How to write a Curriculum Vitae

How to write a Curriculum Vitae

OK, so you’re looking for answers to that big question how to write a curriculum vitae. Well, you’re in good company, did you know that 80% of all people struggle to write their own CV or résumé? Oh, and pop that question “how to write a curriculum vitae” in Google and you’ll get……30,600,000 hits. Wow, over 30 million answers to your question. On this page, I, Rob van Zoelen will answer your question in two ways:
1) For those in a hurry, a brief rundown, a high-level overview of do’s and don’ts
2) A detailed, in-depth guide to how to write a curriculum vitae

Brief overview of do’s and dont’s for your CV

Many people need resume help. There can be many reasons why a resume or a CV doesn’t make the cut. On average, recruiters, hiring managers and HR people will spend 6 to 20 seconds looking at your resume or CV before deciding on which pile to place it. If you need resume help to examine your current resume/CV, feel free to use the checkpoints below. How to write a Curriculum Vitae is a very good question to ask. Remember, one way of describing the function of your resume or CV is that it resembles an entry ticket: if you want to watch a re-run of a James Bond movie in your local cinema, don’t show up at the entrance of your cinema with a ticket to watch the New York Mets play baseball. In other words, your resume needs to be targeted. So, here are a few CV checks you can make:

How to write a curriculum vitae – Grammar and spelling

Make sure your resume or CV is written with correct spelling and grammar: one mistake is enough to get rejected. (e.g. “there” and “their” may be spelled correctly, but may not be used in the right context, so proofread your resume or CV). A tip: read your resume or CV backward, it helps you to focus on spelling.

How to write a curriculum vitae – Unprofessional information

Your CV or resume is a professional document. In most cases, information about your spouse, children, favorite hobby, the name of your dog, your age, or date of birth should be left out. Check your email address, if it is something like or, please change it! If there is a picture in your resume (however good-looking you may be), remove it unless there are very specific reasons to include it. Make sure that you do add a picture to your LinkedIn profile.

How to write a curriculum vitae – A generic resume

If your resume or CV is a “one-size-fits-all” document, it will look like most resumes employers receive and it will not stand out. Your resume needs to make it clear that you are the candidate employers need to call.

How to write a curriculum vitae – Your track record

Many CVs and resumes read like job descriptions. They list duties and responsibilities. If that’s the case with your resume or CV, you need to change it. Make sure that it reflects your specific accomplishments, results, and track record of achievements. Provide numbers and other specific information. That will show employers your contribution to the organization related to each of your positions.

How to write a curriculum vitae – Formatting of your CV

Sometimes people write paragraphs and paragraphs full of information. That makes it difficult for employers to skim for information they need. Consider using bullet points instead. Bear in mind that the initial scan of your CV or resume will be completed within 20 seconds.

How to write a curriculum vitae – Empty qualifications

Rather than describing yourself as a “great communicator”, “strong leader” or “creative innovator” use examples that will tell employers what you stand for. Use facts to prove it. In general, employers tend to ignore subjective information because in many cases it is inaccurate.

Your Curriculum vitae and your social media presence

This has nothing to do with your resume or CV but have a look at your Facebook profile and your presence on other social media sites. If there is anything there that you don’t want your mother to see consider removing such information. Employers will find it and you will risk rejection. So, this concludes the brief version of my help with resume writing. As you can see, there are more than enough reasons to make sure that your resume or curriculum vitae is a document that will pass every test. Make sure to convince employers that they should invite you for an interview.


Are you ready for it? Turn off distractions, give your phone a break and prepare for a 45 minutes reading session. One of the answers to your question how to write a curriculum vitae is: by using plenty of elbow grease. There is no “quick & dirty” solution for creating a CV that will stand out and make the cut. Period. Then again, as explained elsewhere on this website, a CV has the potential to make you money. So you’d better spend some time to get it right if you want my advice. Practice makes perfect. I often explain to people that investing in yourself, and investing in your career is one of the wisest investments you can make. And of course, (you understand that I have to mention this), engaging the services of a professional curriculum vitae writer can and will speed up the process. Your investment will turn into a handsome ROI. Now, let’s get back to answering your question how to write a curriculum vitae. You may have noticed that I loosely use the words CV, Curriculum Vitae and Résumé. They are not the same animal. Let me explain:


It largely depends on where you are in the world to determine what you need, CV or resume. In Canada and more so in the USA for example, a resume will do fine. You know a resume most likely as a one (1) page summary of your work experience. The recruitment industry in USA started to “accept” 2-page resumes in 2021 if people have issues “cramming” all relevant information on 1 page, shrinking the font size so much you need a magnifying glass to read it. A CV in the USA is a document that is typically used within the academic world and is indeed different from a resume. In Europe, on the other hand, a CV or curriculum vitae will do nicely. Recruiters will tell you that a CV should be no more than two (2) pages. Oh, really? Why would they say that? I’ll let you chew on this one, I am not going to spill the beans here, it’s too embarrassing. Here you see, that USA and Europe are sort of syncing when it comes to the number of pages for a CV and a resume. Please take it from me that in principle, depending of course on what you have to offer to prospective employers, a CV that is 3 or even 4 pages in length is perfectly fine and will not get you in trouble, serious recruiters and serious employers will have no issues with that. So, there’s your first answer to your question how to write a curriculum vitae. Now that you’ve decided what you need, let’s move on.


