Top tips for writing a CV that gets you the interview
Despite rumours to the contrary, the humble CV still reigns supreme. Over the centuries, it has successfully survived the transition from parchment to paper and on to our digital screens. While it has its critics, practically every advertised vacancy still asks for a CV as a form of job application.
MAIN PURPOSE OF A CV
Before we discuss the details of what you should and shouldn’t include in a CV, let us declare the one and only purpose of a CV – it’s to get you an interview. To be crystal clear, CV gets you the interview and not the job – that should follow when you impress the employer at the interview!
Content – what to include in your CV
Keep it lean. Include nothing superfluous.
Now, let’s look at the basics.
Name, contact telephone number, email address and an indication of your location, not necessarily the precise postal code address, are essential.
This should be followed by a short Personal Statement / Summary – this is effectively your ’10-second elevator pitch’. Briefly describe your experience and outline your future career objectives. This is your key opportunity to create a great first impression and grab the employer’s attention.
Irrespective of the role, use of software and technology are now long established norms in every office. Therefore, under the heading of Skills, Tools and Technologies, it’s a great idea to include a list of relevant software packages, tools and technologies that you have first-hand experience of using including Microsoft Office, CRM, marketing and social media tools and platforms. Of course, for IT related roles, this could be a long list.
Useful links to your professional online presence such as a website showcasing your portfolio or your profile on LinkedIn can also be included here.
By now the employer should have a pretty good impression of your experience and capabilities. We now move on to your experience in slightly more detail.
The Work Experience section should contain all the roles you have held to date in reverse chronological order, starting with current or most recent role first.
For each role, include employer’s name and location, your job title and start and end dates. Follow this with a summary of your core responsibilities and, importantly, your key achievements. Of course, employers are interested in understanding what duties you performed. However, they are much more interested in the difference you made in each role.
Therefore, highlighting your major achievements could be the difference between getting an invite to an interview or continuing your job search elsewhere.
The final few sections should briefly highlight your educational background, a list of any relevant courses undertaken over the course of your career, mention of notable hobbies and any volunteering roles that maybe relevant to your job application.
Content – what not to include in your CV
As much as what goes in a CV is important, what doesn’t go in there is equally critical.
The focus of your CV should be 100% professional and job specific. Make sure you tailor it to every job application you make.
Relevance is key. If a piece of knowledge, experience, skill or achievement is not relevant to the role you are applying for, leave it out.
Keep the ‘social’ separate from the ‘professional’. This is specifically in relation to your online presence. Links to your personal profiles on social media such as Facebook and Instagram should be left out. In fact, there have been many examples of employers rejecting jobseekers based on what they saw on their social media pages.
Listing contact details for your referees is not necessary here either unless the job ad has specifically asked for them. If so, you will need to decide whether or not to include your current employer’s details.
CV Format – quick to read is key
Clearly laid out and easy to read format are key to getting and holding the employer’s attention. Stick to short and punchy paragraphs but limit their use as far as possible and instead make use of bullet points.
Avoid the temptation to bold or italicize every keyword – it can make your CV look busy and can certainly spoil the clean aesthetics. Instead, make every section heading bold and bigger by a few points than the rest of the copy.
Size matters – perfect length of a CV
A two-page CV is perfect. A three-page CV is acceptable. Anything more and you are asking a lot from the reader. There has to be a compelling reason for a CV to run beyond two or three pages.
Of course, the length of your experience may warrant an extended CV. In this case, it may be best to use a single line for each older role rather than a full list of duties and achievements.
On the other hand, a one-page CV is perfectly fine for a school leaver or graduate. For more on this, take a look at HOW TO WRITE A GREAT GRADUATE CV.
Final tip for writing a perfect CV
Proof read your CV with great care. Lookout for commonly misspelt words and sneaky amends by autocorrect. Once you are happy with the shape of your CV, get a friend or colleague to check it over and allow them to ruthlessly edit it where necessary.
You should now have a great CV that gets you an interview to that perfect job!