Writing the Perfect CV
According to research, employers spend an average of 30 seconds screening a CV - highlighting the importance of demonstrating your suitability for the role from the outset. Before writing your CV it is therefore essential that you have clear career objectives and can communicate where you are now and where you want to be.
Your personal profile and the language used throughout your CV should be in line with the direction you want to go and reflect your career goals. You need to be clear about your core experience and qualifications and what your personal strengths and weaknesses are. By emphasising your strongest skills and experiences you will be able to demonstrate how you would fit the role and position yourself correctly for your next career move. Your CV is also an opportunity to communicate your personal traits, for example by demonstrating a positive attitude to all of your previous roles and highlighting your ambition and willingness to learn new skills.
Tailoring your CV
Your CV isn't just a short-term investment - you need to know what your next role needs to be to meet your long-term career goals and tailor your CV to fit this profile accordingly. Always remain focused on what you want to achieve in the long-term and strengthen your CV wherever possible to help you reach this goal.
It is important to customise your CV for each role you apply for. For example, if a role requires you to have worked across international teams make sure you pull out and highlight your relevant skills and international experience. The key is to emphasise the areas where you fit the job profile, making it easy for the recruiter to draw out quickly why they should invite you to an interview. During the shortlisting process many recruiters will screen CVs for 'must have' qualities. If these aren't included in your CV, you won't even make it past the shortlisting process, so make sure your CV covers all of the key requirements in the job description or shows the recruiter you are willing to develop relevant skills.
Selling your skills
Remember to sell yourself through your key achievements and successes, rather than simply listing your responsibilities. By demonstrating how you can add value to the department and wider company you will gain the attention of a potential employer. Similarly, talk about what you were personally responsible for rather thantalking broadly about what your team may have delivered.
How to Format Your CV
Ideally your CV should fit on two A4 pages - this means you will need to be succinct and selective with the information you include. There are different ways you can format this information including chronologically or by skills and attributes.
Whichever format you choose it is essential that your CV is easy to read. Use clear headings to break up the content and ensure your personal details can easily be found at the top of your CV. Use a clear universal font such as Arial and avoid going smaller than 10pt.
A chronological CV focuses on presenting your employment history on an employer-by-employer basis, with your most recent role listed first and all previous positions listed in reverse order. This allows you to focus in more detail on your most current and relevant experience. A chronological CV will also usually contain a personal statement, education and qualifications and interests. This is the most common type of CV.
A skills-based CV focuses on the skills, abilities and expertise you have gained across your career history, rather than when you gained the knowledge. A skills-based CV can help highlight the abilities and skills that are relevant, without focussing on your previous employers and industries. This is particularly useful if you wish to communicate the transferable nature of your skill set. However, it limits descriptions of your past roles and responsibilities.
Once you've organised your CV content into a structured framework, review and revise your language and grammar so that it follows CV writing conventions. By using the correct language your CV will have more impact and will help ensure the reader understands what you are trying to communicate as quickly as possible.
CV Tips - Spelling and Grammar
- Use positive words to describe yourself and your achievements.
- Use language that you feel comfortable with.
- Use keywords that recruiters or hiring managers will use when looking for CVs on job boards or databases - if you're looking for another IT Manager role, put "IT Manager" in your CV instead of "Technology Business Leader".
- Less is more - don't use three words where one word will do.
- Keep your sentences short and simple - complex and overlong sentences can distract from the point; there's also a danger that the recruiter or hiring manager reading your CV will lose interest.
Tone of voice
- Keep it professional - don't use colloquialisms, slang or swear words.
- Use the active voice not the passive form
- The active voice takes the form of "A does B"; the passive takes the form of "B is done [by A]".
- The active voice gives a stronger, more confident delivery.
- Passive constructions can clog up sentences and the message loses clarity and impact.
Technical jargon and industry acronyms
Ensure you use relevant industry terminology - this will help your CV to be picked up by recruiters and hiring managers when they run keyword searches. Be mindful, though, that overstuffing your CV with technical language could be perceived as pretentious, and result in confusion rather than clarity.
Write in the first person understood
- That is, write without using pronouns - instead of writing "I managed a team of 5", write "Managed a team of 5"
- Do not use first-person pronouns (I, we) - your name is at the top of your CV, so the recruiter or hiring manager knows it's about you.
- Do not use third-person pronouns (he, she) when referring to yourself - this will make you look pompous.
Word power - less is more
- Where possible, remove articles (the, a, an) - word count is precious on a CV, don't waste it or bore your reader with unnecessary speech. Use "responsible for budget" instead of "responsible for the budget".
- Omit helping verbs (have, had, may, might) - these words weaken claims and credibility. Write "managed" instead of "have managed".
