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Written by Karl KahlerKarl Kahler

How to make a successful CV

26 min read
How to write a CV
We’ll help you make job-winning CVs with our professional tips and tools!

A powerful CV is the most important tool you have in your job-hunt toolbox. Having an excellent and attractive CV can set you apart from other applicants and increase your chances of getting callbacks and interviews from potential employers. In this guide, we’ll help you make an outstanding CV. Here at cvapp.nz, we’ve helped millions of professionals all around the world. In our guide, we’ll explore the most important elements in CV creation and how to impress employers and get noticed faster. Let’s get started!

Making superb CVs

We created our CV builder with one mission in mind: To help Kiwis advance their career potential and land their dream job roles. To get you started, we’ll start with some basic formatting rules. 

We know how frustrating it can be trying to format your work on text editors like Google Docs or Microsoft Word. You move an image to the left and suddenly your paragraphs are on another page, your image is covered by text and you don’t know how to fix it! Believe me, we’ve been there. 

To avoid any formatting issues, we’ve designed high-quality, professional CV templates with in-built formatting. Instead of wasting your time stressing over frustrating formatting and dull design layouts, you can check out our CV templates over in our CV builder and select the CV that appeals to you. Not sure which CV is right for you based on your job or career goals? Don’t worry! Our guide will outline the best CVs based on the job and industry you’re looking for. We’ll get you sorted.

Perfect CV Presentation

Presentation is important in a CV for a number of reasons. If your CV is attractive, clean and well-structured, employers are more likely to engage with your CV and reach out to you. Alternatively, if your CV presentation is messy, disorganised or awkward, this can turn potential employers off and decrease your chances of getting the job! Boo! 

Professional tip

Including icons in your CV can highlight specific sections in your and distinguish yourself from other applicants applying for the same job role. 

Fortunately, we handle all the design and formatting elements to ensure your CV has perfect presentation. All of our templates have been created by industry professionals and approved by career experts, so you can be sure that your CV presentation and formatting will impress employers and get you noticed faster. 

Do

Use our expertly-crafted attractive design templates that have been crafted to demand attention and get job-winning results. 

Don't

Spend an excessive amount of time crafting the ideal design layouts from scratch, only to encounter formatting issues. 

We’ve made CV templates for professionals seeking careers in any industry. From creative, modern, traditional and professional templates, we’ve got something for everyone. Check out our CV builder to see for yourself!

Structured CV Formats

There are three main CV formats that applicants can use to structure their CVs:

  • Reverse Chronological CV
  • Functional CV
  • Combination CV

Reverse Chronological Format

Reverse Chronological CVs are the most common and accepted CVs formats. A Reverse Chronological CV emphases your education and work history from most recent to least recent. This is the CV format that most employers are used to seeing. Reverse Chronological CVs are simple, straight-forward and neatly structured. 

We recommend using Reverse Chronological CVs if you have a consistent work history. If you don’t have much work experience, Reverse Chronological CVs may not be the best option for you. Don’t worry! We’ll teach you about Functional and Combination formats, too. These formats focus on your skills and qualifications, though they’ll still display your work experience from most recent to oldest. Wanna know more? Read ahead. 

Professional tip

Using a Reverse Chronological Order ensures that employers’ don’t get bored. Employers don’t want to dig through text walls to find out your employment history! Displaying your work history in a Reverse Chronological Order keeps your CV engaging and organised. 

Functional CV Format

Functional CVs focus on your skill sets. You can include soft skills, such as excellent time-management, adaptability and leadership skills, or more technical and hard skills, which will depend on the industry and job listing you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for a job as an engineer, you might discuss your mathematics or project management skills. You can make your Functional CV even more memorable by touching on previous projects you’ve completed, any social initiatives you’ve participated in and relevant conferences or training you’ve completed. 

Combination CV Format

A combination CV format is, you guessed it, a combination of a Functional CV format and a Reverse Chronological CV format! Combination CVs offer the best of both worlds. We recommend using Combination CVs for more technical career pathways and professions. Combination CVs focus on skills as well as experience and are a great option for candidates who want to share various aspects of their professional profile with employers. 

Still not sure which format is right for you? Check out our CV Formats guides, our blog and more resources on the cvapp.nz website. We’ll show you how to structure your CV and give you more tips for an effective, attractive and impressive CV!

Use This Template

CV Sections

Many job-hunters are unsure of which sections to include on their CV. If you’re one of them, don’t worry! We’ll walk you through the process. 

