A clear, concise and accurate CV can help make a lasting first impression on a potential employer. Dan Kirkpatrick highlights the dos & don’ts of CV writing that will help all job seekers improve their chances in these difficult times.
Writing a great CV is more difficult than it first appears. The result is subjective and one person’s perfect CV may be less than perfect to somebody else. There are, however, a number of important things that you must take into account when writing your CV which will help ensure it is viewed in a positive light by as many people as possible.
Remember that your CV is often the first thing a potential employer will see and it’s essential that you make a good first impression, especially given the current competition levels for many roles.
A negative impression at CV stage may stop you getting an interview and, even if it doesn’t, it will mean you have more work to do during the interview. What will a future employer think if your CV is littered with spelling mistakes, is formatted poorly or contains incorrect information?
- Include your postcode if sharing your CV with recruiters – the first search many recruiters do when a new role comes in is a radius search of the employer’s postcode, if you don’t have a postcode on your CV you won’t appear in this search no matter how close you are
- Keep it clear – use a font such as Arial in size 10
- Keep it concise – two to three pages ideally
- Keep it simple and accurate – double check all grammar and spelling. Get a friend, family member or recruiter to read it through
- Include key achievements – many employers want to see the successes you’ve had
- Use headers to help each individual section stand out – use bold or underline
- Use bullet points rather than block text – it’s much neater and easier to read
- Include your name and contact details – you’d be surprised how many people forget to include their phone number
- Call it a Curriculum Vitae or CV – just use your name as the title
- Insert your photo
- Include any graphics
- Add borders (tables can be included if they appear suitable and tidy)
- Make the CV multi-coloured – keep all type black
- Make it read like a job description
- Include acronyms that may be unique to your current employer or the industry you’re in (especially if applying to a different industry)
- Exaggerate/lie – any company that interviews you will expect you to be able to talk in depth about anything that is on your CV
NOTE: there are potentially exceptions to some of the rules above – for example, if you’re a designer you may want to include a page at the end showing some of your design experience. If you’re a marketer you may want to show some of your marketing skills through the layout and design of your CV.
Should you write a covering letter?
If you’re applying direct to a company, write a covering letter detailing your experience relevant to the specific company and role. If you’re applying for a role via a recruitment company, don’t write a covering letter until you’ve discussed the role and company with them.
A good CV should include the following parts, in this order:
- Contact details
- Profile, ideally tailored for each role
- Key skills – optional but I would advise against including them. If included give evidence of why each is a key skill
- Career history – starting with your most recent role and working backwards. Include responsibilities and achievements while in the role
- Education/Training – put this above career history if you’re a recent graduate, and only include relevant training
- Other skills – e.g. IT, driving licence, languages etc.
- Interests (optional)
- References (optional but I would advise against including them)
Don’t rely on spell-checkers. They can ruin an otherwise well-prepared CV and if you don’t read through your finished CV before you send it off, you may be in for a surprise in an interview when your potential employer picks you up on your mistakes. That’s if you get that far! Get a colleague, friend, family member or a recruiter to check it for you.
Howlers to avoid
Past genuine CV ‘bloopers’ have included:
- “I am a prefectionist and rarely if if ever forget details.”
- “Proven ability to track down and correct erors.”
- “I have good writen comunication skills.”
- “Lurnt Word Perfect computor and spreadsheet pogroms.”
- “Extra Circular Activities.”
- “At secondary school I was a prefix.”
- “I hope to hear from you shorty”
- “In my spare time I enjoy hiding my horse.”
- “I hope to hear from you shorty.”
- “Reason for leaving last job: maturity leave.”
- “Dear Madman” (instead of Madam).
- “In charge of sock control” (instead of stock control).
- “Instrumental in ruining an entire operation for a chain operator.”
- On an application to work with teenagers: “I am experienced in teaching marital arts.”
- “My role included typing in details of accounts, customer liaison and money-laundering duties.”
Dan Kirkpatrick is Head of Customer Success at Hunter, The Manufacturer’s Official Talent Partner. He has 17 years’ experience in engineering and manufacturing recruitment across all sectors and disciplines
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