CV Help to Get You More Job Interviews

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

The key to stand out when applying for a job is your CV. This CV help guide from Coursera will help you make the perfect first impression so that savvy recruiters notice you and give you a job interview.

[Featured image] Hiring manager reviewing a CV while conducting a video interview with an applicant

A little CV help can make the difference between an engaging, powerful CV, and one that is discarded by the recruiter in seconds. With the correct format, focus, and emphasis you can craft a winning CV that can lead to getting more job interviews.

The best way to stand out and get noticed is to have an interesting and professional CV that tells the recruiter exactly what it is you can do for them. Recruiters are busy people who will be looking to make a quick decision on whether or not they want to phone you for a job interview. They don't have time to wade through the same sort of CV everyone else is sending them, looking for why they should call you to interview. The secret is in the careful presentation of how you are right for the role.

If you are struggling to put together an effective CV, then this CV help guide is for you. It is packed with tips and guidance to help you to create the most desirable CV possible. Let’s start by making it clear what a CV actually is.

What is a CV and what is it for?

A CV (curriculum vitae) is a document that provides information about your work life to date. Your CV should be concise and clear and contain relevant skills, experiences, and achievements, often in chronological order, together with any qualifications or certifications that you have acquired, such as diplomas or academic degrees.

Many job candidates think that they are writing their CV with the purpose of getting them a job. The actual purpose of a CV is to get the attention of the recruiter and motivate them to call you to interview. The CV is a step in the recruitment process; it is rarely the entire process. 

Plot a realistic career path

Before you set about writing your CV, you need to work out what the employer is looking for—what do they want and need from you? 

Many companies highlight a few key criteria in their job adverts. If you can’t put your hand on your heart and say that you can demonstrate you have the experience, potential, or competencies listed, then you might be shooting for the wrong role. Careers are a path with stepping stones for a reason. Sometimes you have to take a step up the career ladder and build your competency base, rather than a leap. Be ambitious, but be realistic.


6 types of CVs

The choice of CV type and template that you make depends on many factors, including the job you are applying for, the length of your career so far, and what the employer is expecting to see. You may consider using a Word document template to create your first CV, or download a performed template online to help you write it.

Let’s take a look at some of the types of CVs:

1. Skills-based CV

A skills-based CV is used to showcase your professional experience in a concise and organised manner. It can help a reader to understand your skills and accomplishments without having to sift through a long chronological list of partially relevant job roles. 

You start with a specific skill (such as financial analysis or marketing strategy) and then list your relevant work experience under that heading. This type of CV is excellent when you need to highlight core competencies for a role and have diverse work experience to draw upon for your CV. Project managers often use skills-based CVs.

2. Achievement-focused CV

Achievements CVs provide potential employers with a comprehensive picture of what you have achieved. The idea behind achievements CVs is to present your work history in the most positive light possible.

If you don't have big accomplishments to highlight you can list smaller successes. Achievement-focused CVs can be created with both big and small accomplishments, the only requirements are that the achievement is meaningful, relevant, and relatively rare (i.e., not everyone has done it). 

3. Chronological CV 

Chronological CVs are a visual representation of your career path and are best for showing progression through your career. If you've worked with a number of different companies in the past, chronological CVs are a great way for recruiters and employers to understand how you have moved up in your career.

A chronological CV lists your work experience and education in chronological order, starting with your most recent job. Current employers should be listed first, while previous employers are listed in the reverse order (with older employers listed at the bottom of the CV). This is the most traditional format for CVs in the UK.

4. Creative CV or portfolio CV 

A creative CV is a type of CV that is widely used in the art and design industries. It offers an opportunity to showcase your creativity, photography, or artwork. The fact that it is not just words but visual images allows the viewer to see what you can bring to the table. 

Creative CVs are normally set out like portfolios for people in graphic design, illustration, photography, event management, etc.—however, this CV can use words as well. This type of CV suits all those in industries where work experience is hard to get—such as fashion design and media-related jobs.

In some sectors, it has become the norm to link to online portfolios and work examples. You can include volunteer and personal projects on a creative CV.

5. Technical CV

A technical CV helps to properly and concisely demonstrate your technical qualifications over time. It highlights your skills, achievements, responsibilities, and experience working with technical tools, languages, and methodologies. A technical CV may be the ideal way for you to apply for jobs that require a specific range of technical knowledge as opposed to more general soft skills.

The technical CV format helps your CV to tick off all of the requirements in the job and people specification documents for a role or contract.

6. Academic CV

An academic CV is used by researchers, professors, and lecturers to apply for positions at universities. Recruiters in these institutions expect to see a certain type of CV format, and certain information.

An academic CV is different from most job CVs in that it focuses on your research, publications, grants, and teaching experience instead of your background as a whole.

Ready to start learning?

Join the Coursera Plus community and get unlimited access to over 7,000 courses, hands-on projects, and Professional Certificates on Coursera, taught by top instructors from leading universities and companies.