Ultimately, the sections you include depend on the job and industry you’re applying for, as well as your specific professional history and work experience. If you’re thinking of using the Reverse Chronological format, like most people, your CV should contain the following sections: 

  • Contact details
  • Summary, including your motivation for applying to the role and personal statement
  • Work history
  • Skills
  • Education

You might also like to include: 

  • Accomplishments
  • Milestones
  • Awards, certificates and affiliated organisations
  • Relevant hobbies and histories
Do
  • Incorporate sections that highlight your expertise and motivate employers to want to keep reading your CV!
  • Include sections that outline your skills. Consider incorporating sections that may be relevant to the job role or industry, and don’t forget to use our Skill Suggestion tool when adding skills to your skill section!
Don't
  • Include sections that are unnecessary or irrelevant. Remember, you have limited space and you want to use it as efficiently as possible!
  • Include links to your social media platforms that show content you don’t want employers seeing. This includes photos of you partying or any photos that might be interpreted as inappropriate.
  • List achievement or life milestones that aren’t relevant to the job role or job description. Even if you have lots of space left – it’s best to only include relevant and significant details on your CV!

While these are just guidelines, keep in mind that the sections you include in your CV will depend on the job role. For example, for less formal companies, it may be appropriate to mention that you enjoy skiing and fishing. However, if you’re applying for a role as a lawyer or doctor, you’d probably be better off omitting your more personal hobbies from your application. If you’re still unsure of what to include, you can always ask yourself the following questions when writing your CV: 

  • Will including this help me land the job role?
  • Is this relevant and appropriate for the job description?
  • Will this make a good impression with the employer and show I’m the ideal candidate?

Your Professional Story

While it’s important to keep your CV relevant and concise, it’s also important to assert your personality in your professional documents. Employers don’t like reading cold and boring content! Don’t be afraid to share some emotion or upbeat energy in your writing style – it’s perfectly possible to keep things professional and positive! 

Do
  • Create a summary that includes personality and character! Don’t be afraid to use descriptive language and include hard and soft skills that highlight your expertise.
  • Avoid using unnecessary words in your CV – keep things brief and concise. You can still highlight the more impressive aspects of your professional profile without using irrelevant or excessive text.
Don't
  • Neglect to mention your significant achievements and stand-out qualities! Remember to use specific details where possible.

Summaries should capture the attention of employers and motivate them to reach out to you after they’ve finished reading your CV! Avoid writing that is unnecessarily long and complicated. Let the facts speak for you and keep the energy and flow of your writing professional and energetic. 

Professional Summary Customisable Example 1

Creative, innovative graphic designer and illustrator with a passion for creating powerful visuals and designs. Designed and collaborated with over 100+ artists, brands and organisations across New Zealand. Efficient at using illustrator and design software, committed to bringing client goals to life creatively and effectively. 

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Professional Summary Customisable Example 2

Passionate and purpose-driven graphic designer with over 8 years experience creating captivating illustrations and designers for clients. Strong communicator with an eye for detail and compelling design. Skilled in a range of design software, tools and techniques and committed to bringing the visions of clients to life.  

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Work Experience

At cvapp.nz, we know that Kiwis like to be humble. Sometimes, we’re afraid to mention our achievements or work experience because we don’t want to come off as arrogant. Try to think about it like this: Employers need you to be at your best, but how will they know what you’re capable of if you don’t show them what your best looks like? Showing employers what you have to offer is important as it helps them determine whether you’re a good fit for their company. In this instance, the best thing you can do for potential employers is confidently share your professional work experience and accomplishments. Sound tricky? Don’t worry! We’ll help you out. 

The key thing to remember when writing about your professional history is to include details about each position. Avoid name dropping your position at the company and not going into further detail! Elaborating on your work history will help employers understand your expertise better. You don’t have to include every single job you’ve had – if you want, you can just include the jobs that are most relevant to the job posting you’re applying for. This will also ensure that your CV stays concise and uncluttered. 

Professional tip

Wherever possible, try to use specific details, figures, numbers and projects to describe your productivity in previous roles. For example, did you help increase sales in your last job role? Did you help significantly increase the social media presence of your past company? If so, by how much? Potential employers love to see specific data.

When formatting your work history, it should look a little like this:

  • Job title, company name and location
  • The month and year you started and left the job position
  • Bullet points that describe your role during your time at the job. Anywhere between 3-6 sentences is great!

