How to Write a Successful CV

By Relebohile Sera

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Curriculum Vitae means “course of life” in Latin. It is a written overview of a person’s past, existing experience and other qualifications for a job opportunity. Its main objective is to show that you have the necessary skills to do the job for which you are applying.

Most CVs include your personal information, education and qualifications, skills as well as references. There is no set format for a CV, what you include is up to you but consideration should be made for the job you are applying for. A good CV is customized to the specific job and company you are applying for. Don’t just write one CV and use it for every position you apply for. Have targeted and focused versions of your curriculum vitae and use them accordingly.


The following are examples of information that can be included in your curriculum vitae:

  1. Personal Details and Contact Information

Your name, address, telephone number and email address should be listed at the top of the page. Make sure your name stands out by making it a size larger than the rest of the texts.

  1. Personal Profile

It is an optional part of the CV that gives an in-depth look at you as a person. It is a personal statement that sells your skills, experience as well as your personal qualities. Take care to avoid superfluous details, such as religious affiliation, children’s names and so on.

  1. Education and Qualifications

List your education in reverse sequential order. Begin with your highest qualification and work your way backward. List the names of the institutions which you attended, the dates which you attended, your majors and minors and the grades you obtained.

  1. Work Experience

List all of your relevant work experience under this section. List the name of the company, the years you worked there, the position you held and what you did. Start with the most recent job and work backwards. If you have a long list of work experience, only put the experiences relevant to the job you are applying for.

  1. Skills & Achievements

List all the things you have accomplished at your previous jobs, and the skills you have developed through your experiences. In this section you can list any of your published work, lectures you have given, classes you have taught, etc.

  1. Hobbies & Interests

List any interests that paint you in the most positive way, in light of the position you are applying for.

  1. Other Information

If there is some other information apart from the one you have already added, put it here.

  1. References

These are people you have worked with in the past such as professors, previous employers, etc. that have seen you at work and can plausibly support praises that they give you. It is important to talk with the person you are going to list as your referee before actually listing them.


A good curriculum vitae should preferably cover not more than two pages and never more than three. Ensure that the content is clear, ordered, to the point and relevant. Using bullet points rather than full sentences can help minimize word usage. Play around with different formats to see which one might look professional.

It can be tempting to over-polish a CV and make educational qualifications or work history look a little better than they are. If you’re tempted to stretch the truth about your work history, don’t. Most employers carry out reference and background checks to ensure your curriculum vitae matches the said actual work history or education.