How to write the perfect CV…

Your CV is the tool that helps you get your foot in the door when applying for jobs. Find out how to write a good CV and get tips and advice on what to include.

How long should a CV be?

A standard CV should be no longer than two sides of A4.

That said one size doesn’t fit all. A three-page CV might be needed for those in high-level roles or for people who have gained a lot of experience or worked in multiple jobs over the last five to ten years. While it’s important to keep your CV concise you should also avoid selling your experience short.

To save space only include the main points of your education and experience. Stick to relevant information and don’t repeat what you’ve said in your cover letter. If you’re struggling to edit your CV ask yourself if certain information sells you. If it doesn’t cut it out. If it’s not relevant to the job you’re applying for delete it and if it’s old detail from ten years ago summarise it.

What to include in a CV

  • Contact details – Include your full name, home address, mobile number and email address. Your date of birth is irrelevant and you don’t need to include a photograph.
  • Profile – A CV profile is a concise statement that highlights your key attributes and helps you stand out from the crowd. Usually placed at the beginning of a CV it picks out a few relevant achievements and skills, while expressing your career aims. A good CV profile focuses on the sector you’re applying to, as your cover letter will be job-specific. Keep CV personal statements short and snappy – 100 words is the perfect length.
  • Work experience – List your work experience from the most recent first to oldest, making sure that anything you mention is relevant to the job you’re applying for. Include your job title, the name of the company, how long you were with the organisation and key responsibilities. If you have plenty of relevant work experience, this section should come before education.
  • Education – List and date all previous education, including professional qualifications. Place the most recent first. Include qualification type/grades, and the dates. Mention specific modules only where relevant.
  • Skills and achievements – This is where you talk about the foreign languages you speak and the IT packages you can competently use. The key skills that you list should be relevant to the job. Don’t exaggerate your abilities, as you’ll need to back up your claims at interview.
  • Interests – ‘Socialising’, ‘going to the cinema’ and ‘reading’ aren’t going to catch a recruiters attention. However, relevant interests can provide a more complete picture of who you are, as well as giving you something to talk about at interview. Examples include writing your own blog or community newsletters if you want to be a journalist, being part of a drama group if you’re looking to get into sales and your involvement in climate change activism if you’d like an environmental job. If you don’t have any relevant hobbies or interests leave this section out.
  • References – You don’t need to provide the names of referees at this stage. You can say ‘references available upon request’ but most employers would assume this to be the case so if you’re stuck for space you can leave this out.

How to write a good CV

  • Use active verbs when possible. For example, ‘created’, ‘analysed’ and ‘devised’ to present yourself as a person who shows initiative.
  • A good CV doesn’t have any spelling or grammar mistakes. Use a spell checker and enlist a second pair of eyes to check over the document.
  • Avoid generic, over-used phrases such as ‘team player’, ‘hardworking’ and ‘multitasker’. Instead, provide real-life examples that demonstrate all of these skills.
  • Make sure your email address sounds professional. If your personal address is inappropriate create a new account for professional use.
  • Don’t lie or exaggerate on your CV or job application. Not only will you demonstrate your dishonesty to a potential employer, but there can be serious consequences too.

Which CV format is best for you?

Here are four resume formats you can use as an example and decide which might work best for you.

  • Entry Level Format

Instead of the dense work experience section most resumes use, this format focuses primarily on relevant experiences, such as extracurriculars, internships, and volunteer work. This format helps you highlight any and all experience you have that qualifies you for the job, instead of just traditional full-time work.

  • Mid-Level Professional Format

If you’re more than five years into your career, this is the best resume format for you. Think of this as the standard resume – it focuses primarily on your work experience, with smaller sections for your (now less relevant) education history and skills.

  • Traditional Format

When you’re applying for jobs, the style of your resume is just as important as its layout. The traditional resume format is simple, buttoned-up, and highly professional. This style makes it ideal if you’re applying for a job in a more formal industry like law, finance, or politics.

  • Modern Format

A modern resume format like this one is perfect if you’re applying for jobs in a more casual industry like marketing or design. More casual industries encourage experimentation and expect your resume design to stand out with bold colours and stylish design choices.

Stay positive, focused, and active with searching online, tailoring your CV for each particular job role you are applying for. Continue to network and make new connections and a new job will be with you before you know it!

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