One mistake can get your CV trashed.
Which is why for a CV to be successful it must be carefully planned and clearly presented.
This means writing one that has nothing wrong with it.
The question is, can you write a perfect CV?
The answer is YES!
Here’s how to write a CV:
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The best CV can fail because of poor presentation.
That’s because looks matter. When your CV looks good, you look great.
However, it’s not easy dressing up a CV, especially when you have so many things to do and get right.
This is particularly true of the top part of your CV, which is the first thing a recruiter will see.
Having one that looks impressive at first glance is important because it’s the hook that keeps a potential employer interested and reading. A carefully laid out one also demonstrates professionalism and ability on the part of a candidate. A well set CV must;
- Pack maximum information into minimum space.
- Allow the reader to skim it and quickly pick out key information.
As there are several CV layouts to choose from, its essential you pick the one which best matches where you are in your career today and where you want to be tomorrow.
- Chronological CV (or traditional CV)
- Functional CV (skills based or targeted CV)
- Creative CV
Tips on creating a scannable CV layout;
KEEP IT SIMPLE
The simpler the layout, the better.
Short and sweet is best for getting noticed by Hiring Managers. They love CVs that have a logical order, with sufficient spacing and clear section headings.
The most successful CVs aren’t just informative, they are also pleasant to look at.
BREAK UP THE SECTIONS
By breaking your CV up into different parts, you make it easier to navigate and help employers quickly find the information they want about you.
Recruiters appreciate an organised CV that makes their life simpler.
A CV should include the following clearly headed categories;
- Contact Information
- Personal Statement
- Work Experience
BREAK UP THE TEXT
Large blocks of text are a readers’ worst nightmare.
So, to break your text up into easily readable bites use;
- short punchy sentences
- bullet points
- simple lists
All of these will help recruiters to effortlessly navigate your application.
USE ALL AVAILABLE SPACE
You only have a finite amount of pace in which to sell yourself to a prospective employer. Meaning you can’t afford to waste a single inch if you want to fit everything in.
How to save space on your CV:
- Key skills – Make a list of all the essential information you need to include in your CV and focus on including that.
- Avoid repetition – Specifically repeating a specific skill set in the hope that it will get noticed.
- Line spacing – Change the line spacing settings from double space to single space.
- Smaller font size – Use 10 points instead of 12.
- Page margins – decrease these.
- Headers – shorten the size.
- References – Do not include names, instead say ‘Available on request’.
USE LOTS OF WHITE SPACE
Let your CV breathe.
A CV jam packed with text from top to bottom is the last thing a recruiter wants to see.
Instead, they want a document that is uncluttered and easy to read.
White space does this by helping your CV look neat, orderly and healthy.
What is white space?
It’s the area of your CV that is free of any text and is commonly used to separate sections and paragraphs.
Used correctly it can;
- Have a harmonising effect on your CV.
- Increase the impact of the words and headings.
- Create a “call to action” or an invitation to click on something.
The dark side of white space
There is a fine balance between too much and not enough white space. Excessive amounts can leave your CV looking blank, empty, and lacking in content.
Each section in your CV should be announced by a big, bold heading to ensure it stands out.
Apart from being a good way to break up your CV, they also make it quicker to find information about you.
It’s worth noting that headers tend to stand out more when surrounded by white space. This is because a readers eyes find it easier to focus on words which have less distraction in the periphery.
Your CV page should be perfectly aligned and consistent.
One way to do this is to have a consistent page margin around it. The acceptable CV margin size is anywhere from 0.5 inches to 1 inch.
To adjust your margins in Microsoft Word, simply click Layout – Margins – Narrow in your toolbar.
Consistency is key.
Make your CV slick and professional by using the same font throughout it.
Shy away from using artistic fonts such as Comic Sans and instead go for conservative such as Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman. For text in the body the ideal font size should be 11 and 12.
NAME YOUR CV FILE
Name your completed CV in a professional way that clearly identifies you and the document. For instance;
- “Brian Jones CV”
Avoid vague titles such as “CV document” or the job role i.e. “Sales Manager CV”.
BEST FORMAT TO SAVE CV
Your main aim is to ensure that your CV can be opened and read on any PC or laptop.
Therefor the best formats to save and send your CV in are PDF or MS Word. These will also ensure that the receiver sees your CV as you intended.
DO NOT USE;
- Coloured paper
- Unusual fonts
- Bright colours
- Weird layouts
All of the above can make you appear as an extrovert and someone who does not take their work seriously.
Your CV should be no longer than two pages.
Do this by making every word count and by keeping sentences short, brief and to the point. What you write must be easy to read, meaningful and relevant to the job you are applying for.