- Avoid being verbs (am, is, are, was, were) - they can make you sound stagnant. Try "data collated" rather than "data was collated".
Be consistent with your tenses
Don't switch back and forth between tenses:
- Use the present tense to talk about your currentjob.
- Use the past tense for previous roles
Avoid Common CV Mistakes
- Don't just list the jobs you've had, always include a short and precise description about your key responsibilities and achievements.
- Keep your CV professional at all times. Personal details about your religion, parents and siblings or even details of your primary school must not be a part of your CV.
- Do not include information on courses that are not related to the position you're applying for.
- Avoid exaggerating your skills. Lying about your abilities may cause an unpleasant situation in your interview where you will be probed further.
- Don't just rely on the spellcheck, instead ask a friend or family member to proof read your CV for you.
- Don't leave unexplained gaps in your CV; always explain the gaps and be prepared for further questions regarding those gaps.
- Focus on accomplishments rather than the plain responsibilities your jobs included.
- Include relevant keywords so that recruiter and companies can find your CV - no matter how well written it is, it won't help you find a job if no-one is able to find your CV.
Get Your CV Found Online
To make the most of your CV, you should also post it to online job boards and recruitment websites. When posting your CV online, there are several methods you can use to get your CV found, which will allow prospective employers and recruiters to contact you about relevant roles.
How to be found on a CV database
If you are dealing with a recruitment agency it is highly likely that your CV will end up on their CV database but you should also put your CV on the many job board databases out in the market.
Recruiters look for candidates on CV databases using keyword searches. If you want your CV to be found, make sure your CV has the appropriate keywords in it.
- Use descriptive words - the search programme will be looking for specific phrases.
- Check the frequency of keywords in your CV. Search results will display in order of suitability based on the numbers of times the keywords appear in the CV.
- Avoid irrelevant keywords - your skills and experience should be clear to anyone skim-reading your CV.
- Keep refreshing your CV online - recruiters often search for new CVs only. To keep your CV at the top of the pile, upload it every month.
- Include keywords associated with the industry you work in, the products you work with, jargon, acronyms and technical words, job titles (especially if there is more than one descriptor for what you do) specialist areas, brief company details and systems and processes.
- Most importantly, don't just list keywords in your CV. Use them to describe, concisely and intelligently, what you did and how you did it.
Tips for raising your online profile
If you are at management level or advancing in your career then the chances are someone may look for you on the search engines with a view to checking you out. So how do you make sure you will get found?
- Blog - you can set up your own Blog page. Don't forget to link to your CV from your blog.
- Buy and create your own webpage - you can buy your own domain name - get it as an exact match, i.e. "FirstnameFamilyname.com" or .org .net .co.uk .org.uk.
- Google Universal Search - this is Google's new emphasis on bringing non-traditional returns, such as photos, books and PowerPoint, to a Google search. Recreate your CV in PowerPoint and you can use this new online tool to heighten the visibility of your CV. There's no rule that every CV has to be created in Word, and PowerPoint does give you certain design functionality that is missing in MS Word.
- After you have finished creating your PowerPoint CV, you need to post it where search engines can find it. SlideShare (a free service) is a good place to start. All PowerPoints on SlideShare are searched by Google, and since Google is eagerly searching for PowerPoint as a search return, you should be a top return for at least some of your keywords. Use this leverage to establish yourself as a credible expert in your field.
- Host your CV with Google Docs (http://docs.google. com/), create an account and upload your CV. You can then easily link to your CV, collaborate with others about your CV, set your CV to be searchable by Google, embed your CV right onto a website page and most importantly, publish your Google Doc to the web. Remember to enable it to be indexed by the Google search engine so that recruiters and hiring managers can find you online (pick the "Public on the web" sharing option). You can even create a customised bit.ly link to your CV, so that you can share and track clicks to your CV online more easily.
- YouTube - if your personality is your greatest asset, why not showcase it on YouTube? A video CV will give employers an idea of your presence and persona. However, be careful with this option - you don't want to become a YouTube sensation for all the wrong reasons!
Before you send out or upload your CV take a step back and run through our quick CV checklist. Remember your CV is one of your most valuable tools for opening doors and securing that all-important interview, so make sure it’s perfect before you release it to prospective employers.
- Are my personal details up-to-date and easily visible?
- Is it easy to read and well structured?
- Do my most important skills and experience stand out?
- Are the spelling and grammar correct?
- Is my tone of voice appropriate?
- Have I given a brief summary of the main duties and responsibilities for each of my previous roles?
- Is the CV tailored to the job I am applying for?
- Is there any irrelevant info? If yes, remove it.
- Would I want to read it?
- Have I included relevant keywords so employers and recruiters can find my CV online?