How to Write a CV or Resume

A good CV or resume is essential when competing for a job.

We'll show you how to write an effective resume and application cover letter.

Guide to resume writing

Our guide will help you write a resume that is:

  1. simple and flexible (so you can use it as a template for many years ahead);
  2. is easily read by employers (which is crucial for getting shortlisted);
  3. contains all the essential information; and
  4. presents you in a good light (so recruiters will want to meet you).

You can (i) use a template or (ii) start from scratch with a new Word document. The three main formats are chronological, functional and hybrid.

Resumes are normally 1 page but can be 2.

Let's have a look at each of the main sections.

1. Name and contact details

The top section of a resume has your name and contact info.

  • Your name is the title/header of the CV or resume.
  • Contact details are written in a small font
  • List your LinkedIn profile if it looks good.

See more: Contact section

2. Education section

The education and qualifications section comes next.

  • Make the qualification title (e.g. Diploma of Business) prominent.
  • Further details should be concise and accurate.
  • Consider including supporting information, such as projects.

See more: Education section

3. Experience

The experience section is where you detail your work history.

  • Focus on experience that is job relevant.
  • Select information you want the recruiter to know.
  • Write a story that shows you are a good fit for the job.

See more: Experience section

4. Cover letter

A cover letter personalises any job application.

  • Quickly introduce yourself.
  • Describe your background.
  • Pitch your case in a paragraph or two.

See more: Cover letter

Quick tutorial on resume writing

Resume versus CV?

The definitions of resume and CV vary by country.

We prefer resume.

  • Resume is generally understood to refer to a concise (1 to 2 page) document.
  • This is the most common document in recruitment.
  • A CV (curriculum vitae) can mean the same thing. However, it is more associated with recruitment in academia, where researchers list publications. 

Country definition differences

  • United States: people generally uses resume and save CV for long resumes (especially those for academic positions)
  • United Kingdom: people use CV almost exclusively
  • In some other countries, such as Australia, the terms are used interchangeably and essentially mean the same thing.

What about extra sections?

You may want to add extra sections to your resume. But be careful about this.

  • It is usually best to stick to the 3 standard sections: contact info, education and experience.
  • They can usually accommodate all essential information.

Why extra sections can cause problems

Extra sections make your resume longer and less focused. They reduce white space and might be ignored.

Sections you may come across often don't add value.

  • A summary section is taken care of by the cover letter.
  • An objective statement is risky and unlikely to help you get shortlisted.
  • Talking about your interests is usually more useful at the interview stage.
  • Naming referees can also wait until later in the selection process.

When extra sections are useful

Extra sections can be useful for adding content if you have a short education and work history.

They are also handy in job fields where there are long lists to report, such as publications and completed works.

Resume resources

Free online resume builders – Hloom

Free resume examples (all professions) –

Woman using a computer at a desk to write a resume.

Contact Section (CV or Resume)

Start strong and professional

The contact section is a simple but visually important part of your CV or resume. It is the first thing recruiters see and will be looked at more than any other part.


Your name provides the document title and so should stand out. This can be done using a larger font, bold and/or capitals.

  • Make it stand out but not so much that its sheer size becomes a distraction to readers.
  • Underlining is unnecessary since contact details naturally separate your name from the next heading.

Contact details

Standard contact information consists of a professional email address, business-hours phone number and mailing address.

They should be in a small but readable font and placed under your name.

LinkedIn profile or personal website

You can also include a link to your LinkedIn or own-website profile.

  • Only do this if your profile looks good and includes references.
  • Be aware that recruiters may be able to find your profile even if you don't provide a link.

Education Section (CV or Resume)

Simple and tailored

Education is often the make-or-break section of a CV or resume. You need a good one to get an interview for a professional or skilled position, especially if you are a recent graduate.

  • For jobs requiring a degree but little experience, recruiters start by rejecting applicants with sub-par or unrelated credentials.

