Basic rules for writing a killer CV for the job you want.
A great CV is crucial to impressing a potential employer and getting your name on the list for interviews. It's easy to go wrong, but with some thought and care you can create a CV that sells your skills and gets you that first foot in the door.
Top of the recruiter's hate list is coloured paper or colourful fonts, so if you're thinking about making your CV stand out in this way, think again. Your CV should always look professional, and this means a maximum of two plain A4 pages and using a standard font in black.
Most people are aware of the standard professional CV build: employment history, qualifications, contact details – but which key ingredients impress employers?
"Before you start to write your professional CV, write down your ten greatest achievements," says Peter Appleby, Managing Director of Appleby Associates.
"This should help you get in a marketing mindset. Your achievements demonstrate your proven abilities and what you have to offer. You're a product being sold to a company, and the goal of your professional CV is to communicate what you can do for them. Then you won't be describing your skills without the evidence to support them."
A killer CV links key skills and abilities with real-life achievements, such as awards or work successes, and is a sure-fire way to impress.
And how not to write a CV? Other things employers hate, include:
CV jargon, which loosely means describing yourself as 'a highly dedicated worker, with excellent attention to detail' without giving any real life examples of how you've demonstrated these abilities.
'Identikit' versions of CVs. Recruiters object to being spammed by cut and paste CVs, so find out as much as you can about what your recruiters want from your professional CV beforehand.
A 'stuffed' looking CV, is rated as very unappealing and a warning sign that the potential employee can't prioritise. Keep a professional CV as short as possible. Your goal is to communicate clearly and quickly that you're right for the job. Only write what's really necessary.
Professional CVs that begin with school qualifications, or other irrelevant qualifications. The majority of recruiters prefer employment histories starting with the most recent first, and appearing before a candidate's qualifications.
Professional CVs with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
Seek a second opinion before you send your CV. "It's a good idea to get a professional to look over your CV once it's finished," says Nick Rous, a career coach for Learn Direct. "At Learn Direct we can check your CV for free and make sure it's correctly structured and includes the right amount of detail."
Other good advice when you have composed your CV is who to send it to:
Only apply for positions that you truly have the skills and experience for, rather than the ones you would like to think you can do, and structure your CV for each position. Highlight these skills and experiences and make them relevant to the position you are applying for. Failure to do so will only lead to on-going disappointment.
Here are a few basic rules when writing your CV: do not write your CV in narrative form or it will look like a job description. The reader is interested in your actual performance in the position, not a description of what you were meant to do.
Use the "so what" rule. Any fact on the CV that the reader can think "so what" probably means it's waffle so take it off. Do not make the CV boring to read. Make it interesting and exciting. You want to engage the reader to keep them interested and typically you get about 30 seconds to do so. Make sure you keep them reading.
Each company and position is different, and each manager reading a CV is different. For each application write a tailored CV. Bring out the details of your experience specific to that opportunity and company. Make it relevant to the position and include any benefits the employer will get by employing you.
What's not on the CV can be more important than what is on it.
Every prospective employer wants to know what this person can do for them. They look for achievements and successes. By not putting any on your CV, the reader will assume there are not any. This also applies to other areas including technical skills and management experience. If it's relevant to the opportunity, put it on.
Keep it brief
There is a tendency to want to put everything possible onto a CV, making it too long. Consider the reader and make it pleasing on the eye and easy to read.
Most people tend to have their CV written and ready to send before they even know the opportunity they are applying for. They tend to put everything on it, whether it's relevant or not which means the reader has to cut through the information to find what they might be looking for.
The people reading the CV might not be very proficient at it. If they cannot see what they are looking for almost immediately, they might reject it. If it's full of technical jargon they might not understand it.
Remember: The purpose of a CV is not to get you a job. It is simply a tool to get you an interview. The interview is to get you the job. No one (or hardly anyone) has ever been hired on the strength of the CV alone without an interview.
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