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How to create a winning résumé or CV in English


Test Takers

Date Published

18 December 2023

Being able to write a good résumé (also known as a CV) in English can help you get noticed by employers and increase your chances of getting hired for the job you want.

It’s essential if you want to stand out from the crowd of applicants.

A good résumé shows your skills, experience, qualifications and language certificates – like IELTS – in a clear and simple way. It highlights your strengths and makes you an attractive candidate to employers.

So, what should you include in it and what should you pay extra attention to when you’ re-writing this document?

This is what you’ll learn in this blog post.

You’ll discover what aspects of your résumé you should focus on and find out more about what to write in it.

You’ll also learn how to make sure your spelling and grammar are error-free and, most importantly, how to practise talking about your résumé at a job interview.

Let’s begin.

What to include in your résumé

The contents may vary depending on the country you’re applying to work in. For example, a résumé for a job in the UK might look different from an Australian-style one.

Read more from the IELTS Partners, Cambridge English and IDP, about how to tailor your résumé for those countries.

Typically, your document should present the following information:

  • Contact details: your name, address, phone number, and email address.
  • A brief paragraph about your experience, skills, and career goals.
  • Work experience: a list of your previous and current jobs with a short description of your responsibilities and achievements.
  • Education: your formal qualifications and degrees.
  • Skills: a list of your skills, including how well you can communicate in English.
  • Certifications: any professional certifications that you have.

Read the British Council’s blog for specific examples of how to format your résumé.

So, given that your work experience, qualifications and skills are generally what employers will be more interested in, these are the areas that we’re going to focus on.

First, you need to be clear on what job you’re looking for, so you can tailor it to a specific role or company. This will help you to know what information is relevant to the job and what information is not.

Job interviewer examining resume. To check the history and ability of those who apply for the job that meet the company needs or not.

For example, if you’re applying for a position as a social media manager, would it make sense to include your role as a waiter in a restaurant from six years ago? Do you think this information would make your potential employer think, ‘Wow, yes! This is exactly who I’m looking for! Let me call this person right away.’

Not really, right?

The same applies to your education, certifications, and skills. Does it matter if you have great computer skills if you’re applying for a job as a painter? Probably not.

So that’s why when writing your résumé it’s useful to imagine you are the employer and ask yourself: would this work experience or certificate make my potential employer interested in hiring me?

To increase your chances of being contacted for a job interview, your résumé needs to be relevant to the job you’re applying for.

So avoid filling the page with all the jobs you’ve done in your life.

Once you’re clear on what’s relevant and what’s not, you can start drafting your résumé. Then you can focus on another essential aspect of the document: the language that you use in it.

Spelling and grammar

Generally, teachers of English tell their students not to worry too much about making mistakes when using English because language mistakes are part of the language-learning process.

This is great advice – except for when writing your résumé. Grammar and spelling mistakes on your résumé can make you look unprofessional, and they might even reduce your chances of getting the job.

So, once you’ve written your résumé, double-check every word and sentence to make sure your document is free of any mistakes. This is crucial.

Mistake text

Top tip

Ask someone who’s a native speaker or who has a high level of English to review your document. The more people you can have to proofread it, the better. This will help you to spot any errors and make sure your résumé is polished and professional.

Recruitment agencies around the world usually recommend doing this when writing a résumé in your first language, so it becomes even more important when writing one in another language.

Once you’re sure your résumé is error-free, get ready to talk about it.

How to practise talking about it

Recruiters shaking hands with candidate during job interview

Have you submitted your résumé to a company and they have invited you for a job interview? Congratulations! That means your résumé was a good one!

Now prepare answers to questions they might ask you. Potentially, the interviewer could ask you questions about anything you have on the page.

So what would you say if they asked you, ‘Can you tell me more about this job, these/skills and qualifications that I see here?’

You need to be ready to have something to say and prepare to say it as best as you can in English.

Do this in three steps:

Step 1: Brainstorm what you could say about your work experience, skills and qualifications. Take notes.

Step 2: Focus on how to express your ideas as best as you can. What words do you need? For example, how exactly will you explain to the interviewer what you were responsible for in your last job? Do you need to research some technical terms? Now is the right time to do it.

Step 3: Practise practise practise! Practise speaking aloud about your first job on the list, then the second, then the third. Practise speaking about your qualifications, skills and certifications. They might never ask you anything about any of those, but if they do, you’ll be ready to answer.

You can also record yourself with your smartphone and then listen to how well you described the points on the résumé. Or, even better, you can ask a friend to play the role of the interviewer, so you can have a better feel for what a job interview with a real person is like.

Whatever you decide to do, practise a lot, especially right before the interview. This will give you the confidence to answer questions effectively.

Best of luck with your job hunting!