How to write the perfect CV
Written by Chris Roots on 16/06/2016
Your CV is the first impression a potential employer has of you and making it stand out is of the utmost importance. Although many find drafting a CV daunting, following a few key steps can simplify the process and put you on the right track to creating a CV that accurately reflects your talents and sets you apart from the crowd. Before you start, it is worth considering exactly what your aim is – for example are you applying for a specific opportunity or beginning a broad job search? If you are applying for a specific role, it would be advantageous to tailor your CV to the criteria set by the job specification by highlighting key experience and achievements that are relevant to the opportunity.
Where to begin?
You don’t want your talent being hidden behind poor presentation and formatting so choose a clearly legible font, such as Arial, and set it to 10 point. The first place to start with any CV is with your name and contact details. Although this may seem obvious, forgetting to include your contact details prevents your future employer from reaching you. Make sure your email address is professional – stray away from the Hotmail address you used when you were thirteen!
The profile section of your CV is essentially a short outline of your background and personal achievements. Although this section shouldn’t be long, it gives employers a quick snapshot into your life and allows you to explain why you are the perfect candidate. You can adapt this section for each role you apply to so that your key attributes reflect those wanted by the employer.
It is also convention to avoid using pronouns such as ‘my’ or your first name. For example:
I worked extensively with Excel.
Should be written as
Worked extensively with Excel.
Unless you have just left school, your education should only list the institution you attended, the grades you achieved and the dates of your enrolment. Extensive information regarding your education is usually not necessary unless it is particularly applicable to the role.
It is worth having a separate section that lists the training and qualifications you have achieved after leaving full-time education.
The section on work experience tends to constitute the bulk of your CV and is where you outline how your previous experience makes you an optimal candidate for the roles you are applying for.
Start by listing your current (or most recent) role by stating the company name, your job title and the time period you worked there – if you are still in that role just put your start date and leave the end date as ‘Present’.
From here work backwards, in reverse chronological order, noting each role that is relevant to the employment sector you are applying for.
Underneath each role you should detail your key responsibilities and your key achievements. Where possible, you should tailor this information so that it is pertinent to the opportunity in question. Depending on how recent the role was will determine the necessary amount of detail. Your most recent role should contain the greatest amount of detail, with each previous role warranting less detail than its successor.
- Company Name
- Role Title
- Start Date – End Date
- Key Responsibilities
- Day-to-day tasks
- Key Achievements
- Areas in which you excelled
In this section you should list all relevant skills including software you are familiar with (Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc.) and any foreign languages you speak.
- With CV writing, consistency is key.
- Maintain consistent formatting throughout
- Always use a clear and clean font
- If your CV is difficult to read, it won’t be read
- Ensure your CV contains relevant keywords
- Employers and recruiters use keyword searches to find candidates on job boards
- Be concise
- Your CV shouldn’t be longer that four pages
- Spelling and grammar errors must be avoided at all costs
- Spell checks often fail to pick up on all mistakes so it is always in your best interest to have someone look over your CV.
- Use simple formatting
- The use of tables, boxes and photos is unnecessary in a CV and often makes them feel cluttered.
- Make sure your employment dates are accurate
- You could miss out on an opportunity if your dates of employment don’t match those provided by your references
- Qualify any gaps in employment
- It is good practice to state the reasons for an extended break in employment