There’s no right or wrong approach to writing a CV. It’s not like exams; employers don’t have a nationally certified checklist you must complete to get employed. However, there are a few general conventions that will make the employer more likely to pay attention to your CV.
Being able to write a good CV is a skill that you will learn over years of applying for jobs, and what employers look for will vary between companies, jobs and even change over time. If this is your first CV, just follow the simple steps outlined on this page. This will help keep you on track and help you write a great CV.
Keep these two fundamental points in mind when writing your content:
1. Clarity is Key
In both the presentation of your CV and the words you use, you must be as clear as possible. Not only is it an impressive skill to be able to condense and express a lot of information in a few words, but the employer has very little time to be reading through your CV; the quicker you can tell them everything there is to know, the more likely they will hire you.
2. Know the Job Role
As aforementioned, you have very few words to express a lot of information. If you waste those words explaining irrelevant skills or achievements, the employer will assume you are not capable of the role. Tailor your CV to the job you are applying for. This doesn’t mean removing experience if it is from another field, just find the transferrable skills within that role. This includes skills such as general as time management, communication, team working and problem-solving.
Here are some more general tips:
If you are applying to a job online, even the name of the file is important. Including your first and last names will make it harder for your CV to get lost and make your name memorable. As such, the title of your document should be in this format: Firstname-Surname-CV.docx
However, in the actual document don’t include the word ‘CV’ or ‘Curriculum Vitae’. An employer knows what they are reading, it is just unnecessary.
You want the employer to know how to get into contact with you. If you are applying through an online job board, some companies process the applications in their own system. As such, even if you have uploaded all your contact info to the website, the company may never receive them. Having everything the employer might need in your CV is a sure-fire way of ensuring they can offer you an interview if selected.
It is advised to provide an email that includes your name, as using an email address with a nickname or otherwise can appear unprofessional.
Describe why you are an asset to that company clearly and concisely. For an applicant with a few years’ experience or less, the maximum word count should be about 500 words (that’s less than the words on this page!). The employer will have very little time to read and process every detail of information, so the quicker you can get your point across, the better. A good tip when describing skills you have learnt during past employment is to attach a group of keywords for every listed job role. Examples include time management, marketing, research, communication, etc.
The more experience you have and the more skills or qualifications you need for the role you are applying will, in turn, require more words. Although more information is required, it should still be presented in the same clear and concise way.
Summarise your skills and experience. For an employer having to navigate hundreds or even thousands of applications, seeing a clear, digestible and convincing summary will make them far more likely to remember and hold on to your application. In addition, it will exemplify your literacy skills.
Gaps in Employment History
It’s ok to have gaps in your employment history. Breaks or redundancies are increasingly common. However, if you don’t explain why there is a gap, it can seem more suspicious than it is in reality.
Finding every spelling mistake or typo in your CV is not only professional but demonstrates your attention to detail, something that is valued by employers.