Have you ever searched for CV templates? Google tells us in 2023 that there are 346,000,000 hits for that search term. There are free templates, paid templates, pre-filled templates and what not. Many templates look attractive and professional, it’s all a matter of personal taste. It’s fine to use a template if you so desire. Allow me to point out the disadvantages of using templates: millions and millions of people out there use CV templates, especially the ones in Word. Many of them are very similar, many of them are rather boring and don’t exactly do a good job in making you stand out as a candidate. Also, many CV templates are made up of tables in a more or less rigid makeup. When the text that you add in one of those table is too much for the limited/pre-defined space, it will spill over e.g. to the next table or page and ruin the makeup of your CV document. But of course, that can be solved, if you are a bit of a Word-fundamentalist. Go ahead, try it out, my humble opinion is that many of these Word CV templates are a pain in the….eh, you know, 3-letter word starting with “a”. What’s worse, not all ATSs out there (Applicant Tracking Systems, software used by recruiters and employers to manage recruitment projects and incoming applications) can not always read (“parse”) documents that consist of tables in a proper way. They same, by the way, it true for images, symbols that you sometimes see in CVs etc. So, there are pros and cons about using “pre-cooked” CV templates. Instead, you may want to opt for “less is more” meaning no tables, no pictures, no images of logo’s, no picture of you, no symbols but only text. Boring? Maybe yes, maybe no. There is nothing wrong with using color in your CV for headings, bullet points and such. And make sure that the layout of your CV is such, that it will allow a recruiter or prospective employer to quickly scan (glance over) your CV.
You do this by making sure, that there is plenty of white space so that your CV is easy on the eyes and not crammed with information is massive paragraphs. Remember, content is king here. And, not entirely unimportant, a straightforward, not fancy document is by its very nature already optimized for the ATSs in this world. What it means is that an “ATS-friendly” CV can be processed by software and will be stored in the system or database for a recruiter or other staffing person to see and read.


Sometimes….people get really creative and use beautifully designed fonts (a font is the typography, the type of letter) in their CVs. That is not always the smart thing to do. Why worry about fonts for my CV you ask? Well, ATSs read CVs and fact is, they can read some fonts better than others. A second reason why you should consider fonts for your CV is that also humans will read your CV or resume. So please, don’t use very stylish fonts, heavy fonts, narrow or condensed fonts or fonts that only you can use because they are not present as “standard” font on computers. Keep it simple and use one of these fonts for your CV: Arial, Calibri, Garamond, Helvetica, Cambria or Didot. Oh, and what about Times New Roman? Let’s say that in 2024 it is no longer “fashionable”, you can still use it of course, it is still readable, but I’d select one of the others if I were you. Please also consider the proper font size: not too small and not too large please! On average, for normal text (body text), a font size between 10 and 12 should do it. Feel free to use font sizes 14 or 16 for headings, you decide what looks right, make sure that the reader can easily read your CV. OK, this wraps up my 3rd answer to your question how to write a curriculum vitae.Three more paragraphs to go.


Now we’re getting to the heart of the matter, the content of your CV. Let’s have a look at the sections in your CV. Oh, and by the way, create your CV in reversed chronological order.

  • Contact information. Very straightforward: your full name, the city/town (and country) where you live, your cellphone number and your email address (please make sure your email address is somewhat professional (so, not or something like that and not your business email address). Adding a link to your LinkedIn profile is optional.

  • Introduction (some use a CV objective or CV summary). This is a paragraph of 4 to about 10 lines about you, a few career highlights in terms of skills, a little bit about what makes you tick and what it is you’re looking for. Make it count, please don’t imitate what the majority of job seekers do and that is to list skills that everyone has, descriptions that are vague “…seeking a position that will enable me to lead a team to deliver success” or “adapt at leveraging superior communicative and interpersonal skills to interact with diverse individuals and groups at all organizational levels” and make sure that you provide “proof” for what you write in this section in the remainder of your CV.

  • Work experience. For this section, I recommend that for your current and the three to five preceding positions (spanning 10-15 years) you include a brief description of the company/organization, job title, years (from-to e.g. 2008-2011 or 04/2008-09/2011 if you want to include months) a bulleted list of your main responsibilities (make it as concrete as possible, make it so that a 16 year old high school student can understand) and tell a story. Not: bits and pieces from a job description please, it is way more interesting to read what it is that YOU do in the position of manager customer journey than reading boring job descriptions. Also, include a bulleted list of your biggest results/achievements (about 3-5 bullets) in each position. Where possible add numbers and figures and or percentages, make it concrete. “Learned everything there is to know about cloud computing” is not an achievement! In general, I know it sounds harsh, companies don’t care about what you learn or learned. They only want answers to the WIIFM question (no, not a radio station) What’s In It For Me is what they are looking for, it is up to you to make it clear to a prospective employer that you have what it takes and by showing the results you delivered for the company where you worked, you’re half way there of convincing them that you are worth your salary and that you can and will deliver ROI if a new employer decides to invest in you (=pay your salary every month). Get it? For the positions that you held 10-15 years and longer ago, you can be less detailed. It really depends, I can’t give you a one size fits all solution here, you have to use your own discretion. For the earliest jobs in your career, you only need to mention the years (employment dates0, name of company and function title.

