When it comes to applying for a new job, knowing how to write a CV could make the difference between getting your foot in the door or having your CV thrown straight into the bin. Putting together a successful CV is easy once you know how. It’s a case of taking all your skills and experience and tailoring them to the job you’re applying for?
Well, I’ve put together the following tips on how to write a CV to help you secure your first (or next) job.
How to write a CV: Get the Format right
There is no right or wrong way to write a CV. However the format you choose for your CV is important because it determines which sections are highlighted and which ones are pushed to the background. We generally recommend you use this format:
1. Personal and contact information. This includes Full name, address, email, telephone number
2. Personal Summary or Career Objective. Whilst this isn’t essential, it can help you stand out in certain situations. It gives the interviewer a general overview of your career trajectory and general interest.
3. Main Achievements. This is what you use to highlight keys achievements you chalked that brought drastic transformation or improvements, and which makes you stand out or better fit for the job. For example, awards you’ve received, important innovations you’ve implemented, or creative ideas that brought massive improvement.
4. Skills. List key skills you acquired either in school or on the job that is essential to the current role you’re applying for. Demonstrate how those skills have helped you excel in certain tasks by giving practical examples. Don’t forget to mention key skills that can help you to stand out from the crowd. These could include: communication skills; computer skills; team working; problem solving or even speaking a foreign language. Skills can come out of the most unlikely places, so really think about what you’ve done to grow your own skills, even if you take examples from being in a local sports team or joining a voluntary group – it’s all relevant.
5. Work Experience. This is very important. Don’t just copy and paste your job description. What you put in here should be well thought through. List your work experience in bullet formats. Use statistics (figures and percentages) to highlight efficiency and effectiveness. Use practical examples. Use assertive and positive language under the work history and experience sections, such as “developed”, “organised” or “achieved”. Try to relate the skills you have learned to the job role you’re applying for. For example: “The work experience involved working in a team,” or “This position involved planning, organisation and leadership as I was responsible for a team of people”.
Really get to grips with the valuable skills and experience you have gained from past work positions, even if it was just working in a restaurant – every little helps.
6. Education. Most people list educational qualifications at the top of their CV. With the proliferation of degrees and the low standards in quality of education lately, employers are not enthused at all about your degrees. They are interested in your skills and work experience. Your educational qualification should be included at the tail end of your CV.
7. Interests. Under interests, highlight the things that show off skills you’ve gained and employers look for. Describe any examples of positions of responsibility, working in a team or anything that shows you can use your own initiative. For example, if you ran your university’s newspaper or if you started a weekend league football team that became a success.
Include anything that shows how diverse, interested and skilled you are. Don’t include passive interests like watching TV, solitary hobbies that can be perceived as you lacking in people skills. Make yourself sound really interesting.
8. References. Most people are accustomed to putting in the line “References available upon request”. This is a lazy approach. Cite about three credible references. References should be from someone who has employed you in the past and can vouch for your skills and experience. If you’ve never worked before you’re OK to use a teacher or tutor as a referee. Try to include two if you can.
Other things to look out for in writing a CV.
In as much as format is important, the following are equally as relevant in giving your CV that wow factor.
9. Presentation is key
A successful CV is always carefully and clearly presented, and printed on clean, crisp white paper. The layout should always be clean and well structured and CVs should never be crumpled or folded, so use an A4 envelope to post your applications.
Always remember the CV hotspot – the upper middle area of the first page is where the recruiter’s eye will naturally fall, so make sure you include your most important information there.
10. Stick to no more than two pages of A4
A good CV is clear, concise and makes every point necessary without waffling. You don’t need pages and pages of paper – you just keep things short and sweet. A CV is a reassurance to a potential employer, it’s a chance to tick the right boxes. And if everything is satisfied, there’s a better chance of a job interview. Also, employers receive dozens of CVs all the time so it’s unlikely they’ll read each one cover to cover. Most will make a judgment about a CV within sections, so stick to a maximum of two pages of A4 paper.
11. Understand the job description
The clues are in the job application, so read the details from start to finish. Take notes and create bullet points, highlighting everything you can satisfy and all the bits you can’t. With the areas where you’re lacking, fill in the blanks by adapting the skills you do have. For example, if the job in question requires someone with sales experience, there’s nothing stopping you from using any retail work you’ve undertaken – even if it was something to help pay the bills through university. It will demonstrate the skills you do have and show how they’re transferable.
Also, optimise the CV with specific keywords used for the role. A lot of companies are beginning to use Applicant Tracking Systems so if your CV does not contain specific keywords, it will be automatically rejected by a computer before a human even has the chance to review it.
12. Tailor the CV to the role
When you’ve established what the job entails and how you can match each requirement, create a CV specifically for that role. Remember, there is no such thing as a generic CV. Every CV you send to a potential employee should be tailored to that role so don’t be lazy and hope that a general CV will work because it won’t.
Create a unique CV for every job you apply for. You don’t have to rewrite the whole thing, just adapt the details so they’re relevant.
13. Keep your CV updated
It’s crucial to review your CV on a regular basis and add any new skills or experience that’s missing. For example, if you’ve just done some volunteering or worked on a new project, make sure they’re on their – potential employers are always impressed with candidates who go the extra mile to boost their own skills and experience.