How powerful is your CV? Is it clear and compelling enough to win you your dream job? Take the time to review and rethink your CV, because in many instances it’s what stands between you and your next big break.
How to write a CV that works
When a potential employer asks to see your CV, they’re looking for evidence that you are the perfect candidate for them. They want reassurance that you’re a worthwhile investment of their time and money.
So your CV is a sales pitch, pinpointing the unique selling points that make you stand out from the crowd. The purpose of the CV is not to get you the job – it’s to get you an interview.
Top tips for effective CVs
- Remember your reader. You’re writing this CV for potential employers, not for yourself or anyone else. So keep those people in mind when you write. What are they interested in? What do they care about? What do they need to know? What will impress them? What will irritate or disappoint them?
Keep it short and to the point. Try to make it interesting. Potential employers are humans too – so don’t bore them with tedious details. Aim for one or two sides of A4, but never more than three.
- Include everything that’s important and relevant, but nothing more. Make your contact details (phone, email, address etc) clear and easy to find.
- Personal statement – include a single paragraph that captures your reader’s imagination, and makes them want to learn more about you. This statement should neatly sum up your key skills and your main area of interest. Make sure this matches up the job you’re applying for.
- Work experience – list your most recent position first, then continue in reverse chronological order. Include company names, locations, websites and dates of every employment. Use bullet points to highlight your responsibilities and achievements in each role. Check your CV to make sure these are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
- Education – give brief details of your academic and professional qualifications (including grades) in reverse chronological order.
- Skills – list your skills, including an explanation of your skill level (basic, intermediate or advanced). Skills include things like IT programs or coding languages. Less tangible skills like communication or project management may require an example to demonstrate your skill level.
- Hobbies and interests – these are optional, and if you do include them make sure they appear last in your CV. The benefit of adding hobbies is that they give your CV a more rounded, human feeling, and they may inspire conversation at your interview.
- References – you don’t need to include references on your CV, but state that references are available on request. Choose referees who you know will be easily contactable and likely to give you a glowing reference.
CV writing: what NOT to do
- It’s a great idea to spend time tidying your CV, making sure that every detail is correct and every fact is relevant. However, it’s easy to make simple mistakes that will turn off readers before they finish reading.
- Resist the urge to jazz up your CV with images or excessive colour.
- Steer clear of long paragraphs and don’t waffle.
- Don’t lie – you’re bound to get found out sooner or later.
- Proofread your CV before you send it and make sure your word processor’s spellchecker is turned on (take care it’s English, not set to American). All errors are your responsibility and will count against you straight away.
- Use typefaces like ‘Times New Roman’, ‘Arial’ or ‘Helvetica’ - they’re easier to read. Avoid using font sizes smaller than 11pt, employers won’t strain their eyes to read it. Careful use of bold type can be effective, but don’t overdo it. Underlining should be reserved for website links only.
- Don't use txt spk and only use abbreviations if they’re universally known.
Before you distribute your finished document, get someone to review it. Professional CV checkers, like us at RDF, see hundreds of CVs every day and can immediately spot things that may spoil your chances of winning your dream job.