Your CV is like an extended business card. It's a place for you to give a potential employer an overview of your skills and experience. Most importantly, a CV should be easy to read and manageable, and it should be written with the business or organisation it's for in mind.
1. Job postings, CVs, and cover letters should line up
Potential employers can easily tell if you've sent them a "mass-produced" CV. Make sure that the job description, your CV, and your cover letter are aligned, so it's clear that the CV and cover letter match the job description. Read more under A good cover letter
Your CV should match your cover letter, which is about the future and what you have to offer a potential employer. The CV should demonstrate that you have the experience needed to take on the job.
A CV doesn't need to be advanced, but it should be manageable and no longer than three pages. You don't need to be a graphic design genius, either — there are templates that you can use.
2. You profile is important
Your introductory profile text is important. That's where you introduce yourself to a business for the first time. The profile text should match the job description, so that you highlight skills, qualities, and values that are aligned with what the business is looking for.
The profile section should be no more than five to eight lines long, and should be based around these questions:
- How can you create value for a business?
- Who are you? Your skills, values, professional qualifications, and methods.
- Tell and show what you are passionate about as a professional.
- You can find inspiration for your profile text on LinkedIn — but note that these are usually longer than they should be for a CV.
3. Highlight business experience that fits the position
Your business experience is often more relevant to potential employers than your education. For this reason, this section should appear before your education.
In the experience section, you should list the kinds of problems you've solved in your work, the skills you've brought to the table, and the results you've achieved. Again, the things you highlight here should be aligned with what the employer is looking for. This applies in terms of both the tasks that will face you in the new position and the skills you will bring to the table — but also in terms of the language you use. For example, academics typically focus more on "problems", while businesses focus on "solutions". In the public sector, the Danish term sagsfremstilling (roughly "account of facts") is common; in the private sector, the English phrase "business case" appears instead.
Make sure the relevant information is there, and make it easy to read and manageable. Remember to use reverse chronological order in your CV; that is, list your most recent position first.
Also remember that volunteer work counts for experience, too. It's fine to list important skills from there. Thus, your volunteer work section should be similar to your work experience section.
4. Study-related jobs versus those not related to your studies
It's common for students to not have much experience to draw on when looking for a full-time job. But positions that aren't related to your studies, like bartender, assistant baker, or Christmas tree seller, still give you skills that you can use. For example, working as a bartender may have given you the skills you need to work quickly without losing sight of what's going on and interact with other people. Perhaps you also organised shifts and kept track of inventory. You've gained both relational and structural skills that you can highlight, all depending on what the job description shows is needed.
5. Education — focus on your skills, not your thesis
Your university education is what matters, not your secondary education (unless you haven't yet got your BA). But nobody cares what you wrote your thesis on, unless they have a job that involves that very same thing. Instead, mention your primary subject of study if it's relevant for a potential employer.
Keep in mind that your skills say more about you than the names of courses you've taken and projects you've completed. That makes your skills more relevant. If you're not certain what skills you've gained from your education, you can find answers in your curriculum.
6. Languages and IT
Everybody knows how to use the Office apps, but if you know how to use something else, like InDesign, LaTeX, or Photoshop, that can be relevant to have on your CV.
Mention your level of proficiency in these kinds of programs. The same goes for languages. For languages, remember that even if you took German in school, you shouldn't list it on your CV if you couldn't actually handle work-related tasks that require a German speaker.
7. Invest in yourself
Your photo is the first thing employers see, so it's also the first impression you make on them. Photos taken on holiday and low-quality photos taken with a webcam look unprofessional. Invest in yourself and have a professional photo taken.
8. Get the details sorted
- Proofread your writing!
- Include your contact information (name, email address, phone number) in your cover letter and CV
- Always send your cover letter and CV as PDF files. If you send them as Word files, there's a risk that your formatting won't be preserved.
9. Remember — no more than three pages
A CV should be no longer than three pages. If your CV comes out longer, cut back some. Ask yourself these questions: Are the things you've highlighted relevant to the job description? Have you included something irrelevant, like a class you took 10 years ago? If you have a long list of publications, split it off as an attachment to your CV. Consider having a friend go over it with a fine-toothed comb. Don't try to swing it by changing the margins or the font size; you'll only risk irritating a potential employer.
Also, take a look at Ballisager's recruitment analyses (in Danish). Each year, they ask employers about the things they want to see in cover letters and CVs.
10. A pregnancy is not an obstacle
If you're pregnant, you aren't obligated to indicate it on your CV. If you get the job, you are obligated to inform your employer of your pregnancy no later than three months before you are due.
Similarly, you aren't obligated to mention illnesses and handicaps unless they will affect your ability to perform the job in question. For that reason, it can be wise to mention them in some situations. If you're not sure what you can or should mention, come to DM or MA for advice. (in Danish)
Book a CV and cover letter review with DM
As a member of DM, you can get feedback on your cover letters, CVs, and LinkedIn profile when you're looking for a job. Book a CV and cover letter review online, and get 15 minutes of personalised feedback.