How much emphasis you place on education and how much detail you put in depend on where you sit against the recruiter's benchmark.

At a minimum, you need to show that you are technically qualified or have a suitable background. More detail can be added if you have selling points such as strong grades and job-relevant coursework.

Qualification and university or college

The qualification and education institution are simple facts that should be placed upfront.

  1. Lead with the qualification, including majors, as this is the natural headline.
  2. Follow with the university, college or other education institution.


The date or dates can follow the institution name or be placed at the same level as the qualification.

  • You can show either the years that you studied, the year you finished or the year the award was conferred.
  • Avoid using a range if it suggests you did not complete or failed some subjects.


While opinions vary, we suggest you only show your grade average if:

  1. you have limited professional experience (grades become less relevant over time) and
  2. you believe it strengthens your case to be interviewed.

Classes and projects

Information about course content should be included if it is job-relevant and you are in the early stages of your career.

  • Keep it short and sweet. Recruiters are seldom interested in detail.
  • A summary of topics is usually better than naming individual courses.

Awards and achievements

Awards and honors are valuable indicators of development and achievement.

To increase impact, place them separately at the end of the relevant qualifications section.

Experience Section (CV or Resume)

Straightforward and convincing

The experience section is an opportunity to pitch your case. The aim is to show that you are meant to have the job in some way – your experiences and proven abilities align well with the position description.

Recruiters are hoping to find quality candidates who tick the boxes and must be interviewed. Read job documents carefully, take stock of your qualities and history, and then give recruiters what they want. It is not about the things that make you uniquely special, but demonstrating that you fit the role.

Section parts

Typically, the experience section consists of short descriptions of each job. These are listed from most recent to oldest.

  • If you have little work experience, consider using projects rather than jobs.
  • If, on the other hand, you have a long list of jobs, drop less significant ones (particularly those that are becoming dated).


You have flexibility in deciding on content. You are free to emphasise whatever you want in each description – whether it is achievements, skills or responsibilities.

  • Add extra bits – such as achievements and skills – if you have strong and specific content in these areas.
  • Be selective and concise. Extra material makes your resume harder to digest and can give it a look of being padded.
  • Choose from your body of experience in a way that both shows you in a good light and addresses the requirements of the job. Be more expansive about experiences that are job-relevant.
  • Even if you don't have much relevant experience, demonstrate you have the right skills.


Each job description should normally use the employer or project name for the title.

  • State the position title as well (or a short description of the role) and job dates (preferably down to the month).
  • The rest of the job description explains what you did.
  • Use dot points and concise phrasing. Recruiters are busy and mostly skim.

Writing style

Descriptions take time to craft as you need to balance different things.

  • Use active expressions but with minimal use of the word "I", as per the examples on this page.
  • Be specific in order to make the descriptions concrete but not so specific that you drown the reader in detail.
  • Focus on what you achieved rather than job duties. A job can be done with passion to an exceptional standard or done poorly. Let the recruiter know that you deliver results.

Cover Letter (CV or Resume)

Strike the right tone

Cover letter.The cover letter for a CV or resume is usually the most conversational element of an application. It may be used by recruiters to assess personality.

  • It presents an opportunity to make a good impression.
  • If done well, recruiters will start to look on you favorably as a prospective colleague and want to give you an interview.

Depending on the recruiter, the cover letter may be closely read or quickly scanned and forgotten.

  • The safest assumption is that it will be checked for faults but ready quickly for content.
  • You need to be both concise and accurate.

There is no particular format for a cover letter and it is important to adjust your style and content to suit the job and reader.

We outline an approach here that is generally considered good practice. The goal is to show – without duplicating resume content – that you are qualified and have something special to offer.

1. Introduction – why you are writing

As with any correspondence, the cover letter starts by explaining its purpose. This can be done quickly.

  1. In the email or mail header, put down something like "Application for position YY".
  2. Follow up with a short first paragraph (e.g. "I am writing to apply for the analytical position your company advertised. Please find my resume attached in support of this application").

