Systems (ATS), it's crucial to include the necessary technical skills. ATS systems work by scanning CVs for specific keywords and requirements that match the job description. Omitting these crucial technical skills may result in your CV not being prioritised by the system, reducing your chances of standing out to potential employers. 

It's essential to ensure that you prioritise which skills to include and tailor your language to match the job description. Use the same terminology and phrases that the employer uses in their listing, and highlight the skills that match the requirements listed as much as possible. Since space on your CV is limited, be mindful to select the skills that are most relevant to the role and the ones that you want to showcase at the top! 

Expert tip

Even the most experienced professionals forget to include a range of hard and soft skills. As a general guide, soft skills focus on interpersonal communication, emotional intelligence, and strong leadership and organisational abilities. Hard skills focus on more technical skills. For a strong, effective CV, try to include a mix of hard and soft skills!

Education

The education section of your CV is important as it showcases your potential to employers and how your educational qualifications align with the job role you are applying for. By providing detailed information about your academic credentials, including degrees, certifications, relevant coursework, and achievements, you can demonstrate how your education can add value to a potential employer.

Employers often consider academic qualifications as a primary factor in selecting candidates for job interviews. An outstanding education section can help you stand out from other applicants, and provide an essential overview of your academic background and skillset. In addition to the traditional education route, highlighting other learning experiences like attending industry conferences, workshops or online classes can also enhance your educational and professional value.

Expanding on this section and including relevant extracurricular activities, such as volunteer work, participation in clubs and societies or relevant work experience, can show your potential employer that you possess the necessary qualities to be successful in the job role beyond academic credentials.

Ultimately, a strong education section on your CV can go a long way in persuading potential employers that you are a qualified and well-rounded candidate, that could add significant value to their organisation.

Expert tip

Just like your employment history, don’t forget to list your educational experience in Reverse Chronological order! 

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) 

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are tools used by employers to filter applications. ATS are used by employers as a way to sift through the multitude of applications that they receive. While these systems can certainly be helpful for employers who are reviewing many applicants, it can present more of a challenge for those who are applying for jobs. ATS uses algorithms that often rank your CV based on keywords and formatting – which is why it’s essential that your CV is neat, tidy, tailored and optimised for your professional success. At CVapp.ie, we’ve helped millions of users sidestep tricking tracking systems. Here are our top tips: 

Do
  • Scan the job description for relevant keywords to incorporate in your CV
  • Use our top tips and tricks in our CVapp.ie CV Builder
  • Do basic research on the employer and the industry you’re applying for
  • After choosing your CVapp.ie design template, export to a PDF file for seamless, consistent formatting
Don't
  • Use basic text editors with poor formatting – this will lower your chances of being favoured by Applicant Tracking Systems
  • Forget to tailor your CV to the employer, industry and job role!

Doing your research on your employer and prospective company is an important part of preparing for professional success. It's imperative to look into the culture of the company and do additional research on the industry you're applying for, as some industries differ in terms of professional requirements and expectations. Investing time in this research can greatly benefit your career by enabling you to make informed decisions and positioning you for long-term success. 

As previously mentioned, including keywords in your CV from the job description is a handy way to get approved by Applicant Tracking Systems and show employers you’re an ideal candidate. If you’re struggling to pick out which keywords to use, we recommend using word clouds! Simply check out a site like Wordle, copy and paste the job description and the software will pick out the keywords for you. Remember: You’ll want to incorporate keywords in a way that makes sense – don’t just dump them in your CV where they’re not effective or relevant. It’s also important to avoid using unnecessary jargon – this does not impress employers and can actually damage your chances of getting hired. 

References

While it’s not always required or necessary, providing references or referees can help you showcase your reliability to potential employers. If you do include references, be sure you've sought permission from your references and that you've included accurate details so potential employers can contact them.

Do
  • Include references if potential employers have asked for them
  • Include references if you have ample space that needs to be filled
  • Include references that can attest to your skills and character
  • Include references that may be considered high-profile or industry-leaders
Don't
  • Include references that are irrelevant or cannot attest to your abilities as it pertains to your job role
  • Include references if you haven’t explicitly asked them to be your reference
  • Include references if you’d prefer to simply write “references on request.” We have this option in our CV Builder!