Why shorten your CV?
- The employer does not have the time to read lengthy documents.
- Recruiters will not be able to quickly evaluate a long CV jam packed with text.
You want to avoid;
- Boring the reader
- Information overload
- Describe any old jobs you had (i.e., longer than 5 years ago) in a single sentence.
- Remove unnecessary sections like hobbies.
- Briefly summarise your qualifications.
- Use an active voice when writing.
- Set your margins to ‘narrow’ in Word.
- Only include information relevant to the job.
RELATED: How long should a CV be
This is the first part of your CV, right at the top of the page.
The beginning of your CV is its most prominent location and is the first place people will see.
It’s here that you should insert your;
- Professional title
- Contact details
Your name should be in large bold letters. Followed by your job title, address, email and telephone number.
- Add the words ‘Curriculum Vitae’ or ‘CV’, instead treat your name as the title.
Personal Statements go at the top of a CV.
Because of its prominent position it is one of the first things a recruiter will see. Meaning it’s a great opportunity to firstly impress a recruiter with your communicating skills and secondly capture their attention.
In a short space you have to write an impressive few sentences, explaining your best skills and why you feel you are suitable for the job. You have to write it in a way that:
- Can be read quickly.
- Gets an employer interested in you.
- Encourages them to read the rest of your CV.
What to include;
- You ambitions.
- What you can bring to the company.
- How you can improve their performance.
Areas to cover;
- Try to address the needs of the recruiter.
- Highlight your successes, accomplishments and any significant contributions you have made at previous places you have worked.
- Show off your knowledge of the industry and job role.
Different stages of personal statement:
Introduce yourself by explaining who you are and what you want.
Make clear why you are submitting the application.
State why you are applying for the position. Give reasons why you feel you are a ‘good fit’ and describe how your skills and abilities match the job requirements.
Mention skills or points you have already listed in your main CV body.
Aim of a personal statement
It helps to personalize your job application by introducing you to a prospective employer.
Third of first person?
They can be written in either the third or first person.
Other names for ‘Personal Statements’;
- Career statements
- Personal profiles
- Statement of purpose
- Letter of intent
- Mission statement
Give details of your career history in reverse chronological order, meaning your most recent job first and then work backwards.
Give more attention to your most recent jobs. Employers want to know what you have been doing in the last 2 years not 10 years ago.
- Job title
- Employer’s name
- Employment dates
- Key responsibilities
Use bullet points to explain your duties and bolster each sentence with powerful verbs and figures.
Focus on those duties most relevant to the job you’re applying for.
Like with your work experience above, begin with your most recent (or current) academic activity and work backwards to your last.
- School, College or University where you studied
- Dates you attended
Give details of the most relevant modules, assignments, or projects.
Certificates and training
At the bottom of the sections include things like;
- Specialist training
Concentrate on those skills you possess that are directly related to the vacancy you are applying for.
Your aim is to give maximum exposure to competencies the employer wants.
Do this by;
- Scanning the job description to note all the skills required from a candidate.
- If you have these competencies than list them in your CV.
- Using bullet points to describe them and if possible, back them up with examples.
If using keywords to describe your specialities, then only have one keyword or a short phrase of no more than three words to describe each one.
List no more than 12 keywords in total in your CV.
Your past performance can be an indication of future performance.
This is how employers will see you.
Therefore, if you have done things in your career that have had a positive impact on your employer, put them in your CV.
Types of achievements;
- Saved the company time or money
- Increased performance
- Improved processes
- Facilitated growth
- Exceeded work targets
- Identified a problem and solved it
- Elected to do or lead a project or people
- Trained or Educated others
- Awards received
- Competitions won
- High grades in studies
- Qualifications gained
- Participation in sporting events, etc.
- Leader or manager in some club or organisation
Your interest can provide a more personal picture of who you are, as well as provide you a topic to talk about at an interview.
Group activities you do that show you as a team player and someone who can get along with other people.
Saying something typical like you ‘enjoy socialising with friends’, this will not make you look interesting.
If it’s not going to add value, leave it out.
Always make sure this information is up to date so a potential employer can reach you.
- Email address (professional not embarrassing one)
- Mobile phone number – (one you’re always available on)
- Home address – (if don’t want to give your full address then just mention the city or town where you live)
LinkedIn profile (only if you have a good one)
Always give your mobile number
Include your mobile number, just in case you move address or lose your landline.
When applying for international jobs
Remember to provide your countries international dialling code.
It’s advisable to simply say;
- ‘References available upon request’.
This is because;
A simple line saves space on your CV for more important information.