2. Why I am qualified

The recruiter will want to know whether you are a genuine candidate for the position before reading the rest of the cover letter and the resume.

  • Use the 2nd paragraph to establish this convincingly.
  • Look at the requirements of the position and sum up your qualifications and experience in a way that shows you are suited to the job.

3. What you bring

Having established your credentials, the next paragraph or two are an opportunity to sell yourself as a promising candidate.

  • Try to highlight your exceptional qualities or experiences and your passion for the line of work.
  • Keep any descriptions of the job general. Even with good research about the company and occupation, you may not fully grasp what the job entails.

4. Sign off – what will happen next

The sign off can be brief – for example, 'I look forward to hearing from you about this application and would welcome the opportunity to interview for the position ... Yours sincerely, ...".

5. A waiting game

After you submit an application, it is generally up to the recruiter to initiate any further contact.

  • Only after they have shown interest, such as by offering an interview, do we recommend contacting them to seek more information about the role or selection process.

Cover Letter Examples

Dear Ms Johnson,

Vacancy for Business Analyst

I am writing to apply for the above position, which was advertised in the Times Union on April 30.

I am currently in the final year of a BA course in Business Economics at City College, Bristol, and expect to graduate in June this year. The degree has prepared me for a range of roles in economic and business analysis. I have a 4.0 average in relevant modules, including Economic Data Analysis, International Economics, and Economics of Business Strategy. I have also learned a great deal about e-commerce and am about to complete a dissertation on the growth of e-commerce in the Americas.

The position is of particular interest because it requires good communication and negotiation skills. I enjoy working with numbers and concepts but also making new contacts and establishing relationships with a wide range of people. To illustrate, as a teaching assistant, I had great success liaising with Mexican companies to organize student activities.

I believe I would be able to provide quality service to the international clients you describe by drawing on highly relevant education and skills. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Sarah Bloom

Dear Sir or Madam,

Vacancy for Social Worker, Davis County Youth & Family Services

I am writing in reply to your ad for the above position, which appeared in the Clipper on May 9 and attach my résumé for your attention.

I am currently studying for a BA in Social Work at Thurston College, Layton, and will be graduating in June 2013. This will make me a fully qualified social worker in the state of Utah.

I have a real enthusiasm and flair for working with children and have extensive experience teaching elementary school children. A new career in social work would make excellent use of the interpersonal, communication, and motivational skills gained in my teaching posts. I also have a long-standing interest in developing children’s sporting potential and am currently the manager of a youth soccer team.

As a social worker, I could make a real difference to the lives of the children and families of your area. I would welcome the chance to work for a local authority such as your own as part of a small team. One of my work placements during my degree was with a local authority of a similar size. I found the small team environment was an enjoyable and productive way to improve community welfare.

I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

Yours faithfully,

Charles Morton

Dear Mr Burns

I am very interested in the position of Administrative Assistant for Broad and Allen advertised in the Weekly Times on 30 January.

The skills and qualifications you seek match my experience in this area, as I:

  • spent two years as Administrative Assistant in the Prospective Students Office of Monash University and am experienced with using a number of reporting tools and databases including Excel, Access, Lotus Notes and Crystal Reports;
  • assisted the General Manager of Saturn Satellites for two years providing administrative support, diary and appointment coordination and managing all travel and accommodation bookings for his busy and fast-paced schedule;
  • confidently work alone and in teams - in both situations I always complete tasks on time and enjoy assisting others to ensure that their tasks also come in on time and on budget;
  • am currently completing a part-time (evening) diploma of Human Resources at Northern Melbourne Institute of Technology. I have used the knowledge and skills gained from subjects including Managing Staff Development and Performance Management to assist in the coordination of staff training and performance reviews.

Enclosed is my resume for your review. I believe I am an excellent candidate for this role and look forward to meeting with you to discuss this position further.

Yours sincerely,

Janice Joplin