Jobs advice on how to write a CV
A recruiter will typically take just five to seven seconds to read your CV and decide whether you are a worthy candidate. This means your CV needs to shout “hire me” from start to finish, because busy recruiters don’t have time to search out your hidden potential.
Here’s how to perfect each section of your CV.
Most employers welcome concise CVs. Stick to a maximum two pages unless otherwise specified. “Avoid dividing sections across pages and think about converting a Word document to PDF to prevent any unwanted format alterations,” says Rachel Locke, a careers adviser from the National Careers Service.
Embrace the white space and be consistent. Make sure your text is well spaced so the reader can easily hone in on key points, adds Locke. “Choose a clear, legible font and avoid anything smaller than size 11.”
Be impeccable with your spelling and grammar. Don’t let yourself down with careless spelling mistakes and grammatical errors that can easily be avoided, Locke says. Read your CV through at least twice and ask someone else to double check.
Strip out redundant words and irrelevant information she advises. You don’t need to write ‘curriculum vitae’ at the top of the page, or put ‘address:’ ahead of details about where you live. The same applies for email address and telephone number. Similarly, you don’t need to disclose your age by law and most recruiters say photographs are a definite no-no.
Make sure your CV is both digital and print-out friendly. Recruitment agencies and large employers often use recruitment software to manage their applications, but print-outs still do the rounds. Stick to standard fonts and avoid columns, boxes and graphics as these may not be compatible with your reader’s programmes, advises Corinne Mills, managing director of Personal Career Management.
Your professional profile
Make this section count by hitting home your compatibility with the role. In no more than four sentences, sell yourself by saying who you are, what you bring to the table and what your career ambitions are. “Write persuasively and really highlight the value that you can bring to an organisation,” says Andrew Fennell, director of StandOut CV.
Tailor for your audience. Find out exactly what the potential employers are looking for and make sure you only include information that will be relevant to them, advises Fennell. Highlight your professional qualifications and how many years experience you have in the relevant field.
“Avoid cliché phrases and focus on using facts to describe what you actually do,” he adds. Phrases like “works well in a team or individually” don’t actually tell the reader anything about you.
Labels are important. “Use the job titles they use in the advert to describe yourself,” says Mills. “It’s about labeling yourself on your CV in a way that shows your compatibility for the new role you are applying for rather than emphasizing how different your previous career may have been.”
Structure your previous roles properly. “Ideally you should start with a brief introduction that builds context around your role; and then use bullet points to detail your responsibilities so that recruiters can navigate it easily,” says Fennell.
Be selective. Older roles only require a brief summary and you don’t need to include every job you’ve ever done. “If you’ve had several jobs in retail avoid listing the same duties in each description,” says Locke. “Instead choose examples that demonstrate key achievements – only include what’s relevant and give examples.”
Use positive active verbs when describing previous roles and make it achievement orientated. For example, use ‘achieved’ and ‘created’ rather than passive phrases such as ‘I had to…,’ suggests Locke. Recruiters typically advise using three to five bullet points per job.
Explain any gaps. Employers will want to hear why you were out of work and if something doesn’t add up on your CV you might not be invited to an interview, warns Locke.
Don’t get creative with this section, recruiters caution. Around a third of job seekers embellish qualifications to land a role, according to the Higher Education Degree Datacheck, which surveys students and graduates about degree fraud.
There is nothing wrong with omitting grades and focusing on the positives, according to Mills. However, if you excelled, keep it in and be sure to list any relevant modules. “Your degree may not be directly relevant to the job, but some of your modules might be,” she points out.
Include qualifications you are currently studying for, as long as you make it clear you have not completed them yet, adds Mills.
Keep secondary school education brief. Avoid wasting valuable space by summarizing grades rather than listing them individually, Locke advises.