The 5 Basic Steps of Writing a Curriculum Vitae - Feature
9 Aug 2017

The 5 Basic Steps of Writing a Student Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Whether you’re a college student who’s looking to do an internship during your semester break, or a final year student who is about to graduate from university, knowing how to write a curriculum vitae (CV) is a crucial skill to have that will help you get your foot in the door.

However, you may be wondering, “What exactly is a CV?”

A CV is a document where you can highlight your academic qualifications, experiences, research and publications in detail. It is typically 1 to 2 pages long, depending on your achievements and experience.

As your CV is essentially your life on a few pages, here are 5 suggestions on how you can write a CV and kickstart your career.

#1. Provide your basic details

The 5 Basic Steps of Writing a Curriculum Vitae - 1 Provide your basic details

This may be a given, but similar to how you would introduce yourself to a person you had just met, you will have to highlight some basic details about yourself. This enables your potential employer to see a snapshot of the person behind the CV.

Start with your personal details, including your full name, address, phone number and email. Think of it as the best way for a recruiter to contact you if you are shortlisted for a job interview.

This can be followed by a personal statement where you can briefly explain who you are, why you’re applying for the position and why you would be a good fit for the role. However, keep it short — approximately 3 or 4 sentences would do. Also, don’t be hasty! Take the time to craft a personal statement that will make an impact on the recruiter, or prompt him or her to continue reading your CV.

Pro Tip: There are many ways to format a CV but consider putting your personal details in the header of your CV so that it is easy for recruiters to read.

#2.List down your education background

The 5 Basic Steps of Writing a Curriculum Vitae - 2 List down your education background

As a student or a fresh graduate, your education background will be the core of your CV, so you have to get it right. Include your latest level of education and make sure it is updated. A recruiter will unlikely have the time to sift through all of your achievements (research suggest they only spend 6.25 seconds on your CV!), so it’s important to be concise.

You can list your education background by starting with the name of the latest institution you attended, followed by the dates you were there. You can then move on to your bragging rights — your results — which you can highlight after naming your qualification.

For example, you could highlight your education background like this:

Taylor’s College Subang Jaya ( January 2016 – July 2017)
A-Level: Maths (A*) Biology (A) Chemistry (B) Physics (B)

Pro Tip: Only consider including your grades if they are above average. If you decide to do so, start with your highest grade.

If you have just completed secondary school, consider grouping your grades as there may be too many subjects for you to list down one by one. If you’d like to highlight certain subjects, write them out in brackets.

For example, you could list them down like this:

SMK Bukit Bintang (2011 – 2015)
SPM: 5A+, 1B, 1C (A+ includes Maths, Biology, Chemistry)

 #3. Highlight your experiences

The 5 Basic Steps of Writing a Curriculum Vitae - 3 Highlight your experiences

Experience comes in all forms, so get creative. Whether it was volunteering at an old folks home or sitting for piano exams, a recruiter would want to know if you’re a well-rounded student who has carved a life for yourself outside of class.

Here are a few experiences that may be useful to include in your CV:

  • Charity work
  • Part-time jobs
  • Competitions (e.g. represented your school or college in debate competitions, participated in inter-school badminton competitions, etc.)
Pro Tip: Consider including a description of your role if you were involved in an unorthodox club or society, such as holding the position of president of the gaming society or slam poetry club to avoid your potential employer from raising his or her eyebrows. This gives you room to highlight the projects and competitions that you’ve worked on or have participated in, in addition to showing your leadership skills and creativity.

 #4. Include your achievements and interests

The 5 Basic Steps of Writing a Curriculum Vitae - 4 Include your achievements and interests

Were you a valedictorian in college, or a top student in school? It’s OK if you weren’t! Not all the achievements in your CV has to be academically-related. You could also include achievements from your interests and hobbies, such as the distinctions you received in your piano exams, or that gold medal you won for an inter-college short story competition.

However, not all our hobbies can get us gold medals or awards, so don’t fret if you don’t have any to highlight. You can list them under the header of “interests” in your CV to showcase your personality and skills to your future employer.

While there are recruiters who are on the fence whether job applicants should include their hobbies and interests in their CV, a fresh graduate or a student with limited experience can consider including them.

Your participation in sports can highlight your ability to work within a team while joining activities such as poetry slams can depict your ability to engage in public speaking, which may be viewed favourably by potential employers.

#5. Be a grammar Nazi

The 5 Basic Steps of Writing a Curriculum Vitae - 5 Be a grammar Nazi

This may be a no brainer but avoid spelling mistakes and grammatical errors like the plague! A seemingly simple mistake such as misspelling “volunteer” will not look good in the eyes of a recruiter, potentially costing you an interview.

So take the time to perfect every inch of your CV. Get a friend or a family member to proofread your work. Alternatively, you can download a free proofreading app such as Grammarly to help you spot your mistakes.

Pro Tip: Check out our example of a student CV here.

So there you have it! The curriculum vitae — demystified.

While this article is meant as a guide, it’s crucial to remember that your CV should tailor-fit you. So don’t worry about the qualifications or experiences that you don’t have. Instead, highlight your unique traits and experiences that can make you stand out from the crowd!

Now that you have a clearer idea of what a CV entails, do you know what are the top skills that are highly sought after by employers? Check out our article here!

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