CV Tips

If you are looking for an international job or internship with companies that are located around the world, then these advices on writing an excellent CV are definitely interesting for you!

Common mistakes

At the beginning of writing a CV you could meet some difficulties, such as:

Understanding what the CV is for!

Actually in writing a CV you are doing an effort to make the companies call you. Since the companies are looking out for a number of people who can provide the skills they need to help move their companies along, it would be very expensive to interview all the applicants.

What is interesting for the recruiter?

Some students write CVs that are simple lists of activities, because everbody does it this way. A simple list of activities however does not give the recruiter real information about us. Take this as a great opportunity to share your real skills with the recruiter, recruiters are not necessarily interested in a history of your work experience.

What are other typical difficulties?
  • The feeling that you have little experience to show in the field you are applying for. Do not be afraid of this feeling, because this is the main feeling that you should have. It is also important to keep in mind that experience does not necessarily come from working, but also from other activities that could have taken place in your life. 
  • The dislike of being judged on so little information (keep in mind the "one page rule").  Therefore it is important to take your time to decide what (not) to put on your CV. Always ask yourself the quesiton: what is the relevance for the recruiter?
  • The difficulty of showing what you are worth. You should recognize your own worth and learning to express it in ways that others understand. 
  • The trouble of getting employers to understand what you mean. Analyze yourself thoroughly: what we have done and how can we relate it to recruiter's value system? Think about what (added) values could be important for the recruiter, and try to communicate it in a clear and structured way.
  • The trouble of communicating internationally. When applying to global companies, talk in universal terms.

Preparation on writing the CV

Find out about the job

This means that it is really required to have a very good idea about what kind of activities you are going to perform, even if you have never worked in this sector before. Do some research and be prepared to link your skills and educations to the job requirements in a future interview.

Find out about the company

Know what the company is doing. What are the customers? What are the main competitors? Your knowledge will assist you in addressing problems that interest the recruiter.

Think in terms of sales of yourself

Pretend that you have to sell yourself as a product. Be prepared on all questions about all your characteristics and relate your characteristics directly and to the needs of the recruiter.

Know what you have learned in the past

You must be ready to show your awareness of having learned in the past. Know what you learned and how you have learned this. This is important to communicate your capability of learning in the future. For the recruiters there is a strong link between what you have done in the past and what you are able to do in the future. You should show your skills and their results. Accomplishments come from on-the-job activities, outside activities, hobbies and school.

How to structure the CV?

Education

You should decide whether to put your education first or second. Put your education first if you feel that your education says the most about the skills you are trying to sell or when you made a career change and want to be retrained for a new profession. Put your education second when your experience tells the recruiter more about your skills than your education.

Be careful in using the titles of your degrees. You should obviously not use the titles of degrees in your mother tongue, but should use international conventions for the degrees.

Work experience

In this section you can put the activities that gave you work experience which is related to your targeted job. It could be internships, partial or full-time jobs, summer jobs,... Whatever your situation is, experience of work is very important to talk about. If you have very little work experience, then you should look for no-job accomplishments and achievements to sell your skills. 

Languages

Also languages are extremely important on CVs where applicants are offering skills to work internationally. When you are writing about your language skills, you should describe in details the level of your language and for how many years you were mastering it.

Accomplishment and achievements

Perhaps they come from the activities that are not work-related. If you create an "Accomplishment and achievements" section, this could be a great add-on for your CV. If you have been a member of a student group, clearly mention WHAT you achieved (position in the group, what did you organize,...) in this student group.

Interests and activities

Leisure Activities and Sports should be omitted, because if they contain many entries they seem to suggest that you are only interested in leisure and sports. Avoid using your last section on your CV as some kind of trash can. 

Exceptions

If you know how to use different relevant software packages for the job description, this deserves its own heading. As mentioned before, sport activities are not always interesting to put on your CV. Teaching sports on the contrary is a very positive entry. This stresses patience, entrepreneurship and communication skills. Take some time to think whether you should put it under your additoinal skills or under accomplishments.

Four basic CV structures

The chronological CV

This is probably the best-known structure and most-easiest structure to organize. Let us start with some cases when a chronological CV is a good choice:

  • There are a limited number of jobs to mention on your CV. 
  • All the jobs you have done are in the same field of technology.
  • The educational background is relatively important to the applicant's current career goals. Education is often on the top when the applicant just graduated, or when his work experience seems less related to the job he is applying for than his education. 
  • There are no career breaks that you cannot explain.

In some cases however, a chronological CV might not be the best choice. Let us take a look at when you should NOT use a chronological CV:

  • When you have had a lot of jobs. A long list of jobs will not be interpreted by recruiters, because they spend about 20 seconds to read a CV. If you have had a lot of jobs in the same field, you should relate them together in the Knowledge or Experience Area of your CV.
  • When you have worked in very different fields. This situation is typical of most recent graduates who may have worked in a variety of odd jobs to support themselves.
  • When you are changing professions. Obviously a CV that shows a number of positions in a field that you want to move out of does not help sell skills that you feel you can use in a different field.
  • When recent education is important. This may go hand-in-hand with a change in professions. Putting education on the top might be an option, but the jobs following on the CV may not seem linked.
  • When the lessons of your history are misleading. If your professional career has not evolved in a straight line, the chronological CV will only underline the ups and downs.
The Skills or Experience CV

This CV is often structured with Skills and Experience Areas. It allows you to organize experience in categories, where the chronological order of your experiences does not matter. This CV format is useful in the following 4 cases:

  • When you want freedom to highlight certain skills and link your experiences to those skills.
  • When you want to stress only skills and experiences directly related to the job in order to present a focused portrait.
  • When you are looking for an internship and want to prove you have the necessary background to make a flying start.
  • When you are planning a career change and want to refocus your background on skills you required for the new career.
The Abilities and Achievements CV

With this kind of CV, the applicant lays out a direct offer of skills related to the requirements of the job he is applying for and then proves these skills by certain accomplishments. The skills are usually developed in a technical field which is different from the target position.

Mistakes to avoid

  • Using very specific abbreviations that cannot be understood by the target company.
  • Talk about topics which can be very sensitive, like politics and religion.
  • Trying to say everything. Only put the most important and most relevant things on your CV. Remember the "one page rule".