Writing a CV: our top 5 tips for a better CV
Thinking about looking for a new job but haven’t had to prepare a CV for a few years?
Follow our five top tips and you’ll be well on your way to having a CV that will grab attention – for all the right reasons.
1. Don’t waffle
Don’t try and include every last detail of past positions, it won’t do you any favours. Yours could be just one of many CVs in a pile; research has shown that opinions tend to be based on the information within the top third of the first page, so be succinct and concise, include key facts but save the detail for your interview. Limit yourself to two pages - your CV is going to be read by busy people who don’t have time to read six pages, be ruthless and edit, make every word be on the page for a reason.
2. Show off your achievements
A common mistake in CV writing is to regurgitate job descriptions, but this really isn’t going to sell you or give a potential employer any real sense of what you might bring to the company. There is every possibility that other candidates will have a very similar set of skills to yours, so to set yourself apart you should think about how you have used those skills to make an impact in previous roles, the value you added, with measurable results.
3. Check your dates
Always state your employment dates for each job, and include both the month and year the job started and ended; this will help employers assess your level of experience. Any gaps will be questioned and might cause suspicion, so check your facts or be prepared to be challenged at interview. And if you have had periods of time without work, be honest about it – it’s better than leaving it to employers’ guesswork. Think also how you can turn it to your advantage; did you, for instance, pick up new skills that were transferable?
4. Don’t try to be a designer
A CV essentially allows an employer to scan information quickly, make an assessment about suitability and a decision of whether to place yours in the yes, no or maybe pile. It’s all about conveying information clearly, so creating your CV is not the time to start using quirky fonts, adding masses of colour or graphics. A clean layout, headings to define different sections and white space to create a ‘breathing space’ between sections is really all that’s needed. And make sure you get the basics right with the format:
- Name and contact details
- Personal statement
- Work experience
- Education and/or training
- Other relevant skills
Information should always be presented in reverse-chronological order i.e. most recent goes first.
5. Don’t make spelling mistakes
This is a basic necessity! Spelling, grammar and punctuation are so important when employers are creating that vital first impression of you – careless mistakes may suggest a ‘care less’ attitude, or it could be a factor in deciding whether CVs go onto the ‘to interview’ pile or the no pile. After all, faced with an array of talent, employers have to find ways of whittling down applicants for interview. Sometimes, the smallest things can have the biggest impact. Always, always, always proofread your CV before sending it out. Don’t simply rely on the spell checker in Word, it won’t always pick up on context, so it’s quite possible for mistakes to be missed. Once you’re happy with your CV, read it carefully yourself, but try and get a second opinion too – a fresh pair of eyes will always spot mistakes and can provide objective feedback on the content and impact it has. It also helps to read it aloud to get a sense of how the copy ‘flows’ and whether punctuation is correct.
Why not watch our CV Advice video
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