We recommend keeping an up-to-date record of all your accomplishments, projects and milestones so that you can mention them on your CV! Keeping a record of these elements will help make your job-hunt much easier. Instead of having to manually think of new content for each job posting, you can easily reference this document for inspiration. 

Professional tip

Have you recently been promoted, or have you been promoted in previous job positions? Be sure to include this and highlight this achievement in your CV!

Work History Customisable Example 1
  • Designed projects in a time-efficient manner and in accordance with graphic design principles
  • Created prototypes and designs for a diverse range of clients and media platforms 
  • Used a range of software to bring client visions to life, including Adobe and BeatBox 
  • Created reports for senior management on a fortnightly basis
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Work History Customisable Example 2
  • Prepared and presented over 85 high-quality illustrations for clients using digital and physical art mediums
  • Utilised a range of various artistic techniques and styles to bring concepts to life
  • Maintained effective communication with clients or team members in order to establish a clear understanding of project requirements and expectations
  • Completed research and collected reference materials to effectively complete the illustration process
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Your skills are your superpower 

Employers are looking for skilled applicants that can add value to their workplace and help them achieve company goals and objectives. To convince potential employers that you’re the ideal candidate for the role, you’ll need to share your skills with them. We like to think of your skills as your professional superpowers. 

Some skills are essential for some job roles. For example, if you’re a chef applying for a role in the hospitality industry, you’ll need to have good food preparation and sanitation skills. This is a non-negotiable! When describing your skills, try to match the verbs and language you use with the language the potential employer included in the job description. Since there’s limited space on your CV layout, try to prioritise the skills that are most outstanding and relevant to the job position. 

Professional tip

It’s always a good idea to include a combination of hard and soft skills in your CV. Soft skills are more intangible qualities, like emotional intelligence, leadership skills, conflict resolution or communication skills. Hard skills are more technical and often require formal training. For example, hard skills can include web development, data analysis or computer programming. Both hard and soft skills are important and contribute value to the workplace. Don’t be afraid to share yours with your potential employer!.

Education 

Education is often a crucial part of your CV, however the importance of CV will matter more in some professions and less in others. Let’s dive into it. 

For some industries, such as academia and law, your educational experience will be extremely important to potential employers. For other industries, such as retail and hospitality, your educational qualifications may not always be the star of the show. However, including an education section on your CV is still an important feature of a high-quality CV. This doesn’t always need to be the formal, traditional education that people often think it needs to be! If you’re self-taught or have completed courses online, let your employers know! 

For some employers, evidence of formal education is essential, especially when applying for job roles like doctors, lawyers and engineers. If you have evidence of your scholarship, such as publications or journals that you’ve been involved in, include these too! If you’re searching for a job in academia, including your publications is a great way to connect with your employer. 

Professional tip

Be sure to display your education in reverse chronological order, too! This helps employers gain a more accurate understanding of your current educational expertise. 

Technology, systems and employers

So, you’re probably wondering: how do employers sort through applicants, anyway? Do they go through each and every single CV with a fine-tooth comb? 

Most of the time, no. 

Many employers use tracking systems, such as an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to monitor and sort applications. For some companies, these tracking systems are important. Employers couldn’t possibly sort through each and every application, so they need to employ software that helps them get the job done. 

These systems filter through applications to assist employers with their employment decisions. This is why it is so essential that your CV is optimised to the job role and job description. Tracking systems like ATS will search for keywords and sometimes even score your overall application. The highest scores will get the most attention from employers! 

Many companies employ algorithms, often controlled by their filtering software and systems, to help shortlist applicants. Candidates that have poor formatting are nearly always excluded from the algorithm’s shortlist. Instead, algorithms will favour applications that are neat, clean and well-structured. This is why we’ve made sure our CV templates use only the best formatting principles. We don’t want you to get filtered out before you’ve even had the chance to shine!

So how do tracking systems score your CV? While algorithms are complicated (and are only becoming more complex) the primary factor is keywords. Employers will often key in words that tracking systems and softwares will look for. These keywords vary, depending on the industry and job description. 

Do
  • Read over the job description to gain a good understanding of job role
  • Incorporate keywords from the job description into your CV
  • Research your employer – explore their social media, websites and reviews
Don't
  • Use keywords in an excessive or unnatural way! While it’s great to include keywords, try to incorporate them in a way that feels natural
  • Send generic versions of your CV to employers that haven’t been tailored to the company. Try to use the names of employers when you know them!

Our tools and resources will help you simplify the process and guide you on how to make the best possible CV for your employers. We have over 20 CV templates for common professions. For example, if you’re applying for a job role as a pharmacist, dentist, lawyer or administrative assistant, we’ve got you covered!

We recommend researching the social media and website of the employer. By doing this, you can learn more about their company culture, their goals and values, the language and tone they use, and important facts about the company. You may even be able to use some of this knowledge if you get invited for an interview! 

Essentially, you’re trying to avoid using generic, run-of-the-mill language. CVs that use vibrant, actionable language and have been tailored to employers are more likely to get a great response. This is also the best way to influence ATS tracking systems that you’re an ideal candidate for the job role. By using keywords from the job description and animated language, the ATS system is more likely to swipe right on your profile! (Translation: The ATS system thinks your profile is a good match). Be sure to read the job description a couple of times to get a good understanding of what the employer is looking for! 

References 

OK, we’ve covered work experience, skills and education. What’s next?

Next up is references. What are references? In short, references are contact details or testimonials from previous employers that vouch for your character and professional performance. They’re important because they offer employers an unbiased look into your professional profile. Even though your CV may be attractive and convincing, it’s reassuring to know that there are other people that may be able to back up what you write about yourself and your professional story, 

Sometimes, it can be unclear whether you need to include references. While references aren’t always necessary, including the contact details of trusted references never hurts. You can always write on your CV that you have references upon request. However, you should always include references if explicitly requested by potential employers. Check out our CV templates in our CV builder to see what this looks like! 

Here are some tips for when you’re adding your reference section:

Do
  • Remember: Be sure to include references if explicitly requested by potential employers
  • Include references from high-profile or senior staff that can attest to your professional conduct
Don't
  • Include references without their permission: always ask your references if you can list them in your reference section
  • Use references that cannot provide a positive, professional character reference. Only include references that can provide value and insight on your professional abilities and behaviour

Cover Letters & CVs

Here at cvapp.nz, we’ve got all the tools and resources you need to unlock your career potential. We’ve designed high-quality CVs and cover letters to help you impress employers and get hired faster. We’ve got cover letters and CVs for everyone. 

We recommend matching the aesthetic, header and design of your CV to your cover letter. This will help keep your application memorable to employers and promote your personal brand. Employers will be able to recognise your CV and cover letter match, demonstrating that you’re an applicant that isn’t afraid to think outside of the box and go the extra mile. 

Most employers will request cover letters alongside your CV. Cover letters allow you to speak directly to employers and support your CV application! Since cover letters don’t have the same structure as CVs, you are free to be much more creative in your cover letter and affirm your personality in your writing. We have heaps of resources, tools, guides and advice on cover letters: check out our cover letter guide for more!

Professional tip

Remember that every sentence in your cover letter should highlight your excellence and why you’re the ideal candidate for the role. While CVs provide the tangible details, your cover letter provides a more emotive and personable perspective. 

Proofreading 

When you’re happy with your CV, you’re ready to proofread! Proofreading is the last step before downloading your CV and sending it off to a recruiter or employer. Proofreading is important because once you’ve sent your CV, there’s no altering it. It’s going straight to your potential employer’s inbox. 

Luckily, we have an in-built spell-checker that will help ensure there’s no annoying typos sabotaging your chances of an interview. However, even though we’ve got our spell-checker and awesome tips and advice, reviewing your CV a couple of times is essential. Read your CV out loud, and if you find it necessary, ask for feedback from someone you trust. 

Professional tip

Thorough proofreading of your CV is essential. Consider reading each sentence out loud or seeking feedback from others you trust. Taking regular breaks can also help prevent fatigue and errors while reviewing your CV.

We hope you enjoyed our comprehensive guide for writing a stellar CV! We also hope you know that the fun doesn’t stop here – feel free to check out all of our free tools and resources on our website and blog for more guidance and advice. We’re proud to help Kiwi professionals unlock the next chapter of their career story, and we hope we’ve made your job-hunting journey a little easier. 

Ngā mihi nui! 

Team cvapp.nz

Short on time? Build a professional CV in 15 minutes or less
Short on time? Build a professional CV in 15 minutes or less
Our resume templates follow the exact 'resume rules' employers look for in potential candidates. Easy, effortless and effective - try now for free!
Create my CV
Short on time? Build a professional CV in 15 minutes or less
Short on time? Build a professional CV in 15 minutes or less
Our resume templates follow the exact 'resume rules' employers look for in potential candidates. Easy, effortless and effective - try now for free!
Create my CV
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