Writing a tip top CV

 

Your CV should be a living, breathing, growing document. By that, we don’t mean it should leave the confines of your desktop, spring into life, and make your morning cuppa (that would be weird. Good, but weird), but it should grow and evolve as you do. And even if you don’t have any new roles or skills to add to it, you’ll more than likely need to adapt it to specific jobs, sectors and companies. 

Employers don’t have time to read between the lines, so the more you do to show how great you are for the job you’re trying to bag, the more chance you’ll have of getting it. 

Remember, the reader will be asking themselves two very basic questions: 

  • Can you do the job?
  • Will you suit their company? 

Make sure the answer to both of these questions is ‘yes’ by:

  • Moulding your CV to match what they’re looking for
  • Making it clear where your skills meet their needs
  • Pointing out the value you could bring to their organisation

In this section, we’ll share our tried and tested tips for writing the perfect CV and effectively showcasing your skills and suitability to the professional world. 

Mind your language

  • Keep copy short and sweet 
  • Avoid lengthy sentences and use bullet-points 
  • Don’t refer to yourself as ‘I’ or by name
  • Make sentences more direct with such phrases as ‘Major achievements include’
  • Use the past tense to describe your career (‘Led a team of…’) but the present tense for your transferable skills and competencies (‘Offers experience in…’)

Proof read

  • We can’t stress enough the importance of checking your CV for spelling and grammar errors, as a mistake could cost you the job
  • A fresh pair of eyes can be super sharp when it comes to spotting the errors you may have missed, so ask someone to double-check it for you 

Layout

  • Keep it clean and uncluttered, with plenty of white space and wide margins
  • Use the same font throughout, and make sure it’s a common one such as Times New Roman, Arial or Courier
  • For a guide on font size, use 10-12 point for your body text, and a maximum of 16 point for headings
  • Refrain from using capitals for entire words and always embolden headings 
  • Never reduce font size to fit more in. If you need another page, use one — or cut it down
  • Print on one side of the paper only
  • Number the pages if there are two or more

Structure

Personal information

  • Include your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address — and if you have a website that will add value to your application, add that too 
  • There’s every chance your CV could get split up, so include your contact details on every page

Personal statement

  • Your personal statement is your big chance to sell yourself. Think of it as a sales pitch — you have one chance to grab the reader’s attention with how great you are
  • Write a focused summary of what you have to offer, keeping it simple and snappy. Sum up your personal and professional attributes, taking into account the job spec

Work experience

  • Start with your current or most recent position and work backwards
  • Treat a promotion like a separate position 
  • Provide a job title, start and finish dates, company name, and a brief description of what they do 
  • List relevant responsibilities, achievements, duties and skills; describing the scope of your job, rather than giving a job description
  • If you've had a lot of jobs or a long career, you might want to summarise under such headings as ‘Previous employers’ or ‘Earlier career’
  • Explain any significant career gaps. Even if you’re not working, you may have picked up some incredibly valuable skills from other pursuits   

Qualifications, education, training and development

  • These usually come near the end of the CV, but if some qualifications are essential for the job and make you more marketable, include them after your profile 
  • List professional and academic qualifications, degrees and executive programmes (giving the subject, awarding body and year) but not ‘bought’ memberships 
  • Include skills such as languages, technology, or vocational training

References and client endorsements

  • You could include the names and contact details of your referees on your CV, or simply have them on hand for when they’re requested. Either way, make sure you know who is willing to represent you
  • Include client endorsements and recommendations in the achievements section of your CV, for example: ‘Given a special award by X for contribution to X’

    Future proofing

    • Keep your CV up to date, even when you’re no longer looking — it’ll save you bags of time when you are, and prevent you from forgetting important dates, details, projects or successes

    Follow our top tips to get the sort of CV that’s sure to wow potential employers. 

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    Download our guide to writing a tip top CV

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