Writing a CV should take a lot of planning and isn’t something to be rushed. A patient and thoughtful individual will have more success than a quick firing job seeker who applies instantly when an opportunity arises.
Take your time and conduct lots of research on the role and the company. You need to know all the facts and shape your CV around what the employer wants rather than what you think they want. Writing a CV isn’t your chance to show off every single thing you’ve ever done, and an entire career history will only serve to bore the hiring manager.
To help ensure you write the very best CV you possibly can, here are 9 essential CV tips to get an interview.
1. Common CV sections
The foundation and structure of your CV is very important. It has to contain all the relevant sections otherwise you could leave the employer scratching their head. If you were unsure of the sections to have in your CV, here’s a list of what the employer would expect to see:
- Your full name
- Contact information – mobile and email address
- Education and qualifications
- Work history/career history/work experience (whichever you prefer)
- A skills section (relevant to the job description)
- Achievements (recommended)
- Hobbies and interests (not always necessary – see below)
- References (don’t have to be included – see below)
2. Professional presentation
Choosing to create your own CV presentation is quite risky and an alternative option is to download a free CV template. There are lots to choose from online and have been created by industry professionals. They include all the relevant sections, and sometimes a few extra to add even more to your application.
So instead of spending hours in front of your computer trying to align everything – download a ready made CV template. It will take seconds to download and only a few more seconds to copy your details across. Here’s a great website to choose one – CV Template Master.
3. Get to the point
The standard length of a CV is two pages long. The exception to this rule is when you are a recent school leaver and one page is just fine. Or, if you are in higher management and your extensive work history, education and skills naturally spills over to three or even four pages. Even so, two pages are still more than enough for most positions.
With just two pages you have to make every word count. Make sure you get to the point and keep everything concise. Bullet points can be utilised for great effect, for example – your tasks and duties for each of your previous roles, your education and skills. Be careful not to over use bullet points, but when applied correctly they make it much easier for the hiring manager to navigate through your credentials.
4. Read the job description
Rather than skip over the job advert and focus on the salary, you should fully read the requirements. The employer has made it clear what they want, and if you fail to understand the requirements it’s likely your CV will fail to deliver.
Grab a pen and paper and take notes of all the best parts. Create two lists – one for the mandatory requirements, and the other for expected but not necessary. Enter all the skills and qualifications into each section and then compare this with your own credentials – how many boxes do you tick?
5. Tailor your CV
A great way to grab the employer’s attention is to fully customise and tailor your CV to the role – and the company. If you instantly press ‘send’ the second your see an opportunity online, you are making a big mistake. Don’t rush the process and take your time to analyse the requirements, conduct lots of research, and then write a CV – from scratch.
Yes, you did read that correctly – from scratch! Every time you apply you should start again. The employer wants to read an application that has understood the requirements and provides exactly what they want. You can only do this if you start again and completely tailor your CV to the role and the company.
Read: How to tailor your CV for interview success – The Guardian.
6. Use keywords
When it comes to writing a CV it’s important to use the right keywords. These important words can be found in the job advert, on social media, on the company’s website, and through your own commercial knowledge.
When applied correctly, these keywords can propel you straight into the interview room. Why? Because you are making it clear to the employer that you understand what they need. When it comes to reading your CV there is clearly no confusion whatsoever. You’ve used the same terms to describe your skills, personal traits and experience, and you’ve also thrown in a few industry terms to prove you have the right expertise.
Read: How to optimise your CV with keywords – The Guardian.
7. Show how capable you are
To create a unique CV that will stand out from the rest of your competition you have to show what you’re capable of. You cannot rely on your skills and qualifications to carry you forward, and the employer needs to have some indication of what you can do.
Achievements are a great way to demonstrate your worth, and you should consider having a whole section dedicated to them. Another method of providing results is to include them under each of your past jobs (or the ones that are most relevant and/or recent). Don’t shy away from providing numbers, graphs, charts, or even pictures, website links, videos, and so on. Online portfolios are a great way to show what you’re capable of.
8. Make the most of your hobbies
Cliché hobbies, like going to the cinema and socialising with friends, will not add any value to your CV. It’s completely up to you if you decide to keep this section, even though you have quite generic hobbies. But if you have a lot more to try and fit into your two pages, then we would recommend leaving this section out and filling it with more valuable information.
There are however some hobbies which do add value and we would recommend including them. Certain activities demonstrate soft skills, like communication, leadership, problem solving and organisation. If you were the captain of a sports team or the president of your local chess club, you would clearly need to have leadership qualities, be a good communicator, confident, organised, and much more.
9. References on request
The old school way of writing a CV would include a list of references right at the end. This is still completely acceptable, but you can also consider stating – ‘References on request’.
Typically an employer wouldn’t need to have your references until the final stages. Some companies contact references to help them make a decision after the interviews have been conducted, whilst some only contact them after they’ve decided to cover all bases. This is why you don’t have to supply them with your CV.
However, if you have some fantastic references from people in high places, then you may decide you want to show them off. The CEO of a company would of course look fantastic on your CV and would be sure to impress, but only of course if you did actually work directly with them. So avoid choosing a reference just because they are high up within the company. It won’t look good if they fail to remember who you are on first contact. Choose someone who you worked closely with and who can give an accurate and positive reference. This is much more important than trying to impress with a job title.