Writing a powerful cover letter alongside your CV

When writing your CV, you’ll also want to consider pairing it with a well-crafted cover letter. Most employers will ask for a cover letter alongside your CV – and for good reason, too! A cover letter offers a unique opportunity for applicants to expand upon certain parts of their application that can be difficult to convey in a CV alone. Cover letters can help you establish a personal connection with potential employers and highlight any relevant qualifications or skills tailored to the specific job role you’re applying for. When it’s done well, cover letters can help you stand out from other applicants and get you hired faster. At CVapp.ie, we’ve got a Cover Letter Builder and a CV Builder to help you out – plus, all of our cover letter templates come with matching CV templates to help you promote your personal brand to employers and keep you memorable. Sounds good, we know! 

Expert tip

Your cover letter is your opportunity to build a connection with employers. Where relevant and appropriate, you can include anecdotes that highlight your professional value. Get creative! Employers want to know they’re hiring humans – not robots! 

We’ve got tons of resources and a handy guide on how to write a great cover letter, but the general structure of an effective cover letter looks like this: you’ll want to include an engaging introduction, body paragraphs that contain substance and specific details, and a conclusion with a strong call-to-action. While cover letters should always be professional, you can be creative and use descriptive, actionable language. You want to make an impact, so don’t be afraid to show your personality!

If you get stuck, we’ve got cover letter examples and templates to help you build your own powerful cover letter. No matter what industry you belong to or job role you’re applying for – we’ve got something for everyone. 

Proofreading your CV

Happy with your CV? Great! Before you start sharing your masterpiece with the world, you’ll want to proofread your CV. Once you’ve submitted your application, there’s no turning back – so this step is essential. While we have a helpful in-built spell-checker, nothing replaces the human element of re-reading your work through the perspective of your employer and making sure everything sounds just right. 

You’ll want to read it out loud and triple check for any mistakes or poor language choices. While it can be challenging, there’s nothing worse than re-reading your work after you’ve submitted it and realising there’s a typo or strange word choice: trust us, we’d know! Reading out loud can help you catch any errors, typos or inconsistencies. 

Expert tip

Get a trusted friend, mentor or family member to read over your work. Sometimes, we get so used to reading the same material over and over that it’s better to have a fresh set of eyes read our work over. 

International Job Hunting

If you’re looking to find a job abroad, you’ll want to prepare accordingly and consider the unique geographic characteristics of the job you’re applying for. For example, some countries call it a “CV” while others, including the United States of America, tend to call these “resumes.” While the differences may sound slight, each country has their own cultural and technical differences that can impact how your CV is received. Do some extra research on the job market of the country you’re applying to, especially expectations and norms of the industry you’re applying to. You might want to join groups or reach out to organisations that can help you settle into a new country and new work environment. 

Fortunately, CVapp.ie belongs to an international parent company that specialises in creating CVs and cover letters for many parts of the world. For example, while we’re CVapp.ie in Ireland, we’re also resume.io in the United States and cvapp.nz in New Zealand. Curious to see if we help professionals in the country you’re looking to relocate to? Check out our “International” tab at the bottom of our website – scroll down, you’ll find it!

Do
  • Additional research on job expectations in the country you’re applying for
  • Check out our “International” tab at the bottom of our website to see if we service professionals in your target country
  • Chat or connect with people already in the country and industry you’re looking to applying to: research groups or organisations that may be able to help you
  • Find out if you should present your professional documents in a resume or CV format
  • Use our CV and Cover Letter Builders if we service the country you’re looking to apply to!  We have tons of great examples that have helped millions of professionals around the world find their dream jobs.
Don't
  • Assume every country uses a CV! Do your research and find out whether you should use a CV or resume format
  • Skip over cultural or professional expectations in the country you’re looking to apply for. Always be respectful and professional when it comes to navigating new territory
  • Forget to check out whether we can help you create powerful, professional CVs in our “International Tab” – with tailored CV and resume examples, we’ve helped our users successfully score jobs all over the world
Expert tip

It's important to invest time in conducting comprehensive research on the country you're applying to and fully understanding the expectations of the workplace, as well as technical requirements such as language proficiency and visa regulations.

At CVapp.ie, we're on a mission to help millions of professionals succeed in their careers. No matter what job you may be applying for, we have templates, tools and resources to help everyone. We believe everyone should have the chance at their dream job role -- so check out our website for more tips and advice! Go n-éirí an t-ádh leat – good luck!

Team CVapp.ie 

Craft a compelling CV in minutes
Craft a compelling CV in minutes
Use expert-approved, professional CV templates built to engage your prospective employers
Create My CV
Craft a compelling CV in minutes
Craft a compelling CV in minutes
Use expert-approved, professional CV templates built to engage your prospective employers
Create My CV
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