Your curriculum vitae, or CV, is the first thing potential employers will see when you apply for a job. It is essential to write a strong CV to maximize your chances for success.

There is no one-size-fits-all template for a CV; different fields pay more attention to different aspects of the CV. However, there are some basic guidelines for how to a write a CV and which information to include.

A CV must be easily readable and highlight your strengths and achievements. Your CV should also contain top keywords that are relevant to the job you want. Tools such as Jobscan help you quickly identify the most important keywords for each job posting. Today, up to 90% of companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) for resume screening. If your CV or resume doesn’t contain the right keywords, you simply fall into the “resume black hole.”

Your CV should include the following:

  • Your name and contact information, including your city and state (your full address is not required), telephone number, and email address. If you have a LinkedIn profile, it is helpful to include that as well.
  • Career history, in reverse chronological order. You can include temporary jobs and volunteer experience if they make you a stronger candidate for the job.
  • A brief description of yourself and the qualities and qualifications which make you the best candidate for the position.
  • Prior awards, achievements, and publications, if these are relevant to the position you are seeking.
  • Education, certifications, and training, in reverse chronological order.

We asked career coach Corinne Mills, managing director of Personal Career Management, for advice on how to write your CV. She recommended a simple typeface and emphasized that it is essential to proofread again and again. “Poor spelling is the quickest way of getting a rejection,” she said.

In addition, she recommended reading five or more different advertisements for similar jobs and using their requirements as a guide for what to say in your CV. “Many people think that one CV will fit all applications, but it needs to be a very targeted document for the role,” she said. “Do some research so you understand what employers are looking for.” Use Jobscan’s resume analysis tool to identify the top skills and keywords within a job description.

Resumes vs. CVs

Every CV should highlight your skills, experiences, and qualifications. The rules for how to write a CV vary based on location and industry. What’s known as a CV in Europe is synonymous with what’s known as a resume in the US. CVs are also used in the US, but only in certain fields (most commonly academia).

Both CVs and resume can be accompanied by cover letters. As with CVs and resumes, you should write a cover letter that is tailored to the specific role and that will help you be ranked highly by an ATS.

Learn more about resumes vs. CVs.