‘Make the right impression’ – Top tips for writing that perfect CV
Your Curriculum Vitae (CV) or Résumé, is the first opportunity and the first impression that you will have to present and differentiate yourself from other candidates and showcase your particular talent, skills and experience to an employer. Perfect these top tips and you will be on your way to making a good start on your personalised CV!
The job market today is more competitive than ever – more candidates are applying for positions, so it is vital that you make the best impression to really stand out from the crowd. Employers who look at your CV will need to make a quick decision on whether to shortlist your CV for interview or not. This article is a guide to ensuring you present yourself in the best possible light ‘on paper’.
Spelling and grammar
It is vital that you are vigilant for any spelling or grammar errors that may appear during the formation of the CV. Do not just rely on spellcheck
to pick up mistakes, you should ask friends, relatives or a qualified proof reader to read through and advise on any errors. Poor spelling and grammar definitely does not set the right first impression and will almost certainly lead to questions about your ‘attention to detail’ during interview (if this is overlooked and you get that far). Mistakes like this can suggest you have not put in the time or much thought into the document. This may seem obvious, but you’ll be surprised by the high proportion of CVs that I review daily that have basic spelling mistakes, one of my favourites being ‘Manger’ instead of ‘Manager’! Please also note differences between U.S English and British English.
For a professional document black font, with Arial/Calibri formatting is recommended, using size 11/12pt. This avoids the CV from becoming crammed and hard to read for potential employers. Consistency is also important; the same formatting needs to be used throughout and avoid use of tables and boxes within the document.
One thing to keep in mind is that whilst overly complex or colourful CV/Resume may look attractive in reality they are quite difficult to follow and thereby equally difficult for the reader to process the information. The content in your CV should flow, avoid putting text in the margins and keep the text the same size, font and colour throughout. You want your CV to be pleasurable to read not cause a headache, a chaotic CV may infer you are a chaotic person?!
A CV should ideally be no more than be 2 sides of A4, but if this is too tight 3 pages is acceptable. Make full use of bullet points and highlight key achievements to drive and motivate the employer to find out more about you. As you document further back in your career, just pick the career highlights and achievements of that particular position. It is not necessary to go into excessive detail about a job position that may not be so relevant to your career plans for the future. The main thing to get across is what the job was, how long for and the main skills and impact made during that time of employment.
A potential employer must be able to contact you with sufficient ease. Including basics such as your first and last name, address (at the very least your location), phone number(s), and email address are important when trying to secure an interview. This may again sound like an obvious thing to include on your CV but believe me it is often overlooked. It is not necessary to put your age, marital status or nationality. When adding an email address ensure that it sounds professional and creates the right impression about yourself, avatheraver@ or bobthebuilder@ may be fun for contact with friends but in the professional environment you should be using a more professional email address.
This is your opportunity to convey your focus, areas of work interest, and really express your personality. The objective within this section is to make sure it is related to the job you are applying for. It should act as a mini advert for you and should especially summarise your particular; skills, qualities and career aims. It must attract the reader’s attention and ideally avoid the use of clichés such as ‘hard working’, ‘team player’, ‘good communication skills’. Remember the 3 S’s – Short, Sharp and Snappy!
Start from your most recent qualification and work backwards using bullet points to show concisely your qualifications. This section should include schools and universities attended and qualifications awarded.
This is a critical part of your CV and should have the most focus – you should write clearly, concisely and in laymen’s terms the job roles that you have been in. The job roles need to be factually correct in order to stand out. Each position should be placed in chronological order (with your current position going first). Within each job role you should write the company name, job title, what the company does and dates of employment. You should also provide details of your main duties and examples of the skills you used and most importantly your achievements whilst working in that position.
However, please make sure you do not make it sound like a job description.
Using bullet points and positive language is recommended and using ‘action’ words such as; researched, created, designed, implemented, established etc. to emphasise upon your accomplishments. It is important to avoid unexplained gaps during your employment history; if you had time out travelling, job seeking, caring for a relative etc. this should be included along with details of what you have learned and skills you have gained during that time.
If you are someone who has changed jobs a number of times it is advised to put a short note at the end of each job overview as to your reason for leaving. Having multiple jobs can come across as someone who does not settle in a role or who is always looking for the next best opportunity and actually you may have changed jobs for reasons out of your control; for example a division may be closed down and relocated, the company may have merged with another and the role was made redundant.
Interests and Hobbies
Employers really like to get a feel for your character before inviting you for an interview. Highlight any clubs or societies you are a member of and include interests such as sports and recreation activities. Overall your interests can say a lot about you, they can give great insight into your personality and motivations and may give an opportunity for you to discuss something your feel passionate about at interview.
When writing down references only include a statement saying ‘references available upon request’ – Do not include the names of the referees.
Coming Soon: There is much more that can be written about tailoring your CV to specific job functions and roles. This article is the very basics in your first attempt at writing or re-writing your CV to ensure you get the format, layout and basic content right. Look out for the follow up article ‘How to tailor your CV to your dream job’.
Follow the @TheInterviewSpecialist on Instagram or @TIS_Remtec on Twitter for more advice and tips on job seeking, interviews and career guidance.
Finally good luck! With these CV hints and tips we hope that you gain the best chance possible in getting that ideal job!
Author: Lorna Rutter, Remtec Talent Management Ltd