  • Education. Here too, use reversed chronological order starting with the last education your completed and mention only the years you finished/graduated. Mention name of the education institution or university and name of your education.

  • Courses/Training. In this section, include the “non-mainstream” education, and/ or certifications. Substantial course, serious professional training is what should be included here.

  • Languages. Mention the languages that you can speak, read and write.


Depending on your professional background, your career and the positions that you are interested in, you can add computer skills, publications, certifications, auxiliary position(s) or other relevant extracurricular activities, awards and volunteer experience in additional sections.


Please don’t mention references in your CV. You don’t want readers of your CV to seize the opportunity and call the people that you mention there. Remember, you can provide references when asked for, as a rule after the first or second job interview. That’s early enough. Your age or your date of birth: more and more people in Europe leave it out of their cvs (in USA you never mention your birth date or your age) and that is fine. When you do include your date of birth, the recruiter or HR person doesn’t have to guess. And of course, if you are not yet 40 years old, it can work in your favor to mention your date of birth. Yes, it may sound silly, but that’s how it still works, in workplaces all over the world, age discrimination is still very much alive however loud the screams are that “age doesn’t matter, we want to be an inclusive workplace blablaba yadi yadi ya”, let’s be perfectly clear about that, we no longer believe in fairy tales, right? On the other hand… 2022 in many countries there are staffing shortages in many industries. This helps companies to pivot and realize that 50 is the new 40, 60 is the new 50, in other words….an applicant’s age is not necessarily a show stopper and that is what I call an excellent development.
Then there is the discussion about hobbies: As a rule, don’t mention your hobbies in your CV. Why? Well, IMHO a CV is a business document. The workplace is not a place for hobbies. Most employers couldn’t care less about what it is that you do in your spare time. And…by leaving your hobbies out of your CV, you’re handing a person who is not very good at conducting job interviews…a perfect escape to start chatting about “non-threatening” subjects by asking that famous interview question: “Tell me John, what are your hobbies?”. The only exception to this rule is when you have one or more hobbies that are relevant to the position you want to work in and/or the industry where you want to work. In that case, of course you mention your hobby or hobbies. “Rob, should I add a picture to my CV” is a question regularly asked by my clients. My answer is: No, unless. You want the reader of your CV to judge that document by its contents, not by making a decision by looking at your picture (“Oh my God, no, he/she doesn’t fit here” or “Hmm, looks like a nice man/woman, let’s invite him/her”). If you want to become an actor/actress, work for television, become a flight attendant etc. well, yes, then a picture makes sense. Otherwise, be sure to add a picture to your LinkedIn profile (because LinkedIn profiles with pictures get up to 14X more visitors). Now, if you’re still awake and perceptive, I haven’t mentioned skills yet. As you know, there are hard skills and soft skills. You know what you are good at when you honestly review your own skills. The outside world, the reader of your CV doesn’t know that and the sad fact is, that they will not believe you. Today, everybody has “exceptional communication skills”, everybody has “strong organization skills” etc. etc. Yeah? Not! I have interviewed people and had to drag out every word when I asked a question. Strong communication skills? Right! So…it is much smarter to “show and tell”, to make it clear in the way you describe your main responsibilities and your results what your strongest skills are. That’s where you provide proof and that is way stronger than those bland lists of top skills that many people include in their CVs. By the way, hard skills can be, for instance, computer skills or other technical skills and those, of course you can mention in a section in your CV.


Almost done now. Before sending out your CV, you of course make sure that there are no flaws in spelling or grammar. Read your CV backwards, that helps to find mistakes, typos and other errors. Another tip: when you read your CV, does it put a smile on your face? Hopefully it does, you should be proud of what you accomplished. In an ideal world, you would create a CV for every position that you apply for. Fortunately, we don’t have to do that. What you can do, is make sure that the version of your CV that you send out for position A at least reflects some of the wording that you read in the job announcement. And you would do the same before applying for position B. These are, as a rule, small or minor tweaks, don’t spend a lot of time to tailor your CV for every application you intend to send. I hope that this guide provided you with answers to your question how to write a curriculum vitae. Remember, in case you need more input, there are 30,599,999 hits left to examine in Google. You’re always welcome to schedule a brief, complimentary 20-minutes online consultation on Zoom for a chat about your CV and my services. Here’s the button (below) if you’d like to schedule an appointment now. If you want to hire my services, please click this link to get started.

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