How to write a CV

This article is recommended for individuals near the beginning of their careers

Getting started

After years of experience in recruitment, I understand the significance of mastering the art of crafting a compelling CV. However, the journey of making this essential document can appear rather formidable, often accompanied by a sense of unease and doubt.

Throughout my career, I've come across countless individuals struggling with the intricacies of CV writing, and in response, I've developed a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to assist those in need.

I begin by offering general advice on formatting, ensuring that your CV presents itself in the most favourable light. I then give you a thorough breakdown of each segment, including:

  • Introduction - powerful opener that captures attention
  • Education - highlighting your academic background and achievements
  • Employment history - detailing your work experiences effectively.
  • Skills - showcasing your proficiencies and strengths

Furthermore, I delve into additional sections that you might consider incorporating to enhance your CV's impact. Lastly, I provide valuable resources to aid you in designing a professional layout.

It's important to note that in Australia, the distinction between a CV and a resume isn't always clear-cut, and the terms are often used interchangeably throughout this guide.

Getting started

General formatting

Katarzyna Furman outlines some tips on how to format a CV. She recommends that you:

  • Use an easy-to-read sans-serif font, such as Calibri, Arial, Helvetica, or Verdana.
  • Set your font size to 10-12. You can increase this by 2 points for headings.
  • Create a balance between whitespace and content. Set your line spacing to about 1.15 and margins to 2.5 cm (1”).
  • Keep all text left-aligned, as justification can make your CV look scattered and messy.
  • Stick to a length of 2-4 pages (or 1-2 if you’re a student or have limited experience).
  • Break up blocks of text with bullet points to improve readability.
  • Keep your formatting and design consistent between your CV, cover letter, and other components of your application where possible.

It is best to tailor your CV to each job you apply for and use keywords that are featured in the job ad that you are applying to. However, at the very least, you should include keywords that are relevant to your specific job titles and industries of interest.

If you need even more CV writing tips, check out of free e-book outlining our top CV improvements.

General formatting | How to write a CV

Section 1 - introduction

The first section of your CV should be your introduction. Make sure you include your:

  • Full name
  • Contact details (phone number and email address)
  • Location (suburb only - no need to provide your full address)
  • Profile statement

If your location is close to the job you are applying for, it's a big green flag for recruiters. If you are not located nearby but are planning to relocate or are seeking an immigration sponsorship, include this information on the same line. The topic of location is further explored by Novoresume.

Including a professional profile statement at the beginning of your CV is also beneficial. Think of it as a mini cover letter that provides the reader with context and humanises your application.

In your profile statement, you should:

  • Briefly summarise your experience and how it is relevant to the jobs you are applying for.
  • Include quantitative values such as "7 years of experience as a Sales Manager", "bringing in revenue of 100k+ per quarter", etc.
  • Highlight your career objective in your final sentence. Address what you're looking to get out of your new role and what you'll bring to the company.
  • Focus on the positives and don't draw attention to any skills or experience you are lacking.

Furman states that you should “focus on what you do have and tell the recruiter what you want to accomplish together. Align it with the company’s objectives.”

Section 1 - introduction

Section 2 - employment history

List your employment history in reverse chronological order (starting with your most recent job). For each job, start by listing the:

  • Job title
  • Company name
  • Website (so the recruiter can learn more about the company)
  • Location

You also need to include your:

  • Dates of employment
  • Responsibilities
  • Key achievements

When describing your responsibilities, include quantitative examples to illustrate your success. As stated by Novoresume, recruiters are already familiar with the basic duties of most jobs, so you should focus on:

  • What makes you different from anyone else in the role
  • The value you have provided past employers (and will therefore provide future employers)

Add key achievements in bullet points below your responsibilities. Again, make sure you include quantitative examples.

Only go back 10-15 years with a detailed employment history. Anything beyond that can either be left off or can be listed with only the company name, job title, and dates of employment listed.

