Crafting a Compelling CV That Gets You Hired

Last Updated: 

June 20, 2024

Your CV (curriculum vitae) is one of the most critical parts of a job application. With so much riding on this single document, it's essential to create a polished, professional CV that makes the best possible impression on hiring managers. This comprehensive guide covers all the key strategies and best practices for writing a stellar CV that will stand out from the competition and land you more interviews.

Key Takeaways on Crafting a Great CV

  1. Understanding CV vs. Resume: Use a CV for academia, research, and grants which is longer and more detailed than a resume, focusing on academic achievements and publications.
  2. Structuring Your CV: Ensure your CV is well-organised with sections like Contact Information, Summary, Education, Experience, Publications, Grants, Professional Development, and Custom Sections. Make it accomplishment-focused and tailored to the job.
  3. Effective Formatting: Use a consistent structure, ample white space, standard fonts, and clear headers. Employ bullet points for achievements and keep the font size within 10-12 pt for readability.
  4. Writing Impactful Bullet Points: Focus on outcomes and use strong action verbs. Customise the CV for each application, emphasising relevant skills and experiences.
  5. Meticulous Revision: Edit for clarity, consistency, and relevance. Remove outdated or irrelevant information and ensure there are no gaps or errors.
  6. Targeting Your CV: Customise your CV for each opportunity, aligning it with the job description and the organisation’s values and priorities.

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Knowing When You Need a CV Versus a Resume

Before diving into CV writing, it helps to understand when you need a CV rather than the more common resume. In the United States, resumes are acceptable for most job applications. CVs have some key differences:

  • Length - A CV is an in-depth document covering your entire career history, while a resume condenses down to one or two pages.
  • Purpose - Resumes summarise professional highlights, while CVs provide a complete overview of roles in academia/medicine/research/grants.
  • Sections - CVs have sections like publications, presentations, conferences, grants, licences, etc. that wouldn't appear on a resume.

So, a CV is the expected document to submit if you are in research, science, or academia or applying for fellowships or grants. Otherwise, a resume will suit most needs.

Structuring Your CV For Maximum Impact

Just like a resume, a CV should focus on accomplishments over duties, with quantified results to back up stated achievements. Organisation and layout are also critical - a dense text block is difficult to digest. Use consistent structure and white space to guide the reader's eyes. Here are key sections to include:

Contact Information

This appears at the very top, featuring your:

  • Full name
  • Phone number
  • Professional email
  • City location (optional)
  • LinkedIn profile (optional)

Summary or Profile Section

Briefly summarise your background, years of experience, areas of expertise, and the main value you provide. Tailor this to the target role or program. Keep it concise at 2-4 sentences. You can use resume summary generator tools to easily craft a nice copy for you.

Education and Relevant Training

List degrees in reverse chronological order, including institution name, degree earned, field of study, and graduation year. You can also include scholarships, academic honours, study abroad programs, or relevant coursework or training.

Experience and Accomplishments

Tailor each position to highlight transferable skills and relevant responsibilities. Start with a brief job title, company, or date line, then provide concise bullet points showing impact and accomplishments. Use facts, data, and metrics whenever possible.

Publications and Presentations

Research roles require listing publications, conferences, posters, presentations, lectures, and other published works—format consistently with all necessary citations and details.

Grants, Patents, and Awards

Relevant for scientific, academic, or research-focused CVs. Provide key details like award type, granting organisation, date, amount awarded, and grant/patent/award purpose.

Professional Development

Additional sections to list certifications, languages, professional affiliations, leadership activities, and conferences attended without presenting.

Custom Sections

Unique CV sections can include clinical experience, lab techniques, international fieldwork, security clearances, volunteer work, and more - add as relevant.

Formatting Tips for Visually Appealing CVs

A CV with dense blocks of text or narrow margins is visually unappealing and difficult to digest. Follow these key formatting best practices:

  • Consistent structure - Use similar indentation, spacing, and font styling across all sections
  • White space - Incorporate ample margins and line spacing between sections and entries
  • Standard fonts - Stick to simple, easy-to-read fonts like Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman
  • Conservative 10-12 pt size - Avoid font that is overly large or small in size
  • Neutral section headers - Use standard header names like "Experience" vs creative titles
  • Strategic bold/italics - Use sparingly for section headers, job titles, academic degrees
  • Bulleted achievements - Break down long paragraphs with bullets for visual ease

Writing Impactful CV Bullet Points

The key accomplishment statements under each position are critical. These bullets need to compellingly showcase your fit and qualifications for the target role or program. Follow these tips:

  • Tailor specifically - Customise each CV for the particular application based on required skills/experience
  • Focus on outcomes - Emphasise specific, quantifiable results and impact achieved, not just duties
  • Powerful action verbs - Use strong action words like "Led," "Spearheaded," "Created" or "Transformed."
  • Brief but packed - Condense bullets down to one line with key data and facts
  • Buzzy keywords - Work in industry terms, methodology names, technical processes
  • Non-repetitive - Vary word choices and highlight different capabilities

Mastering accomplishment-focused bullet writing can create a results-driven CV that conveys your top talents and fitness.

Revise and Refine to Perfection

It takes significant editing and refinement to craft an outstanding CV. You want to avoid any typos, vague claims, or irrelevant details. Be your own toughest critic!

  • Check for gaps - Ensure all time periods are covered without empty spaces
  • Verify consistency - Dates, formats, and font styling should be uniform
  • Remove fluff statements - Cut any overly wordy or generic bullets
  • Expand metrics - Include more specific figures/data to define accomplishments
  • Showcase range - Bring in different skills, projects, and capabilities from past roles
  • Check accuracy - Confirm all facts, titles, details, and proper noun spellings
  • Revise word choices - Tighten up language, vary verbs, enhance descriptors
  • Cull older entries - Once you have enough recent roles, drop very old positions
  • Check length - CVs longer than 3-5 pages need trimming for scannability

Don't rely solely on spell check. Ask a peer or mentor to review your CV draft for areas where you might improve. Leverage sources like a free CV maker to refine sections or format. With some determined revision rounds, you can produce a super sharp CV.

Targeting Your CV to the Audience

While you want to demonstrate breadth and depth of capabilities on your CV, it also needs customisation for each submission. Highlight different accomplishments based on what the opportunity or program prioritises.

  • Align to job ad - Call out skills, systems, and credentials listed in the posting
  • Match keywords - Scan for industry terms and methodology names to work in
  • Emphasise their priorities - Let their website, values, and offerings guide what you play up
  • Focus on fit - Show why you meet eligibility requirements and are a strong candidate

With a personalised approach, your CV content directly maps to their needs so they immediately see you as a top choice.


Your CV is your academic and professional record documenting capabilities that make you deserving of exciting opportunities. By mastering CV best practices around structure, formatting, content, and customisation, you can produce a document that impresses you. Use the strategies here for your CV and confidently apply to fellowships, grants, academic programs, and mission-driven roles that align with your goals. With a compelling, well-crafted CV and some determination through the application process, you can land the next career or education move that fulfils your passions! Of course, if you want to make absolutely sure it’s perfect, you could always consult the CV Writing Specialists!

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