How to write a CV

How to write a CV employers will want to read.

Recruitment software now scans your CV for key words and skills used in the job advertisement. This software is used by recruitment agents and many employers. This means that you should change your CV for each job application, using key words from the job advertisement.

Our CV builder helps you change your CV for each job application:

Two types of CV

There are two main types of CV.

  1. Skills-focused CV – useful for career changers, school leavers or people with gaps in work history.
  2. Work-focused CV – useful for showcasing work experience and for people progressing to the next stage in their career.

Make your CV easy to read

Recruiters take 15-20 seconds to scan your CV the first time. If you make a good impression, they'll read your CV more closely. 

To make your CV look good:

  • use a black, easy-to-read font in one size
  • use short sentences and break up blocks of text
  • use bullet points to list information
  • keep the tone formal
  • avoid abbreviations, slang or jargon
  • avoid photos or images
  • have strong headings and lots of white space
  • keep your CV to two pages.

Save your CV as a Word document and label it with your name, the application date and the job you're applying for.

What to put in your CV

A CV must include:

  • your name and contact details
  • technical and personal skills
  • work, and community and volunteer experience
  • qualifications and education
  • referees (you can include referees or note that referees are available on request).

A CV could also include:

  • an objective and personal statement
  • achievements
  • interests
  • job-specific information (for example, a teacher would put their teaching philosophy in their CV).

What to put in your CV video


Quick tips on what to put in your CV (Video - 2.33 mins)

Matt: See this person here? Every time you go for a job there’ll be someone looking over your CV.

Having a good CV gives you a greater chance to get to the interview side of things.

And I’m here to help you make your CV as good as it can be.

When you first start out with your CV, begin with your personal details: your name, your address, things like that. Then you can list your skills and achievements, any work you’ve done and your education.

Student: How about me babysitting my nieces and nephews?

Matt: Yeah, that’s perfect. Make sure you do a spell check – no ‘lols’ and no text language!

See your CV is just like your clothes – just like you change outfits for different occasions, you need to be able to write different things on your CV depending on what job you’re applying for, especially when it comes to your skills.

Student: So, like, letting a café owner know I already know how to make coffee?

Exactly! That’s a great one!

Check out this ad for a job at a clothes shop! They’re looking for someone with previous experience dealing with people and someone with a positive attitude.

Student: Nice, but I haven’t had a job like that before.

Matt: That’s ok. Even if you’ve never had a job like this before, you still have skills the employer is looking for.

Student: It still looks a bit messy.

Matt: No worries, once you’ve got everything down the team here at Careers New Zealand have got an awesome online tool to make it all look great for you.

It pays to get someone to look over your CV before you send it out as well – a parent or teacher can be helpful.

Student: Oh hi Mr Johnson!

Mr Johnson: Hey.

Student: Can you please look over this for me?

Mr Johnson: Sure. Looks good.

Student: Awesome.

Matt: You got your CV and your cover letter with you? ‘Cos your cover letter is your chance to tell the employer why you think you’re the best person for a particular job. And also why you’re interested in the role you’re applying for. It encourages the employer to read over your CV.

Student: Yup, got it right here.

Matt: Awesome!


What not to put in your CV

Don't put:

  • a photo or images
  • coloured or fancy fonts or design
  • your date of birth or age
  • your marital status, religion or bank account details
  • too much text and bad spelling
  • a funny or rude email address
  • work experience or interests that are not relevant to the job
  • lies about your experience and skills.

Name and contact details

Include:

  • first and last name (this should be in large and bold text)
  • postal address, including area code
  • phone number 
  • email address.

Optional:

  • job hunting profile link, such as LinkedIn or Behance
  • your professional website or Youtube channel link.

Make sure that:

  • your email address is work-appropriate, for example, kowhaijoneswork@email.com
  • your phone voicemail message only gives your name and a request to leave a message.

Objective and personal statement

An objective gives brief details about the type of work and role you would like and the industry you want to work in.

A personal statement gives the employer an idea of who you are in three or four sentences. 

You can include:

  • what you're currently doing for employment or education
  • what attracted you to the job you're applying for
  • your reason you're applying for this job
  • your career goals.

Both an objective and a personal statement are optional and sit under your contact details. 

Skills

The skills you put in your CV should be the same skills listed in the job advertisement.

Technical skills

Include a technical skill section in your CV to list skills such as:

  • driver's licences
  • languages
  • computer programmes.

Examples of writing about personal skills in your CV 

In a skills-focused CV, list the skills from the job advertisement with examples of how you've used those skills. This should be at the top of your CV.

Strong communication skills
  • member of Southwest High School debating team
  • chaired the Mount Gibson Neighbourhood Support committee for two years.

In a work-focused CV, describe your skills in your work history.

2015-2017  Customer Services Representative, Beluga Rental Cars
  • Demonstrated strong communication skills when advising customers on car insurance.

Find out more about putting skills in your CV.

Work history and work or volunteer experience

List your most recent jobs or work and volunteer experience first. Your work history needs to include:

  • the name of the employer
  • the job title/role
  • where the job was located
  • start date and end date.

Beneath this, list the tasks you performed. Also list any achievements.

If you change jobs in the same organisation, include both job titles/roles.

You don't need to list all your work history – keep your CV short.

Examples of work history

If you choose a skills-focused CV:

July 2017-August 2018  Counter assistant  Sione's Bakery, Auckland
  • customer service
  • increased sales of large coffees by 10%.

If you choose a work-focused CV, describe your skills more:

July 2017-August 2018  Counter assistant  Sione's Bakery, Auckland

Responsible for food and drink and customer service in bakery.

  • demonstrated excellent customer service skills when taking customer's orders
  • lead sales of large coffees, increasing sales to 10%.

Use action verbs to describe your work history

Use action verbs to describe your work history and skills. These are words like demonstrated, managed, lead, developed, organised.

Gaps in your work history?

If you have gaps where you haven't been in paid work:

  • use a skills-focused CV
  • showcase skills you've learned on your break such as planning, budgeting, caring for family members
  • include work experience and volunteer work in your work history
  • explain the reason for big gaps in your cover letter.

Qualifications

List your qualifications or education in the qualifications section of your CV. You can include:

  • NCEA levels or other school qualifications
  • school subjects with grades
  • certificates, diplomas or degrees
  • microcredentials and short work-related courses
  • work-based training
  • professional development courses, conferences and workshops
  • online courses.

Format of qualifications section

List the newest or most relevant qualification first. Include:

  • name of the course or qualification you completed
  • name of the course provider
  • where you studied
  • start and finish date of your training or study, or the year you graduated.

Achievements

Include an achievements section in your CV if you have important achievements that aren't covered in the skills or work history sections.

You can include such things as:

  • awards and commendations
  • successfully completed projects
  • examples of how you helped a former employer meet their targets
  • important contributions to the community.

For each example, note what the achievement was, and when and where you achieved it.

Interests

Including your interests on your CV is optional. If you do, make sure you:

  • include interests that show skills that employers are looking for such as leadership skills
  • avoid common interests such as watching TV or going out with friends.

Referees

Referees talk to employers about your skills, work history and personality.

You need at least two referees. One referee should be your current manager, team leader or work experience supervisor.   

Other referees could be a:

  • former employer
  • sports coach
  • teacher or principal
  • respected community leader.

Referee contact details should include their:

  • first and last names
  • job title
  • organisation they work for
  • phone number
  • email address.

CV templates and examples

See examples of school leaver, skills-focused and work-focused CVs and try our CV templates.

Updated 13 Feb 2019