The humble curriculum vitae (CV) still plays a pivotal role in recruitment. Despite the increased importance of services like LinkedIn when it comes to job hunting, the piece of paper you initially send out to potential employers can’t afford to cut corners or paint you out to be something you’re not.
We’ve all heard the stories of CVs that have bent the truth a little (sometimes, a lot) and you may even have been tempted to do so yourself in order to grab the job you’ve always longed for. But the fact remains that a truthful, honest and engaging CV will do far more for your career prospects.
The way in which CVs are constructed hasn’t really changed, but there’s no doubting the competition they’re up against. The aforementioned LinkedIn, combined with Facebook, Twitter and the myriad of other social networks paint vivid pictures of potential hires, and recruitment managers are often more inclined to turn to the digital space in order to shortlist their favourites than they are the pile of CVs sat on their desk.
Despite this, you’ll struggle to get a new job without a CV, and creating one just for the sake of it won’t benefit anyone. Therefore, in this post, we’re going to consider how to write a great CV by breaking it down into five simple steps.
1. Focus on the basics
As noted earlier, the basics of CV writing remain the same as they always have been, and while no two CVs are identical, they should all focus on perfecting some of the obvious stuff.
The best way to approach a CV when all that stands before you is a blank sheet of paper is to map out the content. This will help form a plan of what you’ll be writing about but will also ensure you cover all of the basics.
At its base level, a great CV will include the following:
• Personal and contact information
• Education and qualifications
• Previous work experience and history of jobs/positions
• Skills relevant to the job in question (see number 4)
• Personal interests (no one expects War and Peace – but an indication of the kind of stuff you’re into will paint a picture of you as a person)
• Achievements, including any awards that might relate positively to the job you’re going for
The above list can essentially be used as headings for each section of the CV, but you need to make sure you take time to plan out each one and leave no stone unturned. One missed qualification or inaccurate previous job description could be the difference between landing or missing out on that new job.
2. Design your CV – don’t just write it
Granted – your CV is going to be a couple of pages of words, but words can be just as attractive and engaging as images when it comes to drawing people into the content.
It’s important not to just write your CV, but to design it, too. A nicely-presented and well-structured CV will stand out among a crowd of Word documents that have clearly been thrown together as quickly as possible, or not updated for several years.
Write in short paragraphs with sentences that don’t wander down literary cul-de-sacs and use plenty of bullet points, punctuation and correctly-sized headings to illustrate your abilities and experience. Avoid fancy fonts, and opt instead for clear typefaces such as Arial or Helvetica.
The presentation continues once you’ve completed the CV, too. If it’s being emailed, avoid the temptation to simply send the Word document used to create it. Instead, export it to a PDF file (Word should let you do this without too much trouble) to add some gravitas and ease-of-use for recruiters. If you’re posting a printed copy (there’s still nothing wrong with doing so in this age), make sure you use good quality paper and avoid folding it by sending in an A4 envelope.
Put love and care into your CV and you’ll create something that people want to read.
3. Avoid spilling into three pages
A great CV shouldn’t be any longer than two pages. Nor should it be any shorter; one page is simply far too light and suggests you don’t have a huge amount to say about yourself.
Providing you include the basics mentioned in tip 1 and focus on a clean design that dispenses with waffle, you’ll end up with something that will fit comfortably onto two pages.
Many people will glance briefly at the page count before reading a document, and if yours numbers three or beyond, they may move onto the next one in order to save time during the recruitment process (no matter how fabulous your CV happens to be).
4. Tailor your CV to the role
There is no such thing as a generic CV. Chances are, you’ll have used the same CV in the past to apply for different job roles. You’re not alone, either – it’s one of the most common tactics, simply because it’s far easier than re-writing a CV each time.
However, by simply sending out the same document, regardless of the job you’re pitching for, you’re missing out on a brilliant opportunity to tailor your CV to fit the role in question.
The good news is you won’t have to complete re-write it each time, because much of the basics will remain the same. Your employment history, experience and personal interests, for example, can stay as they are. The trick lies in adding additional experience or qualifications that would be pertinent to the role for which you’re applying.
You don’t have to stop there, either. If there’s a particular hobby in which you indulge that directly relates to the job in question and which you think might impress the recruiters – add it in. It could be the one thing they spot that gets you that all-important interview.
5. Tell a story
Modern businesses market themselves by telling the story of the organisation, its products and exactly what benefits they offer customers. As someone searching for a new job, you’re marketing yourself, therefore you can call on the exact same tactic for your CV.
A CV that simply features bullet-pointed lists of achievements and descriptive sentences about past job roles will get lost among a sea of similar, nondescript CVs. You want yours to stand out – to draw the reader in, and the only way you’ll do that is by telling the story of you.
Rather than a simple bullet point list of achievements, put some substance and context around each one. How did it make you feel? What resulted from it? How did it impact the business you were working for at the time?
Describe your job roles as mini plays in the story of your life. What did you learn, experience and take away from each one?
Make your CV a page turner, and it’ll quickly get noticed.
So many CVs end up simply being skimmed or – worse – thrown into the bin. It goes without saying that you want yours to be read by as wide an audience as possible, and if you follow our tips above, it’ll inspire those that do.
Finding a job isn’t easy, but as the person conducting the job hunt, it’s worth bearing in mind that the people on the other end aren’t having a particularly easy time of it, either. Recruitment is notoriously difficult, therefore if your CV leaps out of someone’s inbox as a breath of fresh air among countless bland, uninspiring Word documents you’ll immediately make a good name for yourself – before you’ve even set foot in the interview room.
Put some love into your CV – it deserves it, and the time you spend on this crucial piece of documentation will result in a far more successful job hunt.