Your CV is essentially a sales document – its purpose is to cut through the pile and secure you an interview.
While there is no “one size fits all” approach to preparing your CV, there are some guidelines that you should follow to make sure yours stands out from the crowd.
What to include
The starting point is what to include and here is a general guide.
- Personal details – include your name, address, phone number and email. You do not need to include other details, such as a photograph or your date of birth. If you have a personal email address that is less than professional, we recommend setting up one specifically for the purpose of job seeking.
- Profile – the purpose of your profile is to tell the reader a few important details about you. It should briefly cover your work history, skills and experience. You could also tailor the skills and experience that are relevant for the role you are applying for and potentially other information such as how you like to work, your career aspirations or what you are looking for in a position or organisation.
- Skills summary – you can include a short overview of your core transferable skills such as leading teams, managing budgets or stakeholder management skills.
- Professional qualifications – detail your qualifications, where you obtained them and when.
- Career history – your roles should be listed in chronologically descending order, with your most recent or current job first. Add in the following information:
- Company and role.
- Dates employed – when you started and when you finished. There should be no gaps in your employment history so include if you have had a career break to travel, study or raise a family.
- A brief introduction to the company that could include the size of the business, what it does and the number of employees.
- A summary of your responsibilities. Bullet point format works well as this helps to break up the text and make it easier to read.
- A summary of your measurable achievements (ie: reduced costs by 10%, improved DIFOT from 90% to 96%). Achievements are incredibly important – it is easy to say you have reduced input costs, for example, but saying by how much is a demonstration of success. You should always place more emphasis on what you have accomplished, rather than what you were responsible for.
- Technical skills – this is optional but it is a good place to include relevant skills such as computer programmes you are proficient in using, the type of Driver Licence that you hold or any languages that you speak.
- Interests – again this is optional but if you choose to have this section, exercise caution in what you put down. Where possible, include interests that are related to the role – if leadership if a key requirement for a job, you may want to mention that you spend your spare time managing a volunteer team for example.
- References – either include two to three referees who can be contacted with your permission or references available on request.
Some points to remember when designing or updating your CV
I often hear that CVs should be limited to two pages, but this is not necessary. It is more important that you cover off all the relevant information that a potential employer would be interested to know. If you have had a longer work history, your CV is bound to be lengthier.
Even if it is longer, it should still be succinct and to the point.
Present your CV in a clear format that is well spaced out with sufficient white space. It should flow well, be consistently formatted and use a plain font like Arial or Calibri that is easy to read. This all helps the reader to scan your CV easily and find the information they are looking for.
Check and check again – it is all well and good writing “good attention to detail” on your CV but if it has spelling mistakes or bad formatting, it defeats the purpose. Clients have been known to discount a candidate on spelling mistakes alone.
Errors can easily be missed, especially if you have looked at a document a number of times. So, it is a good idea to ask someone else to have a read through – fresh eyes will pick up mistakes you may have missed.
Be mindful of the language you use. Using “we” instead of “I” is an example – if you did something use “I”, if you were a sum part of achieving something use “we.”
Be yourself – don’t be generic. A CV represents you, so you have to be comfortable with it. While you should follow base principles in terms of format and layout, use language you would normally use and inject your own personality. It is best to avoid jargon and acronyms that others may not understand!
Use active verbs when possible. For example, include words like created, analysed and devised to present yourself as a person who shows initiative.
Tailor your CV
Your CV should be tailored for every role. With each application, it may be that you need to highlight or place more emphasis on particular skills or experiences to show how you meet the requirements of the position.
Many recruiters use software to scan CVs for keywords so ensure the language and words you use reflect what is set out in the job advertisement.
Do your research into each potential employer. Companies will often include information about their values, the organisation as a place to work and what they look for in a potential employee on their website.
Keep in mind
It is worth remembering that recruiters and potential employers will also look at your LinkedIn profile so make sure that it is up to date and it is a true reflection of what is on your CV.
Some may also look further on Google and at your personal profiles on social media so take care about what you put online – it pays to review your privacy settings on your social media accounts so only those you are directly connected with can view what you post.
If you need help, Seek has a template for getting your CV ready.
By using these tips, your CV will create the right impression with the result that you are much more likely to be called for an interview.