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What is a CV, really?

When you’re looking for a job, your CV is the very first thing you need to have sorted before you even think about applying for anything.

At its most basic level, your CV (short for curriculum vitae, or you might sometimes see it referred to as a resume) is an overview of your education and experience. The point is to give a potential employer an idea of what you might bring to the role.

But it’s very much more than that. Your CV is a marketing document. It’s pretty much what stands between a first interview and a ‘thanks for your application, but…’ email.

What should go in a CV

  • Your name and contact details. You don’t need to include your full address if you don’t want to, but a suburb at least will reassure a hiring manager that you’re local (if the role isn’t remote).

  • A profile or highlight section. This sums up in just a few paragraphs what you have to offer as a candidate, such as your strengths and achievements. If you’ve done an Extended DiSC profile, you could include information from that here. Essentially it’s setting a hiring manager up for what they can expect to see from the rest of your CV.

  • Your experience. If you’ve had jobs before, focus on what you actually achieved in them rather than just the duties. If you’re applying for your first job, look at other things you’ve done with transferable skills. Have you had leadership roles at school or sport? Done small regular jobs in your neighbourhood? Done volunteering? All these should be in your CV, as long as they’re relevant.

  • Education. This is a short section, just list your qualifications, when you got them, and where from. If you’ve done extracurricular exams like Trinity College, include them here.

  • Optional ‘other’ section. This might include things like Duke of Edinburgh or volunteer work that doesn’t belong under experience. Or say you’re applying to work at Glassons and you have a (work-appropriate) TikTok page about personal styling. These are incidental details that give more of a picture of who you are.

What shouldn’t go in a CV

  • Your own subjective descriptions of yourself, like ‘strong leadership skills’ or ‘hard worker’. Stick to facts only – if you’ve got strong leadership skills, they should be obvious from the contents of your CV.

  • Anything that might create unconscious bias. It’s so sad that we have to think about this, but leave out things like photos.

  • Gimmicks. There’s a temptation to want your CV to really stand out by doing something wild and crazy. Very occasionally it works – I have a friend who got a job by writing his CV as a comic book – but not often. A well-written, well-formatted CV also stands out, just because so many aren’t!

  • Long descriptions. Keep it short and sweet – no CV should be more than a couple of pages.

  • Referees. Don’t bother to include referee details – it’s standard practice for hiring managers to just ask for their contact info if they want to move you forward. Make sure you ask your referees first!

How to write a CV

So that’s what should and shouldn’t go in a CV. Here’s what else you should know:

  • Keep the formatting simple and easy to skim. You get about 10 seconds to get their attention, so use bullet points and clear typefaces.

  • Your experience is the most important thing, so that goes at the top.

  • Always have in mind what you can bring to a role

  • Try and tailor your CV for every role you apply for – this doesn’t have to take ages, just make sure that you highlight the things that strengthen your candidacy for that particular job

Get help with your CV

If you’re trying to put together a CV and struggling, know that this is really common, especially if you don’t feel like you’ve got much to put there.

Thrive for Girls can help! Check out our CV service. We can create a customised, professionally-formatted CV and cover letter for you, along with provide personalised coaching and advice about how to manage the whole job hunting process.

Just contact – it’s that easy.

Author - Coach Lucy Smith Lucy studied at the University of Waikato, completing a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English. She holds a Graduate Certificate in Professional Coaching from the Southern Institute of Technology. Lucy is available to support students and schools in Hamilton and the Waikato face to face and for anyone else via zoom. Learn more about her HERE. Don't Miss A Thing. Our subscribers are the first to know about new courses and special offers. Simply let us know you're interested by emailing us at

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