10 Tips for Writing the Perfect CV
A successful CV sticks to the basics, presents itself well, addresses the job, highlights your skills, and oozes clarity and conciseness.
By Joanna Ireland
Creating a stellar CV that shouts your achievements from the rooftops and ensures the hiring managers will absolutely phone you for an interview can be quite intimidating, but have no fear! Following these ten steps will guide you through the process of showcasing everything that makes you an irresistible candidate.
- Keep it real – and keep it succinct. Your CV should fit onto two pages of A4 paper, and resist the urge to embellish. Save it for your interview.
- Tailor it to specific jobs. While a “one size fits all” approach certainly saves time, if you’re applying to multiple positions each with its own specialty, tweaking the contents just a tad to include keywords and key phrases from the job description allows you to point out exactly what you have that matches what the employer wants and needs.
- Stay current. Regardless of whether you’re actively hunting for work or not, you never know when someone might know someone who knows someone who needs someone just like you! And don’t forget to note any significant events in your career as they happen, so you don’t forget something later that could be important.
- Avoid gaps. An employment gap raises suspicions, even if the reasons for that gap are completely legitimate. So you’ve been out of work? Spin it positively to your advantage. Were you taking classes? Volunteering? Increasing your soft skills in project management or teamwork? Don’t be shy! Share it.
- Make the most of your experience. Incorporating strong, positive language like “developed,” “organised,” or “achieved” that connects your experience and skills to what the job seeks – even if it was a restaurant position and you’re seeking something in banking – helps!
- Tell the truth. Embellishing may be tempting, but lying on your CV opens up a can of worms you don’t need, especially when potential employers check your references and your background. Just say no. Stick to the truth.
- Error! Error! Do take the time to proofread for mistakes in grammar, spelling, mechanics, and formatting. Hiring managers look for excuses to toss a resume in the “reject” pile. Don’t give them an easy out.
- Data, maths & specifics. Potential employers like hard numbers, so if you suggested process improvements which increased revenue, specify that those sales increased by 80%. Cut overhead costs by launching a new cost-saving measure? Tell them that you saved £14K over six months after creating and instituting a new recycling program.
- Looks do count. Image really is everything, so take time to plan an eye-appealing layout that’s organized and easy to follow. Use a combo paragraph/bullet format for job descriptions, and don’t succumb to Charles Dickens, who was paid by the word, by writing verbose sentences. Simplicity is key – and so is white space!
- Cater to Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). These systems look for industry keywords and buzzwords, so research the words most commonly used in jobs with the titles you seek. These SEO-friendly words help those ATS search engines pull your CV from the pile.