A Guide to Writing a CV

Need to write a CV but don’t know where to start? Check out these step by step instructions on how to write a CV. To start off with,  you need to think about the order of your résumé or CV. A common way to present the information is:

1. Contact Details
2. Summary
3. Key Skills
4. Education
5. Work Experience
6. Interests/personal traits
7. Referees

1. Contact Details

You need to include all the details a potential employer might need to get in contact with you. This includes your name, phone number, email and address.

Name: Always write your first and last name on your resume.

Phone number: It’s okay to put your mobile number, just make sure that you remember to answer your phone in a professional and friendly way. Don’t just say “Hello” answer by saying hello as well as saying your name. You can say something like “Hello this is Emma speaking”

Email: Its important to make sure that your email is suitable for a workplace, often this means making sure it has your name in it.

If you email is something like [email protected] you might consider making a new account for work related emails and keeping your old one for personal emails. Try some combination of your last name and first initial, or first name and last initial to help it look a bit more professional.

Address: You don’t have to write in your home address if you don’t feel comfortable with it, but it may come in handy if an employer wants to send something to you in the post.

2. Summary

The summary should only be a couple of sentences or a short paragraph and should highlight your most significant skills, features and experience.

It should get the employers attention and make them interested in reading the rest of your resume. You should start with a sentence about who you are, the job or field you would like to work in and finish up with your skills and how they relate to the job you are applying for.

3. Key Skills

This one will require a bit of thought, you need to think about what you are good at, but also what kinds of qualities the job is asking for.

The most important skills to mention are things the potential employer has asked for in the job ad or position description, but you should also add in the other skills you have that might be relevant to the job.

You might find job advertisements will say things like we are looking for ‘excellent communication skills’ so in your list of key skills you need to make sure you include something about your communications skills. They might not mention anything about computer skills, but if you have great computer skills and you would use a computer in the job, make sure you add that in too.

4. Education

If you have up to high school qualifications, you only need to put your most recent completed qualification.

If you have completed some additional courses, like a TAFE course, start with your most recent qualification first, then work back.

Make sure when you are filling in this information you include the course name, level, the learning institute you completed it with, the dates (the year you started and finished) and don’t forget to add in any awards you received.

5. Work experience

When you are writing about your employment history and work experience, again you need to start with the your most recent job and go backwards. Make sure you write the name of your position, the company it was with and the dates (the year you started and finished).

If you haven’t had a job before, think of other ways to demonstrate your experience. These could be things like a volunteering role, work experience you have done through school and any work placements you have had.

For this section it’s important to give a bit more detail, this is where the employer will really start to see what you have done in the past and how you  might be suitable for the position they have. For each of the positions you have held, write about the most significant things you achieved in the role and the responsibilities you had. Ideally these things will match up with the key skills you mentioned earlier.

6. Interests/Personal attributes

In the job description they may have given you a list of personal traits they are looking for, and if not there are some things that most employers will want in a new employees such as:

  • Being a team player
  • Attention to detail
  • Showing initiative
  • A positive attitude
  • A good work ethic
  • A desire to learn
  • Being organised
  • Enjoying working in a fast paced environment
  • Being reliable

Particularly if you haven’t had much work experience and you need to fill up your resume a bit, a list of your personal attributes can help employers learn a bit more about you.

Remember, only to write something if it is true. There is no point writing that you ‘show initiative’ to make yourself sound good if you’re not sure what it means, or you can’t do it.

If there are words you don’t understand in the job description, looking them up is a great way of making sure you are confident in what is being asked of you. Dictionary.reference.com is a great online dictionary that is easy to use.

7. Referees/References

Your resume needs to have at least two, or three,  references if you have had a bit of work experience. These people need to be people who would give you a good recommendation as an employee. Your first reference is usually someone who has supervised you in a work environment, otherwise a work colleague will do.

If you don’t have people who have directly supervised you or worked with you, you can pick someone who is a professional who you know well and will give a good recommendation such as a teacher at school.

You probably shouldn’t use family or friends as a reference unless they have worked with you in some way. Try really hard not to use a family member with the same last name as you as this just looks a bit unprofessional.

Before putting the referees on your resume you will need to contact them and see if they are willing to give you a reference. You should check to make sure you have all their information right (like the spelling of their name and their position) and give a heads up about the kinds of jobs you are applying for.

You need to make sure you write the referees full name, position title, the company they work for and their phone number.

Where to now?

There’s no need to get too overwhelmed about writing your resume. If you just start at the beginning and work your way through the steps it will be fine! Write your first one as a draft and try to get someone else to read it for you, or print out a copy and try reading it on paper. This will help you find any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors and make sure everything makes sense.

Once you are sure it’s all edited you just need a cover letter and you are ready to apply for jobs!


Even with all these tips writing a résumé or CV can still be really difficult. To make it easier for you, Youth Central have loads of great sample resumes and cover letters for whatever stage or level of experience you’re at.

Check out their samples here.