Getting your CV right

Since recruiters spend about seven seconds on a CV on average, you have to make sure yours is eye-catching and doesn't have any of the most common CV turn-offs. Here are some things you should keep in mind as you write your CV:

Read the job advert carefully.

To craft a CV that gets results, it’s important to understand the language and messaging that will resonate with the HR manager or recruiter. For best results, each CV you send out should be tailored to the position so you can highlight your skills and experience that are important to the position.

Look for as much information on the company website as possible. Read the job and person specifications. Discover what the company values. Print the documents and highlight the required competencies, personal characteristics and experience that the role requires. 

If you are applying through a recruitment consultant, then use them as a resource and ask them for CV help. Gather the information you need to tailor your CV to the role and the company.

Include job-specific phrases and keywords in your CV. 

Armed with the information uncovered in your research, it is time to start planning your CV. If you want to create a CV that catches the reader’s attention, you need to make it stand out. That means including job-specific phrases and keywords. There are different ways you can do this, depending on the type of CV you are writing. 

One excellent way to display your competencies is to have a table below your personal statement. It could look something like this.

Software experiencePeople skillsAnalytical thinkingFinancial
Photoshop (advanced)Team Management 10+Data AnalysisBudget Planning
SEM RushConflict ResolutionCritical ThinkingInvoicing
Google AnalyticsGroup PresentationsMarketing StrategyVendor Mgmt

The psychology of keywords and language is important. The recruiter will have a mental frame for the role, containing different interrelated semantic terms and topics. If you use the correct language and demonstrate relevance, then the recruiter will likely be impressed and drawn to read more.

Where you put information is crucial.

The first page of your CV is crucial; it’s the space that makes or breaks your application. You want to grab interest and make the recruiter want to read more about you. When writing your CV, treat the space you have as if it were real estate. The most valuable real estate is the top half of the first page. Don’t waste it!

Craft. a powerful personal statement.

A strong, punchy opening can make all the difference to whether a recruiter takes a chance on you, helping you to shine through a sea of similar applications. A personal statement is important. It’s not just the content that matters, but also the way it’s written. Using a third-person voice, powerful language, and numbers to back up claims adds weight to personal statements.

Compare this snippet from a personal statement

I am a hard-working and solution-oriented individual, who is eager to continue pursuing professional and personal growth. I am very well organised and can handle high-pressure situations with ease. Duties included leading teams of developers in the development of a new platform from the ground up and on-time delivery of multiple modules.

With this 

James is a hard-working and solution-oriented individual, currently completing PRINCE2 alongside work commitments. James is highly organised and has proven experience managing multiple streams of work in high pressure projects. James recently led a team of 15+ developers in the development of a groundbreaking financial platform from the ground up, successfully completing the project with on-time delivery of 14 phases and 26 distinct modules.

Choose the right CV fonts, photos, and frills. 

Use standard fonts, like Times New Roman or Arial for your CV and for your cover letter. Stay away from fancy fonts, such as Pacifico or Trebuchet MS.

Avoid photos on your CV unless they are the norm in your sector—for example, modelling. You don't need photos and they can actually hurt your application. Adding frills may leave you looking artsy and unprofessional—they should be kept to a minimum unless that is the image you are trying to portray.

Quantify your achievements.

Whenever possible, quantify your achievements. This gives the employer a better idea of what you are capable of, and will show them that you pay attention to detail. Numbers have psychological power too.

Start with a CV builder.

A CV builder is a way to create your own professional CV in minutes. 

With a good CV builder there's no need to be a graphic designer to create an amazing CV—simply drag and drop your content, or fill the fields provided in a form, and let the CV builder do the rest. Using a CV tool makes your work easier by automating several tasks usually done manually. 

Be ready to discuss your CV in your first interview.

In many first interviews with a company, the interviewer will go through your CV or ask for examples from your past that demonstrate certain competencies or knowledge. Therefore, your CV should include what you want to talk about at the interview. Your CV should point at the experiences and achievements in your career that demonstrate you have what it takes to do the job. 

Make sure your CV gives plenty of references to competency-based achievements. The interviewer will want to know about your knowledge, skills, attitudes, and traits. They may ask questions like:

“Give me an example from the past of when you managed multiple streams of work in a pressurised environment.”

If you have done a good job on your CV, you’ll be able to reference a job or project and respond with an impressive answer.

“When I was at my previous employer, I was a coordinator for a complex project. This involved liaising daily with cross-functional departments. I was the project facilitator for project administration, cost control, change cases, arranging meetings, reporting project risk statuses, scope creep, and progress reporting. The project was completed within budget and before the deadline, and the deliverables from my team were judged outstanding in the post-project audit.”

You need to do your research on what the employer is looking for. Do this by reading the job description carefully, visiting the company website, reading any recent news you might find about the company, and checking its social media posts.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.