What is CV?
Your CV, short for curriculum vitae, is a personal marketing document used to sell yourself to prospective employers. It should tell them about you, your professional history and your skills, abilities and achievements. Ultimately, it should highlight why you’re the best person for the job. A CV is required when applying for a job. In addition to your CV, employers may also require a cover letter and a completed application form.
Tips to write professional CV
Limit yourself to one A4 Page
Again; there is no reason to go beyond one A4 page when writing a CV (unless the application is for a senior position). Recruiters tend to skim the content because they must read a lot of applications. If they are confronted by a several pages long CV, it will probably end up in the bin.
Your CV is above all an opportunity to show a company that you meet all the requirements. The goal is to being called for an interview. Be brief and express your personality trough your cover letter.
Make sure it is error free
An astonishingly high number of resumes contain at least one grammatical or spelling error, which can be the reason for immediate rejection. Careful proofreading is the key and will increase your chances of being invited for an interview!
Also, double check your contact information (phone numbers and email addresses) and the dates in your education and employment history.
Show that you understand the job description
Many people skim the job description only to create a completely unsuitable CV. To prevent this, always read the complete job description and highlight important keywords.
You can still have a chance of getting an interview for the job, even if you are not 100% perfect fit. If there are a few aspects where you’re not strong, compensate by adjusting existing skills. By carefully reading the job description, you save time and apply only for jobs where you have a real chance.
Show your value
The recruiter wants to know if you fulfil the job and whether you fit well into the company’s corporate culture. A good CV should answer both questions and include your skills and interests. Include key skills relevant to the role such as negotiation and persuasion, leadership or your ability to work under pressure.
Think about how you have gained and grown these skills. This might have happened during a volunteer program and not necessarily during your last job.
When describing your interests, do not add activities like ‘video gaming’. Such self-related hobbies are not considered to be particularly social. Rather mention where you worked as part of a team. You might have been a member of a band or trained a local soccer team.
Make the most of your experiences
Focus on your most recent 2-3 positions unless you have older jobs relevant to the position you’re applying for. When describing your employment history, be as specific as possible.
Keep your CV up to date
You need to update your CV regularly and always add new experience or skills as you achieve them. Always remember to add details of a new project you’ve just worked on. Recruiters are always looking for people who are constantly striving to improve their existing skills.
In the most cases, it’s enough to add ‘references available upon request’ but in some instances, recruiters will specifically ask for them. This is the reason why you should always get your references from former employers and look to leave your current workplace on good terms.
You can use a teacher or a tutor as your reference, if you haven’t worked before.
Recruiters usually become wary, if there is a gap in your CV. It’s best to positively justify your absence from the workface. You might took some time out to explore foreign countries and new cultures. In that case explain why you decided to travel and outline what you have accomplished and the skills you learned during your travel experience.
Don’t change the dates of past jobs to avoid gaps, as recruiters can just call past employers and uncover your lies.
Use professional fonts
Use for your cover letter as well as for your CV Times New Roman, Garamond or Arial and size 11 or 12. You should also use bold font when starting a new paragraph or section to separate it from the rest and make it much easier to comprehend.
A typical CV should have the following structure:
If you are asked to provide references, include two from past employers. You can include hobbies, but ensure they are in some way related to the job opening. While learning a foreign language in your free time may be seen as useful by an employer, spending hours playing the latest video game doesn’t really impress the recruiter.
You can also leave the following information out of your CV:
Mistakes/what not to include in CV writing
While most of us have some idea of how to write a CV it's surprisingly easy to make basic mistakes - and if you're not aware of what these are, they could cost you a job.
CVs that aren't clear and easy to read are a huge turn-off for employers. On average employers spend around eight seconds reviewing each CV - leaving you little time to make a good first impression.
It's therefore important to keep your CV concise so that it can be absorbed quickly. The template that you choose to follow when composing your CV should be striking yet uncluttered. Avoid confusing layouts and beware of using different fonts and sizes.
'Use a reasonable sized font (nothing smaller than a 10), normal sized margins, make sure there's a good amount of white space, and if you can use bullet points instead of paragraphs and full sentences, do,' advises Cassie Leung, resourcing advisor at Penguin Random House UK.
Before printing or submitting your CV, save it and spend some time away from it. Peter Fox, careers adviser at Durham University, suggests going back to it for a second time to scrutinise how everything looks on your computer screen. 'Cluttered, disorganised and messy are three characteristics that your CV shouldn't possess,' he adds.
