How To Write A CV
The Purpose Of Your CV
The first thing to understand, when writing your CV, is that it’s actually a marketing document. It isn’t a record of jobs, a place to outline your experience, personal details or life history.
A CV exists to win you an interview. That’s pretty obvious, right? Actually, not so much. Many people confuse the purpose of a CV, forgetting that it isn’t about getting you a job, but an interview.
The result of this is that they include anything and everything in a CV – all sorts of irrelevant information. All this actually does is make your CV difficult to read, hiding the valuable content. Straight away, your chances of winning that interview just dropped, dramatically.
Think about it, let’s say you own a business and you are recruiting for a job. You’re busy, time is precious and you have a pile of applications on your desk. What’s most appealing? The 7 page, single-spaced CV, with lengthy paragraphs, no margins and a commentary on everything from primary school onwards? Or, the focused, succinct, well-organised and relevant CV?
What you want to achieve is a document that gives just enough detail to make an employer pick up the phone to arrange an interview. A CV is an introduction, an enticement, if you will. You elaborate in a job interview, not in a CV, There are no fixed rules on CV length, but, realistically, most CVs don’t need to be more than 2 pages long.
A typical CV structure takes the following form:
Include your name, address, telephone number and email address. Ensure all of your information is up to date and accurate.
If you are applying for a trainee accountancy role, include ‘Trainee Accountant’ at the beginning of your CV. When someone is quickly reviewing the document, it’s easy to identify that your application is relevant and worth considering. It also shows that your CV is tailored, and you are focused on this specific role. If you are applying for different jobs, however, make sure to change your career title when you are tailoring the rest of your CV.
A profile is a short summary outlining your relevant skills or experience, in relation to your target job. Keep it short, just a few sentences, and the more specific the better. Try and avoid clichés or statements that add little value though, this is a common mistake.
Review the job you are interested in and figure out what’s most important, and how your experience matches this. If your work experience is limited, include 3 or 4 of your most valuable skills or achievements instead. What makes you a great candidate? Why should they interview you?
This is where you add keywords from the job posting. The job asks for someone with strong problem solving skills, and you have those? Great, include ‘Problem Solver”. This helps an employer to identify, at a glance, how great a match for the role you are. And, if your application is being filtered through a recruitment system, relevant keywords will help your chances of selection.
Depending on format, anywhere between 5-10 skills is about right. But do present this so that it doesn’t take up large amounts of space. The first page of your CV is crucial, and you can’t afford to waste space.
Here’s where you include your relevant work experience. Start with your most recent job, and work backwards, keeping the information you include focused on your target job.
If you had a job in customer service, and you are applying for an accountancy role, focus your information around the aspects relevant to your target job. For instance, liaising with corporate customers, building relationships or solving problems could potentially be pertinent.
Then, build this information out into accomplishments. Employers are looking for people who deliver results. Your achievements should be focused and specific, bringing in numbers, percentages and details wherever possible.
If you have just graduated, with a relevant degree, and your work experience is limited, place your education before your work experience section.
If you have a degree there’s no need to include school level qualifications, unless you are applying for a job that requires this.
If your degree is relevant to the job on offer, you can expand upon your studies a little, outlining relevant modules or studies.
If you have further information you’d like to include, and, you guessed it, it’s relevant, then add it here. Information on awards, certifications or further training, for example, could be included, but keep it focused.
Target Your CV
Your CV should be targeted to a specific job. It’s no use writing a generic CV, because it won’t be properly tailored to the job you want. Instead, research your target roles and write your CV based on this.
In a world of online job ads, it is easier than ever to find the information you need to write the best possible CV. Take a specific job posting, and use it to write your CV, figuring out how your experience and skills match the requirements of the job.
In summary, your CV must be relevant, focused and accomplishment-driven, Keep your content specific, including numbers and percentages wherever possible. Keep your presentation simple and well spaced and always tailor your CV to specific jobs.