Sitting down to write your CV can seem like a daunting task. But never fear! We’re here to help. We’ve seen a lot of CVs in our time, and we know how important a well-written CV is to really sell your skills and personality. Equally, we’ve seen a lot of poorly constructed CVs. It’s very simple really: if your CV isn’t right, it won’t sell you well enough and won’t get the job (or salary) you want.
We’ve put together a list of top tips to get your CV really standing out.
Before you even put finger to keyboard, think about the following:
What kind of job are you looking for?
Make sure your CV reflects your aspirations as much as your experience so far.
Who will be reading your CV?
A specialist recruiter? The hiring manager? HR? Make sure you’re tailoring your CV to reflect the audience.
Once you have these basics in mind, spend some time gathering the key details such as contact information, qualifications, dates and current responsibilities. From the start, you need to make sure everything is relevant. If you have a job description in mind, think about matching your strengths and use any relevant keywords attached to it.
Be honest with yourself
Aim to sell yourself without exaggerating your skills and achievements. Remember: this will be the basis for interviews and you could discredit yourself if you stretch the truth or outright lie.
Start with your name as the heading, not 'curriculum vitae'. (You wouldn’t start a letter with the title 'letter'!) Then include the following information in this order:
In most cases, employers are more interested in your work experience than your education. However, if you’re a fresh grad or if you’ve recently finished a relevant educational course, then list this section before your career history.
Most jobs get a huge amount of applications, so it’s vital to make sure your CV is easily readable and gets across all the key points during a quick scan.
Have you changed your mobile number since you last looked for a job? This may seem obvious but make sure your phone numbers are up-to-date.
Use a professional email address, and not on based on nicknames. We know of employers who receive so many applications they filter out people who don’t have sensible email addresses. As an example, firstname.lastname@example.org is more likely to be taken seriously than email@example.com.
Include your full address and post code. Your post code is essential as many recruiters, in house and agency, will search job boards and databases for candidates within a certain distance from their office. If you don’t have a post code on your CV, you’ll be missing out on opportunities!
Include your LinkedIn page URL and make sure this is customized (there are more details on how to do this at the LinkedIn Help Centre).
This has become an essential part of any CV. We would say two short well-constructed paragraphs outlining your strengths and motivations are ideal here. This is an opportunity to sell yourself, so please make sure you highlight anything key to the role such as experience in a relevant industry or sector, key technologies for the job which you are familiar with, and any aspirations that are relevant.
Write from the first-person and avoid rolling out clichés such as “I work well in a team or on my own”. Generic CV speak can put people off. If you’re stuck for ideas, spend some time looking at job boards reading adverts for positions you may be interested in and see what words come up frequently. When people are scan reading a document, they often look at the first and last sentences of paragraphs so keep this in mind when you are constructing your profile. Again make it as relevant and succinct as possible.
"I am a versatile, proactive, board level manager with wide range of skills encompassing sales management, marketing, operation efficiency and corporate planning. Having worked in highly pressurised situations, I have shown the necessary skill set to bring complex situations to a fruitful conclusion. I have been instrumental in orchestrating and managing teams during complex and innovative sales of technologically advanced …
"A business leader with a natural ability to communicate effectively at all levels and build cohesive and functional teams. I have developed a strong understanding of how businesses really operate, the politics that influence decisions and how global issues affect them."
"I am a self-starter with the ability to build from nothing and also successfully lead change programmes … I look to 'add value' to an organisation, whether it is the company I work for, or a client. I base my success on establishing excellent rapport in my professional relationships, commitment to every task I undertake, and honesty and integrity in everything I do. I am highly ambitious and I have drive, determination, and the ability to succeed, whilst delivering results."
"Over 20 years’ experience in sales and implementation of high value adding IT solutions to the financial community throughout Europe".
This section should be used to quickly demonstrate that you have the skills required for the position you are applying for. Keep it relevant and don’t be tempted to list every technology you’ve ever worked with. This is a snapshot of your experience for a particular job, not a game of buzz word bingo! Remember that anything you list here is something that you could be asked about at interview.
This is more important for permanent employees than contractors. If you’re in the early stages of your career then list your qualifications at the start of your CV after your profile. If your qualifications aren’t very relevant or recent you can put them after your career history.
If you’ve been working in academia or have had an extended period of learning or research, it’s a good idea to provide a few examples of work. Where possible, hyperlink the paper to your CV when listing it (and don’t forget to check the link works!).
This will allow people to delve deeper into your studies with ease and may benefit you if it’s of interest to them or relevant to the role. If you’ve been published several times and are looking for a position out of academia, only list three to five most recent or most prominent publications and mention that a full list can be provided on request.
Hobbies people are most interested in reading about are those which involve finance, technology, business or have been a major achievement. Only list other activities and sports which are recent and you’re prepared to talk about. Don’t put down things you did at school if this was years ago and think carefully about what opinions can be formed. Don’t list any of the following: UFO spotting, drinking or anything about guns!
Make these available on request and don’t list people’s details on your CV. You never know who may find your details and contact them without you knowing. This will also prompt you to speak to your referee prior to anyone calling them.
Before you send out your CV, make sure you review it thoroughly. Spell check and grammar check your CV, and then have someone you trust read it.
Check there are no unexplained gaps. If you’ve had any career breaks, outline them briefly such as renovating property, career break to look after children, worldwide travel, return to education etc. If you don’t explain the breaks, it could look suspicious to a potential employer.
Ask yourself the following questions when reviewing your CV: