Your CV is your first opportunity to show your perspective employer that you are the right person for the job. CV, short for Curriculum Vitae, is a Latin phrase which loosely translates to mean ‘the course of my life’, but that does not mean you need to include everything up to this point.
Your CV is a marketing tool, and you should view it as such, including the most relevant detail that best presents your ability to fulfil the requirements and succeed in the position.
There are no set rules for creating a winning CV, each sector, hiring manager, and company will be looking for different things, so it is important to always tailor your CV for each new application.
This may sound daunting, so we have included a few pointers below to help you along the way.
A short, succinct personal summary at the top of your CV is your chance to let the reader know who you are and what you are looking for; make sure to keep it relevant for the role you are applying for.
Try to satisfy the requirements stipulated in the job description for which you are applying. Many people find it easier to write this last, once they have noted down professional highlights, key skills, and further achievements. You should follow with:
- Professional experience - you don’t need to include lots of detail for older, less relevant positions
- Key skills or areas of expertise - such as technical skills or languages you speak
- Education details - you don’t need to list all of your GCSE unless necessary for the role, the number of qualifications and grade range will suffice
- Extra-curricular activities – if relevant to the position or company. For example, does your voluntary experience show that you demonstrate the company values
A good CV design should be easy to read and clearly show the essential points, avoid a busy overcomplicated layout, instead:
- Keep it simple
- Use bullet point rather than heavy blocks of text
- Chose a professional font and use the same one throughout
Reverse chronological order is the most logical for your CV. Depending on the position you are applying for, and how important having certain qualifications are, will determine if you put your education before or after your professional experience.
It’s great that you may have some achievements you are especially proud of, but if you can’t make it clear how they are relevant to the job you are applying for putting this at the top can actually harm your chances.
Do’s & Don’ts
- Tailor your CV – you should not be sending off the same CV for multiple roles. Read the job description carefully and make sure your CV includes how you meet the requirements
- Use specific keyworks – some companies use automated systems that search for key words, relevant to the role. Again, look to the job description to find out which of your skills you should highlight
- Do your research – cultural fit is an important aspect employers’ will consider. Are you aligned with the company values, if so make this clear in your personal summary
- Include facts and figures - for example, if you had sales targets include your goals and how you achieved against them
- Use clichéd phrases, such as 'works equally well both in a team and alone' and unquantifiable skills, such as ‘exceptionally organised’ or 'excellent time management' - unless you can follow statements with tangible examples of success in these areas you risk looking like you are tyring to cover all bases and not sure how you are suited to the role
- Leave long, unexplained gaps – the reader can’t ask you questions at this stage, so don’t leave room for confusion
- Exaggerate your experience – this is more obvious than you think and won’t entice the reader to invite you to interview
- Forget to double check for any spelling or grammar errors
How to Make Your CV Stand Out
Job hunting has always been competitive, but it has never been more important for you to take extra steps to make your CV stand out from the crowd. For every application you submit it is likely a number of others with similar educational or professional experience have also applied.
Luckily, your unique selling point (USP) can also help set you apart. Maybe you have your own blog or guest write for others, it might be a podcast, volunteer work, or an extracurricular activity you have excelled at you can include.
You should still look to make this relevant for the position you are applying for, how can you use your USP to highlight your ability to succeed within the role? Does it show you have commercial awareness, strong research skills, are a great networker?
Remember, your CV should highlight the best of you, so if relevant include links to portfolios, blogs, articles or anywhere else where your skill is demonstrated that will add value to your CV.