Section 2 - employment history | How to write a CV

Section 3 - education

Similar to your employment history, your education should be listed in reverse chronological order. Include any degrees, certifications, or licences you have attained, listing the: 

  • Title of the degree/certificate/licence you earned
  • Name of the institution
  • Location of institution
  • Date of completion

As stated by Farman, there are two important considerations regarding this section of your CV:

  • If your employment history is extensive and relevant to the jobs you are applying for, you don't need to include any additional information. Just stick to the four components listed above.
  • If you’re a student or your relevant employment history is limited, provide more information about your highest level of education. Elaborate on your academic achievements, extracurricular activities, regular coursework, awards, etc. 

If your relevant employment history is limited, your education should be listed directly under your introduction. This will help you make a good first impression on the recruiter, as it will direct their attention to your strengths.

You may also wish to include digital scans of your qualifications at the back of your CV. This will help to establish your credibility by providing tangible evidence.

Section 3 - education

Section 4 - skills

The next section in your CV should highlight the skills you have that are relevant to the job you are applying for. A skill may fit into one of the following categories:

  • Technical (such as proficiency in a certain software)
  • Soft (such as communication or leadership)
  • Language (i.e., languages in which you can communicate beyond a beginner level)

Showcase your skills clearly and concisely a highlight your suitability for the job you are applying for by addressing the criteria in the job ad.

If you're having difficulty identifying your skills, click the button below to read our guide.

Section 4 - skills | How to write a CV

Additional sections

Including some additional sections in your CV can help the recruiter to:

  • Get to know you as an individual
  • Understand how you will fit within a company's culture

Ultimately, this can be what gives you the edge over another candidate.

Farman suggests including some of the following sections (if they are relevant to you):

  • Volunteer work illustrates your values to the recruiter. It may also provide evidence of the skills you listed.
  • Internships, especially if you're a student, can show how you've put the theory you've learned into practice and can be a foot in the door.
  • Special projects at work or school can be used to display an additional set of relevant skills.
  • Online portfolios or publications are essential for creative roles. They are also a great tool for senior and executive roles to demonstrate your impact.
  • Awards are always a good idea. Don’t be shy or afraid to take pride in your small or big wins.
  • Hobbies and interests, particularly when relevant to the job, can make your application stand out. Even irrelevant hobbies (like watching the footy with your family) are worth including as they humanise your application and help connect with the recruiter.
Additional sections

Finishing up

At 11 Recruitment, we produce all our CVs using Canva.

Canva has a wide range of free and premium templates to choose from when designing your CV. You simply need to:

  • Search for "resume" or “CV” in the templates section to see all the available options.
  • Select the template you like the most.
  • Edit the template (text, spacing, colours, etc.) as you see fit.

You can also upload and include custom images and graphics.

Our preferred CV format is a two-column layout that includes your contact information, education, and skills in a narrow column on the left. This will help the recruiter to navigate your CV while minimising the number of pages.

You can add more colour and designs for a more creative role such as marketing, and less colour and more information for roles in traditional industries such as legal, banking, etc. However, if the company has fun and creative values then it may be good to capture that in your CV to show you align with the values of the company.

When you are done, save and download your CV as a PDF file. This will ensure that your formatting and layout remain the same when you send it to potential employers.

If you want further guidance on how to write your CV, I encourage you to check out SEEK's resume writing guide as well as Indeed's article on the topic.

Finishing up | How to write a CV

How to write great cover letters

All good CVs are accompanied by a cover letter that is tailored to the specific role you are applying for.

Click the button below to access our free ebook on how to write great cover letters.

How to write great cover letters

Are you looking for a job?

Are you looking for a job?

Now that you better understand how to write a CV, you should take a moment to check our current vacancies page.

At 11 Recruitment, we have a range of white-collar temp and perm jobs available. We're always on the lookout for top talent to place with our clients, so we encourage you to apply for any positions that are of interest.

If none of our current vacancies are right for you, you should register for job alerts. Then we’ll be able to notify you when we receive a position that matches your profile.

Christian Madsen

What are your thoughts?

I'd love to have a conversation with you about this topic - please leave a comment below if you have any thoughts or opinions 🙂

Christian Madsen

Managing Director of 11 Recruitment

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