10 Tips on Writing a Successful Curriculum Vitae (CV)
Although a well-written CV should be considered a ticket to a new job, just what exactly does “well-written” mean, and what are the secrets to ensuring that it helps you make the interview shortlist at least? Here are 10 tips for writing a winning CV.
A well-written Curriculum Vitae or resume is your first point of contact with a new employer; a shop window for your skills and experience that sets out the main points a hirer is looking for to fit the profile of their organisations.
But it’s not enough to tell someone that a Curriculum Vitae must be well written. Inevitably, the next question will be, how can I be sure that my CV will make it to the shortlist instead of making it to the ‘rejects’ pile.
Firstly, don’t dash it off casually! To do all this takes organisation, so get yourself a document holder or a briefcase or durable business backpack, and keep them solely for storing everything related to your business profile—your CVs, references, certificates and other documentation.
While your CV must successfully sell your main skills within seconds, the good news is that writing a CV is easy. It’s simply a case of breaking down your skills and relevant work experience and targeting these to the requirements of the firm as set out on the advertisement.
Again, for those lacking confidence in CV writing, this is easier said than done. So here are 10 tips to help you create a Curriculum Vitae that will get you noticed by recruiters.
1. Start with the Basics
While your CV should be tailored to specific job opportunities, there are some sections that are common to all resumes, including: personal and contact information; education history with qualifications; career history and work experience; skills relevant to the job you’re applying for; achievements; interests/hobbies; and references.
2. Clean & Tidy Presentation
There are some visual tricks to remember here, such as including the most important information on the upper middle area of your CV’s first page, because this is the first thing that the recruiter will see. But in general, presentation is the key. The layout of your CV should be neat, uncluttered, logically structured, and printed on fresh, clean paper. Sloppy presentation is the first deal-breaker and will likely be binned. Post your applications in an A4 envelope, and fasten the sheets using a paper clip, not a stapler. Do not attempt to fold and cram your application into a DL business envelope!
3. No More Than 2 x A4 Pages
Be concise in the information you impart. Keep it short and sweet and ruthlessly eliminate waffle or duplication. If you can successfully convey the main points that a recruiter is looking for in two pages, it heightens your chances of securing a job interview. Employers always receive numerous CVs, and not just during recruitment campaigns. It is unlikely that they will have time to read every single one in detail. Most of the people who you are targeting are likely to make a quick judgement. That is why the neat, logical structure is essential, and brevity is paramount.
4. Analyse the Job Description
Treat the job description like a detective would a crime scene. The clues are all there. Carefully read the description, word by word, point by point. Use a highlighter pen to pick out the keywords of areas where you have relevant skills, and those areas where you have a skills deficit. Start a list of bulletpoints, describing how you can meet the employer’s requirements, and also adapt the areas of your life and work experience to cover the gaps in areas where you are unskilled. This will demonstrate your ingenuity and imagination and show that you’re a rounded and thoughtful person who takes seriously all of the experience they have gathered to date, even if it was in a part-time or non-professional, voluntary capacity.
5. Create a CV that Fits the Role
There is no truly successful ‘one size fits all’ approach to the writing of a Curriculum Vitae. By carefully reading the job description, what you’re doing is laying the foundations for a resume that is specifically tailored towards the role you are applying for. It’s not necessary to rewrite the entire document every time, but the skills and experience should definitely be rejigged towards the specific requirements of particular appointments.
6. Understand & Foreground All Skills
Skills do not have to be qualifications. Think carefully about the various different areas where you’ve excelled in your previous jobs. They may not be covered under the area of professional qualifications, but some, such as communication skills, team-work and problem-solving, are considered just as valuable. If you’re an IT enthusiast and have used your interest to help solve a problem at work, that is a skill. Skills cover everything that you do, whether in the workplace, or outside of work, in the voluntary sector or in community or sports organisations.
7. Highlight Your Interests
Under interests, it’s important not to highlight idle pastimes such as watching television, solitary hobbies such as reading, or general activities such as socialising. This section of the CV should be used to highlight things that have helped you learn new skills (perhaps teamwork or management skills with a local sports club, for example), or which were important formative steps in your career (perhaps you embarked on a career in communications and PR after you served as editor on the college newspaper). Always ensure that any information included in your Curriculum Vitae has a purpose—to make you interesting to the recruiter.
8. Emphasise Achievements & Experience
Use assertive, positive, active verbs such as “achieved”, “liaised”, “development”, throughout the work history and experience sections of the Curriculum Vitae. Again, any information in this section should be targeted towards the requirements of the job that you’re applying for. As stated in the previous points, think carefully before starting to write, and drill deeply into your every corner of your employment history and experience to date, looking for relevant information.
Every CV should include at least one reference, preferably from a person who has employed or directly managed you in the past, and who can vouch for the information that you’ve included on your CV. If you are entering the world of work for the first time, it is acceptable to use a teacher, lecturer or tutor as a referee. Both of these kinds of referee would be ideal for any CV, and make sure to make contact with your referees beforehand to notify them that they may be contacted by the firm in question.
10. Review & Update
Regularly review your CV to take account of any additional skills or experience that you have gained. If you have worked on a new project since starting your most recent job, or gotten involved in any new voluntary initiatives in that time, make sure this information is included. A constantly evolving skills and experience profile is always received positively by a potential employer.