How To | Nail the Perfect CV
Don’t let a poorly written or cluttered CV prevent you from getting the job you want; follow our 10 golden rules to writing a CV employers will want to read, and improving your chances of nailing that all-important interview.
It’s no surprise to learn that COVID has turned many recruitment trends on their head.
Before the pandemic, we were moving towards an entirely candidate-driven market where job hunters had a greater amount of choice and control over the roles they accepted.
Now, in light of the many redundancies that have resulted from the pandemic, competition is growing more fierce.
If you’re looking to land a new role, you may be the most qualified person for the task – but if your CV doesn’t reflect that, you could end up losing out to someone with less experience, but who’s presented their skills and accomplishments in a more compelling way.
#1. GET THE LENGTH RIGHT
How long should the perfect CV be? Absolutely no more than two pages. One page might seem efficient, but it instantly tells employers that you lack substance or experience. Three or more pages, on the other hand, suggests that you struggle to get information across succinctly. And no one has time to read a four-page CV!
#2. CHOOSE A STANDARD FONT
People often select quirkier fonts to try and add a bit of personality, but ultimately they make your CV harder to read and impossible to skim.
It’s also worth remembering that not everyone has the same fonts installed as you, so even if a particular font looks great on your PC, it could end up looking awful on someone else’s.
Stick to clear, legible fonts that most people have installed; Ariel, Calibri, Trebuchet or Times New Roman are good choices, in a font size no smaller than 11. If you have space, try to use 1.15 or 1.5 line spacing to spread out text and make it easier to read.
#3. FOLLOW A CLEAR LAYOUT
The key things to cover, in the following order, are; name, address and contact details (including a link to your LinkedIn profile, if relevant), followed by a brief bio. Beneath your bio, you may also want to include a bullet-point list of key skills so that employers can quickly scan your strengths.
After that, list your work experience in chronological order (including company names and dates), followed by your education (from secondary level onwards).
You can also list any professional qualifications or significant courses completed here. Beneath that, list your hobbies and interests. There’s no need to provide references at this stage; you’d submit them later if asked.
#4. ADD VISUAL APPEAL
Everyone wants their CV to stand out, and using the occasional different colour is OK – but try not to overdo it or it could end up looking messy. You should also avoid including images in your CV as this can make the file size too large or even un-openable, as well as adding unnecessary clutter.
To make sure your CV is visually appealing, keep your font the same all the way through, but make headings bold and slightly larger, or use bold to highlight individual job titles.
Bullet points are also a great way to improve your appeal – they break down large blocks of text into bite-sized pieces of information that are easier to scan.
#5. KEEP IT PUNCHY
Everything you say on your CV should make an impact. If it’s bland and uninspiring, or full of corporate clichés, it’s unlikely to strike a chord with employers. Start off by adding everything you want to say, then go back and edit it down. Is it snappy, or still a bit to verbose? Try not to say something in 50 words that you could say in 10.
Another way to stand out is to be a little more creative with language. For example, a lot of people may describe themselves as ‘an excellent team player’. Instead, you could say you ‘enjoy collaboration’. Instead of ‘able to remain calm in stressful or demanding situations’, you could say ‘composed under pressure’.
#6. GET YOUR BIO RIGHT
Your bio is probably the most important part of your whole CV – it’s the part employers are more likely to look at than anything else, so it’s important to get it right.
A bio should succinctly explain your best professional quality (i.e. ‘focussed’, ‘accomplished’, ‘results-driven’) followed by what you do (i.e. Office Manager, Building Services Professional, Solar Installation Specialist, etc).
From there, it should list anything you specialise in (i.e. ‘specialising in complex installations’ etc), along with any key accomplishments (i.e. ‘has consistently delivered a high standard of work within demanding time constraints’, etc).
Wrap up your bio by briefly summarising what you’re looking for, i.e. ‘Now seeking a new role which offers opportunities for career progression’).
#7. KEEP YOUR WORK HISTORY FOCUSSED
When it comes to your work history, think about the responsibilities and achievements that would be most relevant to the job you’re applying for, and focus on those.
Employers are looking to see what type of responsibilities you can handle, how competent you are, what impact you made and how you’ve been able to think creatively or solve problems.
If possible, try to provide figures or metrics to help employers quantify your impact. Remember that you wont need to go into the same level of detail for your early work history, particularly if it’s in an unrelated field. Just a sentence for these should suffice.
#8. BE AS HONEST AS POSSIBLE
It’s common knowledge that people often tell the occasional fib on their CV, but in general, honesty is always the best policy.
If you make outlandish, inaccurate claims or fabricate the truth to a significant extent, you’re likely to be found out eventually. Focus on developing what you have done and finding the positives and benefits in those.
#9. CHECK, CHECK AND CHECK AGAIN
Poor spelling and grammar, or missing obvious typo’s, sends a message to potential employers that you lack attention to detail. They may also feel that you’ve rushed your CV, or worse – that you couldn’t be bothered to check it over.
That doesn’t bode well for most future careers; particularly if you’re going for a role in, say, structural or civil engineering where mistakes could create serious problems.
Go over your entire CV with a spellchecker, but remember that even spellcheckers aren’t invincible. Give it to someone else to check over too, then do a final read through yourself to make sure it’s right.
#10. TAILOR FOR EACH APPLICATION
Yes, it can be time consuming. But sending out a generic CV to every employer is unlikely to get you noticed, and if you don’t tailor your CV to each role you apply for, you could be overlooked for what could’ve been the perfect opportunity.
You don’t need to make significant changes, though. Focus on tweaking your bio to be as relevant as possible to the role, perhaps adjusting the order of your key skills and playing up or down certain achievements in your recent work history.
Need a little more inspiration? Take a look at our gallery below for four examples of the perfect CV. If you’re not confident in your design skills, you can buy a pre-designed CV template like these on Etsy – click on each picture to see it enlarged:
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