How to write a great CV

Nobody likes to think that their CV is less than perfect. Especially me, but I know that my own needs some work. I’ve looked at it so many times in the past that I am now blind to the mistakes. It sometimes takes somebody else’s opinion to point out what you’re missing.

Presentation of your CV is very important, you want it to be as easy to read as possible, whilst looking professional and well balanced. This is your chance to sell yourself to a prospective company, so make sure that everything is clear and well laid out.

The first section of your CV should be a short, detailed profile section, tailored to the role that you’re applying for. It should essentially be a summary of your CV and what you can do. Do not include personal interests in this section, leave this for the end. This is the area that 99.9% of people say that they can work well as part of a team, or well on their own initiative 🙂 almost every single person.

After profile, it is up to you whether you go for education or employment history, if education, make sure to list all relevant qualifications. If you have some higher level qualifications, degrees and above, list all of those with dates completed. In this case it isnt important to list all of your GCSEs, you can just note your grades.

Employment history should start with your current or most recent position, include dates to and from, company name, your job title and a description of your duties. Please include detailed information about what each role entailed. For example, if an employer sees two similarly experienced candidates’ CVs, and one just says ‘Legal Secretary’ and the other describes that they can do everything that is required of the role, they will 100% go with them. You can list the duties in bullet points, or as a sentence, it doesn’t matter as long as it reads well – i.e. not too long a sentence.

If you have a long career and therefore a long CV, please do not feel the need to include every job you have ever had. If for example you work as an accountant and are applying for an position in accounting, you need not include roles earlier than say 8-10 years ago unless they are relevant, especially if your earlier roles included bar work and waitressing for example.

Add a personal interests section. No matter what role you are applying for, employers like to see a bit of character. Do not go mad and write an essay about how you like boxing or shopping though, and try not to write about how much you love cats (I’ve seen it!). Try to sound professional, but sound like a human being.

I would usually add at the end that references are available on request but that is my personal preference. Its like a full stop for me. Whether you add this or not is up to you.

Make sure that it reads well. By this I mean that all previous jobs should be written about in the past tense. This is what I see most in CVs that need amending, people writing about old jobs as if they are still in them, i.e. ‘I do this’ and not ‘I did this’. Tense is very important as if you overlook this and your CV is a mixture of past and present tense, it looks messy.

The most important thing to MAKE SURE you do, is to spell check. Then spell check again. Check grammar is correct – use bullet points if necessary for a list, remember commas and apostrophes. A lot of people hate bad spelling and grammar, and this could mean that your CV is disregarded. There really is no excuse for bad spelling on a CV.

Always include contact information. Whoever you are sending it to, whether directly to an employer or to a recruiter, they need to be able to get in touch with you to discuss.

If you are sending your CV to a recruitment agency, it is preferred to write your CV in Word format (PDF versions are ok, but to save time please avoid using text boxes as the formatting can be a nightmare!). Its not the end of the world if you do, but it is easier not to.

I would say from my own experience in receiving applications, that it is always beneficial to also provide a cover letter. It doesnt have to be long, but if you can also detail what you think your strengths are, how you can use your skills to enhance a company and how you would be brilliant in a particular role, it always helps. It also shows that you’ve taken time and care to consider your application to that particular company.

If you have any questions or would like for me to have a look at your CV and give you some pointers, just let me know 🙂 Thanks for reading.

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