The recruiter can always ask for your referees details when you get through to the interview stage.
MORE CV WRITING TIPS
A good CV is a essential part of your toolkit when looking for a job. It gives companies the first glimpse of you as a potential employee and helps them to decide if you are worth interviewing. Make your curriculum vitae a masterpiece by writing one that markets you rather than just describing your career history and academic qualifications.
Concentrate on what the employer wants, not what you want
This is a fundamental issue to address. Start off by asking yourself the following questions:
What would the perfect candidate be like?
What experience and abilities is the employer looking for in a candidate?
Get the answers to the above two questions by reading the job advert, searching online for the vacancies job description or even calling up the recruiter and asking for a more information on the jobs daily duties.
Plan and prioritise information
After assessing what the employer is looking for, start to note down your key skill sets, experiences and qualities that match their requirements. Then arrange and rank this information in order of importance and relevancy. Finally plan your CV so the most valuable and significant data is at the top or in prominent places.
Carry out a thorough analysis of your skills, work experience and abilities. Following this ask yourself if they match the job requirements. If they do then start planning to write a CV that matches the vacancy specifications as closely as possible. This can also help you conclude whether you are under qualified or even overqualified.
Learn about the company you are applying to and also the job role. Discover if they have been in the news recently or have launched a new product etc. If they have then impress them by mentioning it fleetingly in your career statement or covering letter.
Your target audience
Always consider your CV from the employers perspective. Imagine being a hiring manager who has to read through 100 CVs in the course of a day. How can you grab their attention and stand out from other competing hopefuls.
Also remember that your target audience (the hiring manager or company staff) will be made up of professionals in their fields. You need to connect with them by producing a CV that appeals directly to them.
Write in a direct and straightforward manner.
Impress the reader with your writing style.
Make sure that your CV is accurate and that all employment dates and information match and compliment each other.
Write your CV to fit and match the requirements of the employer. By keeping your resume consistently relevant, related and focused on the job you are applying for, you can attract and just as importantly retain the readers attention. Employers will typically scan a CV looking for industry keywords or any relevant work experience. If you can quickly highlight any of these points to them then you stand a good chance of connecting with them and being noticed.
A good tip is to keep a copy of the job advert in front of you whilst you are actually sat down and in the process of writing your CV. This can continuously remind you of who you are writing the CV for and you can also use it as a reference point to ensure that you do not go off track. Tailor your application so that it matches the job application as much as possible.
The main downside of writing targeted and relevant CVs is that you have to write a new one for every job you apply for. This may be time consuming and demanding, but studies have continuously shown that targeted curriculum vitae’s have considerably more success than the same one that is sent out to every job.
Shout about your strongest points!
Don’t be shy highlighting your past and present achievements and loyalty. Be positive and focus not only on emphasising those skills and experiences that are related to the job you are applying for and also to your industry.
If you are going to spend valuable time writing a CV then make sure it’s a good one.
Read the job advert and list what the employer is looking for
Carefully go through a job advert and find out as much about the role before you start your CV design. Make a list of the skill sets, experience and qualifications that a recruiter is looking for. This is valuable information that you can use to write a targeted CV that will fit the job description.
If the job advert does not give much information about the role then do some research yourself. Call the company up and speak to the HR department and ask for details. Or research the industry and find similar roles and then note down their duties and responsibilities. By analyzing this list you should have a good idea of what the employers is looking for. All you have to do now is tailor you resume in a professional manner whilst at the same time skillfully matching your skills and abilities to the recruiters needs.
Do not mention negative experiences, demonstrate a positive attitude by focusing on your successful achievements like promotions etc. Give details of your:
- Industry qualifications
- Relevant training
- Management skills
- Membership of professional bodies
- Current market knowledge
- Relevant work experience
Do not go over the top and exaggerate your abilities, this can backfire on you and turn off employers. Also never lie in your CV, you can very easily be found out.
What not to put in your CV
There is no need to mention any of the following:
- Your health.
- Religious beliefs.
- Marital status.
- Criticise previous employers.
- Explain why you left your previous employment.
How to write about your academic qualifications
There is no need to list every academic qualification you have achieved or training course you have completed. Only mention those that are relevant to the vacancy and that are impressive.
The main sections that should be included in a CV are:
Personal profile / career objective
Areas of expertise
Include keywords related to the job or your industry
Nowadays most major recruiters will scan any CVs they receive and store them electronically on computer databases. They then use software to search these databases to find candidates who match their requirements. Typically they will search then using keywords or phrases.
General tips when writing your CV
- Keep it current and up to date.
- Make it as presentable and professional as possible.