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, employers often receive many hundreds of CVs and there are a few general conventions that will make the employer more likely to pay attention to your CV, instead of moving it to the discard pile.
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, and jobs and will even change over time. If this is your first CV, just follow the simple steps outlined on this page. These steps will help to keep you on track and enable you to write an effective CV.
It is important to 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 and concise 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 read through your CV so the quicker you can present them with the relevant information, the more likely they will be to hire you.
2. Know the Job Role
As previously mentioned, 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.
When applying for an apprenticeship, it’s key that you tailor your CV to the job you are applying for. This doesn’t mean removing experience if it is from another field, just that you should find the transferable skills that apply to the role and build your CV around them. These can include skills such as general time management, communication, team working and problem-solving.
If you are a real team player you should mention it. You may find it easy to get along with people and, believe it or not, this is an excellent and valued quality. Every employer wants to know that their new employees will be able to work well with others.
You should take the time to research the company you are applying to, as much as you can so you have a good idea of what they do. This can help you to tailor your CV to their particular requirements as a company.
Here are some more general tips:
If you are applying for 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, within the actual document, it isn’t necessary to include the word ‘CV’ or ‘Curriculum Vitae’. An employer knows what they are reading, so it is superfluous to add this and they may find it condescending.
It is important for the potential employer to know how to get back in contact with you. If you are applying through an online job board, some companies process the applications inside their own closed system. As such, even if you have uploaded all your contact information to the website, the company may never receive it. If you include everything the employer might need in your CV, this is a surefire way of ensuring they can offer you an interview if you pass the first round of selection.
It is advisable to provide an email that includes your real name, as using an email address with a nickname can appear unprofessional and frivolous. Even if you have to set up a new email address just for the purpose of job hunting, it is worth the effort and prevents a bad first impression.
Describe why you are an asset to that company clearly and concisely. For an applicant with a few years of experience or less, the maximum word count should be about 500 words. For context, that is around half of 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 developed during past employment is to attach a group of keywords for every listed job role. Examples include time management, marketing, research, communication, etc. You can also include your hobbies in your CV, if they are appropriate for the role.
The more relevant work experience you have and the more skills or qualifications that are required for the role you are applying to, will in turn require more words. Although more information is required, it should still be presented in the same clear and concise way as before.
Summarise your skills and experience. An employer having to navigate hundreds or even thousands of applications for a job will see a clear, digestible and convincing CV as a breath of fresh air. This will probably make them more likely to remember and hold on to your application. In addition, it will draw attention to your skills in literacy.
Gaps in Employment History
It is both ok and completely normal to have gaps in your employment history. Breaks or redundancies are increasingly common in today’s working environment. However, if you don’t explain why there is a gap, it can seem more suspicious than it actually is in reality.
Honesty is important, and if in doubt, be truthful. Nobody wants to hire someone they think isn’t being absolutely straight with them, so don’t say anything that can come back and harm your chances at a later date, for example, if you get to the interview stage.
You must be prepared to answer questions on any aspect of what you have said in your CV if you reach the interview stage.
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. It may be worth running your CV through the free tool called Grammarly, which allows you to find and fix errors in grammar and spelling easily and make a better impression on potential employers.