More often than not, first impressions are formed based on your CV, so it needs to tick all the right boxes.
Employers and recruiters are inundated when advertising job vacancies, so you need to highlight quickly why you’re the best person for the job.
The following tips will help you create a CV that will sell your strengths effectively.
#1 Stick to a maximum of two pages in length
Your skills and expertise need to be clear and concise. Limiting yourself to just two pages will focus the mind and encourage you to only include details that are relevant.
Consider what aspects of your skills and experience are really related to the type of jobs you’re applying for, and be selective about the details you include.
Is the part-time weekend job you had 15 years ago really applicable?
#2 Organise your CV under clear sub-headings
First and foremost, CV or Curriculum Vitae are the two headings to avoid using on your CV! Instead, position your name as the main title, making you instantly identifiable.
From there, organising your CV into clear sections with appropriate headings will make it ‘user friendly’ and easy to navigate.
Much like browsing a website, employers and recruiters expect to know exactly where to locate the information they are most interested in.
The use of clear sub-headings coupled with short, sharp sentences and bullet points makes it easy for them to assess the information you’ve provided against a job description.
The main sections and/or sub-headings to include are:
Experience (Employment History)
Education & Qualifications
Personal Interests (Optional)
#3 Tailor your Personal Statement to the role you’re applying for
It’s common practice to include a short introductory ‘personal statement’ at the beginning of your CV, just below your name and contact details. This should give an overview of who you are and what you can offer the company you’re applying to in just a few short sentences.
While overarching advice is to tailor your personal statement around how you meet the requirements for a particular role, we recognise that this isn’t always possible when applying for multiple vacancies via a job site or recruitment agency.
In this instance, call on what you believe to be your key ‘selling points’ and achievements – aspects of your qualifications and experience that are likely to be relevant across the board for the roles you’re applying for.
Keep this section to a maximum of 200 words – short and sweet.
#4 Highlight what you consider to be your key skills/areas of strength
Just below your personal statement, consider where your strengths lie and include a list of no more than five key skills.
As with your personal statement, try and tailor these to the requirements included in the job description for the particular role you’re applying for - but if that’s not possible, tailor more broadly to your discipline area.
Including a ‘Key Skills’ section makes it obvious to employers or recruiters at first glance whether you fit the bill – and this section is valuable when using your CV online, as the skills you list act as keywords which will allow relevant searches to identify your CV as a match.
#5 Include details of your achievements, not duties
When it comes to highlighting your experience, employers and recruiters want to know about your achievements in each of your previous roles, not simply a list of your duties and responsibilities.
Structure this section with your most recent (or current) position of employment first, as this will be of most interest - then list all other relevant positions in reverse chronological order.
For each position you should clearly state your job title, name of employer and dates of employment.
The most important information to then include is a bullet point list of what you achieved in each of these roles – achievements that demonstrate you’re a ‘doer’ and not a spectator.
It’s easy to communicate this by incorporating action verbs and avoiding the use of passive phrases.
Don’t underplay your achievements – the devil is in the detail!
Passive - “Responsible for social media marketing”
Active - “Managed the company’s social media marketing strategy, growing engagement levels by 32% in the past twelve months”
#6 Document your education and qualifications
You’ve quickly demonstrated your skills and achievements, and the recruiter or employer is hooked. So what education and qualifications do you have to support your experience?
Again, list your qualifications in reverse chronological order, with your most recent qualification first. Include the name of the institution you attended, or the awarding body applicable to your qualification, followed by the dates of your study period and the qualification/grade achieved.
If there is anything you feel is significant about the modules you studied or the projects you undertook, include a few short bullet points to highlight their significance.
#7 Add in relevant personal interests (optional)
Your personal interests, hobbies and weekend activities often have little bearing on your suitability for a role, so a ‘Personal Interests’ section is not a CV essential.
Don’t be tempted to fill this section with typical clichés such as, ‘enjoy socialising with friends’ or ‘enjoy going to the gym’. Only include hobbies or interests that are unique or demonstrate skills relevant to the role you’re applying for.
If nothing significant springs to mind that is sure to make you stand out against other candidates, then it would be better to leave this section out.
#8 Proofread, proofread, proofread
Spelling, grammar, punctuation and overall accuracy are the icing on the cake.
A two-page, perfectly sectioned CV detailing your biggest achievements is all good and well – but if it’s littered with errors, your efforts will go to waste.
Ensure you run a spell check to identify any major issues, and then print a physical copy to proofread, as spotting errors on screen tends to be a much trickier task!
You can often become blind to errors in a document you’ve produced yourself, so it’s also advisable to have someone else proofread it too as a failsafe.
#9 Save and send your CV as a PDF
Sending your CV as a Microsoft Word document can result in formatting issues when received.
With so many different versions of Word, and different viewing devices, the best way to preserve style and format is to save and send as a PDF.
It can then be opened on any device and still look just as you intended.
As with most things, CV ‘best practice’ is always evolving and there are some points worth noting:
You are not required to disclose your date of birth on your CV - age is not a factor considered to affect your ability to carry out a job.
You are no longer expected to list your full address on your CV, as was once the norm. Town and/or county are the only details you need to include to give those reviewing your CV an idea of your location.
Including written references on your CV is no longer common practice – a simple ‘references available upon request’ note is suffice at CV stage, with references only requested following acceptance of an employment offer.
It is now becoming more and more common for candidates to include links within their CV to professional social profiles such as LinkedIn. This can give employers and recruiters a more in-depth insight into your professional life – but you should only do this if your profile is up to date and supports your CV.