Writing Your CV

A high-quality CV is priceless in getting you moving in the right direction to that new job.

Your CV is your main tool in getting to the interview for that job you want. With your CV you will be able to promote yourself. Imagine the CV as being a information sheet that will list the benefits of a particular service. This particular service being your time and skills! When writing your CV look at it from your employers point of view. Would you stand out against the competition (the other candidates) and would the manager want to talk to you for a possible job? You need to ask yourself these questions when writing your CV or curriculum vitae.

General Rules and layout of CV.

  • Have your name address and contact details at the top and clear on your CV.
  • Put a brief profile about yourself and what you do.
  • Start with your current job and work back (managers don’t want to read what you where doing years ago first!)
  • Include dates in a month/year format
  • Don’t waffle, but do put down what you did in a current job.
  • Education/Courses undertaken – make sure all this is clearly on your CV following your employment history
  • Hobbies/Past-times – a sentence or two on this just helps round off your CV.

Obviously some people’s CV’s are different than others, those of you who are younger are going to have less to put on your CV than someone with 40 years employment experience, in this case it does no harm to expand, likewise those with 40 years’ experience, it is far better to detail the last 10 – 15 years and simply list the previous years with a note saying or similar, ‘more information available if required’.

People are sometimes fooled into thinking that they have to pay large amounts for a good CV to be written for them – this is wrong, with these simple tips and your experience, between us we can make your CV the one which will attract the attention of the person selecting CV’s for interviews.

What is a CV?

A CV is a written summary of your personal, professional and social qualities and attributes that you wish to highlight and secure employment from.  CV’s are a platform to impress and excite a potential employer about you, in order to guarantee you a place in the short-listing process and eventually be called to interview.  The differences between a good CV and a bad CV are vast; therefore it is even more important to compile your CV correctly to ensure it stands out from the crowd.  There are many do’s and don’ts involved in a CV’s construction, but the key point to remember is that it is designed to ‘sell’ you!

How do I write a good CV?

There is no golden template that is the best, remember, a CV is an opportunity to demonstrate your creative flair and characteristics.  A well formatted, concise and individual CV will say far more about your personality.  Having said that, the below tips are designed to give you a helping hand to CV heaven.  

Format Rules

DO – Use a simple, common, widely recognised typeface such as Arial or Times New Roman.  Artistic or gimmicky fonts are not always professional and may put people off.

Add flair and a creative edge to stand out

Be precise, honest and relevant

Tailor your CV for the position available

Remember, less is more

DON’T –Exaggerate your abilities, qualifications and experience

Make the CV more than 2 x A4 sides

Use images, negative qualities or stylised fonts

Send it without proof reading and spell checking

Your CV should be:

  • Maximum 2 x A4 sides:  If the CV is any longer the reader may lose interest.  Employers often only read a small proportion of the document, normally the first and last fifth.  If it is short and concise they are more likely to read the whole thing.
  • Well laid out – aligned straight margins; perfect word processing; easily legible fonts; bold or underlined headings to clearly show where each section starts with a logical flow of points.
  • Printed on good quality white paper if sending a paper application.  If you are sending the CV electronically ensure the text is easy to read and the background is white with no images/photos.

Use the following categories in your CV as headings and sub headings: –

NAME – always clear and at the top

PERSONAL DETAILS – address and contact details only.  Avoid personal details such as age, marital status and other irrelevant details.

OVERVIEW/PERSONAL PROFILE/OBJECTIVE – A summary of your skills, personality and career direction.  Keep this short and precise.  Use an obvious block to highlight this information so that the recruiter can immediately see it.

CAREER HISTORY/EMPLOYMENT SUMMARY/WORK HISTORY – Always list your most recent job and list backwards.  Include employer, location, dates from and to, job title and overview of you duties and responsibilities and outline your reason/s for leaving (use common sense here).  Make sure you cover any gaps in employment, for example maternity breaks or travelling.  Most employers will be suspicious if a gap is not explained.

SUMMARY OF KEY SKILLS/RELEVANT EXPERIENCE/KEY ABILITIES – Pull from the above category the most relevant and important strengths and skills that will be of benefit to the recruiter and their position.

EDUCATION/PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS – Overview qualifications, up to higher education.  Be sensible; don’t go back to when you were at primary school.  Employers are only interested in your senior education qualifications.  But be sure to add any relevant training courses that you have attended.

INTERESTS/HOBBIES – Be truthful and interesting but not verbose.  This is a good opportunity to add a ‘personal’ touch to your CV, engage with the recruiter and demonstrate key skills.  But be aware, some recruiters see this section as irrelevant.  You should also be careful not to give away details such as your political inclinations that may leave you open to discrimination.

REFEREES – It is generally accepted that references should not be included on your CV unless specified in the job advertisement.  A line stating ‘references available on request’ is usually sufficient.

Content and Substance

  • Use lots of adjectives and positive; dynamic; precise and concise language.
  • Use examples wherever possible.  For example, instead of stating ‘I have a keen eye for detail’ say ‘my keen eye for detail saved my current employer time and money due to the mistakes I found and corrected.’  You are doing this to show the recruiter why you have the skills you are saying you have.
  • Check, double check and triple check.  Mistakes within your CV make you look unprofessional; lazy or show that you lack attention to detail.  A spelling mistake may mean you go straight on the ‘no’ pile during the short listing process.
  • Analyse your key skills and what you have achieved so far in life – remember you are selling yourself.
  • You could put a career objective or a self-marketing statement under the central block heading if you think it would be useful.  This would be a few sentences telling the reader a bit more about who you are and what you want.

What do you write?

From the information supplied the recruiter will be able to ascertain whether or not you will fit the profile of the ideal candidate for the given role.  This will not just be based on your ability to carry out the duties required, but your ability to fit in the team dynamics and working environment.

The point is thus that you have to make sure that each section makes you look as good as possible.  Make sure the reader understands your points and sell, sell, sell yourself.  Make them believe that you will be a genuine asset to their organisation.  There is a thin red line here though, do not appear over-confident.  Be confident in yourself and your skills, it will shine through.

Power words

Some companies use computer programs to do the initial screening of applicants and they do this by looking for certain power words in the CV and Cover Letter.  Likewise, a recruiter will screen for these buzz words.  Examples of power words are:

Confident       Professional       Committed         Methodical         Team Player

Skills and abilities to talk about

When writing your CV and Cover Letter you should use lots of examples.  This shows how you really have behaved in work situations and what skills and abilities you utilised.  Below are some skills you should address in your application.  It is important to tailor this to the job role you are applying for and emphasise the most relevant attributes: –

  • Willingness to learn
  • Commitment
  • Reliability
  • Self-motivation and time management
  • Teamwork
  • Communication skills (both spoken and written)
  • General drive and energy
  • Ability to focus
  • Problem solving skills
  • Analytical abilities
  • Flexibility/Adaptability
  • Initiative
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Customer/client service skills

The Cover Letter

The Cover Letter is your friend.  In some cases where applications are identical, the recruiters might make the decision based on your Covering letter.  It is designed to complement your CV.

The covering letter should: –

  • Reinforce key points made in the CV or application form
  • Be brief and concise
  • Have a good beginning
  • Say what you want and can do for that employer
  • Say how you are suited to the job
  • Have a strong ending, perhaps an assumptive ending such as ‘I am looking forward to meeting you very soon’.