When it comes to CVs, one size doesn't fit all. Everything that you include must be completely tailored to the company and role that you're applying for. This will make it easy for recruiters to see that you're the perfect candidate.
Peter claims that recruiters can immediately sense whether you've sufficiently assessed the job requirements. Evaluating which of your skills match the job specification most effectively will give you the best chance of success.
'Don't be afraid to remove irrelevant experiences,' Peter adds. 'Even if you're applying for similar roles with different organisations, check their specific requirements and tweak accordingly.'
Cassie agrees. 'A CV is a marketing tool for you. It's the highlight reel, with all the most relevant things for each particular job you're applying for. You might have a master CV with everything on, but you should tailor what you send for each application, especially if you're applying for a variety of jobs in different sectors.'
There are no excuses for spelling mistakes - even if English isn't your first language. An error-free CV is vital in showcasing your precision and attention to detail, so check everything - even your contact details. Spellcheck and proofread your CV yourself before asking others to cast their critical eye over the document.
Minimise the risk of making mistakes by taking your time - never leave writing your CV to the last minute. Rushed examples are easily spotted and quickly dismissed. 'Careless errors are rarely tolerated,' explains Peter. 'Avoid needless rejection by slowly and meticulously checking.'
'Even for jobs that don't involve writing, you want to make the best impression. A great way to see if there's a spelling or grammatical mistake is to temporarily change the font, size and colour - it can trick your brain into thinking it's a new piece of writing,' adds Cassie.
When you're trying to get a foot in the door and impress potential employers it's tempting to be economical with the truth, because who's going to check, right?
Wrong. The facts on your CV are easy to corroborate so never assume that recruiters won't make enquiries to do so.
Giving your university grade a boost, claiming to have attended university when you haven't, lying about your current job title or embellishing a period of work experience won't do you any favours in the long run. At best, your lies will be obvious, and your CV will be rejected out of hand. At worst, you may be invited for an interview where you'll either trip yourself up or be asked questions that you're unable to answer. What could possibly be worse than embarrassing yourself at an interview? How about going to prison? Lying on your CV is a criminal offence. Take a look at this advice and guidance on degree fraud for students.
Instead of using your time and energy to concoct half-truths and complete fabrications, use it instead to really sell the qualifications, skills and experience you do have.
It's easy to make generic, empty statements on your CV when you're trying to meet a tight application deadline. However, failing to effectively evidence your skills, achievements and experiences can be a big mistake.
Peter believes that you should quantify your successes whenever possible - but never at the expense of the CV's readability. 'Recruiters will be assessing not just what you've done, but also your written communication skills,' he explains. 'Writing concisely but meaningfully is crucial, as this is a central element of many graduate jobs.'
Cassie points out that you shouldn't just focus on the things you did, but also on the things you achieved. 'At entry-level, chances are a lot of your previous experience was temporary, voluntary or part-time, with duties that might include 'sweeping the floor' or 'filing and data entry'. You want to point out ways that you took those duties and went above and beyond to make a difference. For example, the above might be 'shortened average closing time with efficient clean up' or 'kept office running smoothly with quick data entry'.
It isn’t enough to just state your credentials; you need to prove them by justifying why you've chosen to undertake certain activities in terms of your personal and professional development. You should then elaborate even further on the resulting skills you've gained.
For example, discussing your extra-curricular activities is very important - providing you pay particular attention to any positions of responsibility you've held and outline what you've taken from the experience.
As a rule, average CVs give you the 'what' - for example, the degrees or jobs that person has held. Great CVs also give the 'whys' - for example, why that person has chosen that degree or society.
Gaps in employment history are fairly common and rarely a problem as long as they're explained.
You don't need to worry about gaps of a couple of weeks but if you've been out of work for months (or even years) you need to clearly and concisely explain why. Any unexplained absences of this length will be looked upon with suspicion by potential employers and will give the impression that you've been idle during this time.
Don't be afraid to let recruiters know that you took some time out to volunteer, look after a sick relative or travel the world. There's also no shame in informing employers of a period spent away from work due to an illness, medical condition or redundancy.
You'll be able to further explain any gaps in your work history in your cover letter. See our cover letter template of how to explain a gap in your CV for more advice.