How to write a good CV
There’s nothing more frustrating for a recruitment consultant than to meet a really great candidate, recommend them for a role and then discover they have a really poor CV. It’s hard to sell an individual if they can’t sell themselves.
Admittedly, writing a CV is an arduous task, one that many of us put off until the last minute and then rush through. However, it’s worth remembering that your CV is often the only opportunity you’ll be given to make a good first impression. This headache-inducing chronicle of your skills and experience has the power to propel you to the ‘interviews’ list or consign you to the reject pile within only a few seconds of reading. Suffice to say, it is incredibly important to get right.
Easier said than done, you might think, yet with a few simple tips you could produce a really great resume. Here’s how to write a good CV:
For your CV to appear professional and to be taken seriously, the first thing to master is the correct tone. It needs to be positive, authoritative and personal while not appearing arrogant. It’s a difficult balance to strike, but can be achieved if you keep your tone factual and avoid use of the words ‘I’ and ‘me’.
For instance, rather than saying: ‘I am an experienced HR expert and I have my CIPD qualification’, it’s better to say: ‘Experienced, CIPD-qualified HR professional.’ Or when listing your role responsibilities, write ‘Researching and writing industry-specific blogs’ instead of ‘I research and write industry-specific blogs’. It’s not only much more succinct, but also cuts your word count down a little, too. Make sure that you use the same tone throughout your CV, don’t chop and change.
The profile paragraph is an opener; explaining you and your skills in a concise introductory paragraph. Don’t underestimate the effect of a good profile. Remember, most recruiters and employers receive so many CVs that they physically cannot commit much time to reviewing each individual one. If they can glean some information straight away from your profile, it will encourage them to keep reading.
As such, the profile should be strong and meaningful – that means avoiding any clichés or empty claims. Words such as ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘passionate’ do not add any value, nor do they differentiate you from any other candidates, so leave them out. Ideally, you should open with your current profession, list some skills and then add what it is you are looking for, tailored to the role on offer. As such, something like ‘Marketing professional with five years’ experience in financial services seeks a senior PR opportunity within the insurance sector’ might be a good start. There are plenty of examples online; you may even find one which suits your own occupation to use as a guide.
As mentioned above, employers and recruiters have very little time to spend reviewing CVs, so you must make sure all the ‘good stuff’ is clearly demonstrated early on. To do this, refer to the job advertisement and/ or job description to determine what attributes and experience the employer is looking for. If it seeks evidence that you can provide great customer service, then make sure you provide an example of your great customer service skills (i.e. ‘received brilliant feedback from customer after resolving their complaint’). If it wants someone who can work efficiently, then explain how you always meet your deadlines, etc.
Essentially, your CV needs to be relevant to the job you are applying for, demonstrating that your skills and experience match the requirements of the role.
Omit the irrelevant stuff
Following on from the point above and in the interests of keeping your CV relevant and compact, it’s advisable to omit any information, achievements and details which are simply nothing to do with the role on offer.
Before we go any further, it’s important to make the distinction between ‘omitting’ and ‘lying’ – omitting is simply not including a statement, while lying – of course – is falsifying it. Never lie on your CV as a reputable employer will check all your details. However, if your GCSE Geography exam result has no bearing on your ability to do the role, then leave it out. If that project you contributed towards in your last role doesn’t exhibit any of the listed desirable skills, then save the word count and omit it. You can always talk about these omissions at interview or at length on your LinkedIn profile.
To make your CV as attractive and easy to read as possible, you do need to put some thought into formatting. Search for a CV template online or ask a friend if you can modify theirs. Ensure that each section is clearly delineated and that job titles, employers and dates are clear. Though there may have been a trend for ‘jazzy’ or ‘wacky’ CVs that attracted attention, it’s generally best to stick with a standard template these days unless you are perhaps applying for a highly creative and wacky job.
Endless blocks of text can be heavy-going on the eye, so use bullet points lists instead – particularly when writing your role responsibilities. You should aim for your CV to be no longer than two pages of A4. We can’t reiterate enough that employers simply don’t have the time to read through chapters and chapters, so keep it short.
Check it. Then check it again
It’s easy to overlook errors when you’ve been working on a document for a long time. Many of us are so fed up with refining our CVs by this point, that you just want to close the thing altogether. However, checking your CV is probably the singularly most important step in the process. You might think that’s an over-dramatic statement; that employers aren’t really going to care about an aberrant apostrophe or an erroneous semi-colon, but you’d be wrong.
Given the sheer volume of applications received, many employers will actively be looking for reasons to screen out CVs and if yours contains a clanger of a spelling mistake, then you could be the first to go. Easily avoidable errors like these give the impression that the author lacks attention to detail and isn’t really that bothered about the vacancy. Check your CV before submitting it. To be on the safe side, ask someone else to check it too, as they might see something that you haven’t noticed.
Simple, eh? Bear these five tips in mind and you should be able to write a good CV that opens doors and potentially lands you that dream job.
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