Top Tips for CV Writing

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The most perfect/wonderful/killer/sublime/compelling/seductive CV – ever!

Search for CV writing and you’ll get nearly 5 million results. So why are grown-up men and women still making fundamental mistakes? Common reasons are that they:

-       rush at it and don’t plan

-       don’t take advice

-       don’t put themselves in the place of the employer who will be reading CVs

-       think one version of a CV will suit all jobs

-       don’t read any of the above 5 million articles

Here are some questions to ask yourself, with some possible answers from the perfect candidate….

What’s your CV for?

No job in mind yet, just want to get a draft together to help me realise what I’ve done and what my experience and skills are. I review it every six months to ensure I’m thinking critically about my skills and achievements, then I’m not caught out if I see a job with a short deadline. Even if they need an online application form, I’ve got all my employment history to hand. The process of reviewing a CV is as important as the end product; it’s really made me realise what I’m good at….and also where I need to develop, so it’s helped me with my Professional Development Plan.

…and a speculative CV? introduce myself or pitch for work – again, tailor to the organisation, do your homework, find out if there is a desired format. Make it just one stage in a process: the other stages could be: initial phone call, email, follow-up call.

What do you want an employer to notice?

That I’ve got the basics; to give them an overview. Also, to make a good first impression, so really striking use of language, ‘action’ words (eg negotiated, managed, delivered, revised’ etc) succinctly describing my achievements. And to be as concise as possible if it’s going to get 30 seconds of their time

Same CV for any job?

No, I have to match my experience and skills to a specific job; I currently have about 10 CVs, probably with about 80% of the content in common. I show it to people who know my work to check I’m doing myself justice; it’s too easy to miss the wood for the trees.

How should CVs link with covering letters?

I need to make sure my CV and letter dovetail and complement each other effectively. The covering letter typically fleshes out the examples from my CV which best show I can meet the job and person specification of the role I’m applying for. And I have the chance to write in full sentences, so I can show I can write well and perhaps convey some of my personality.

And I always imagine an employer is looking over my shoulder asking, ‘why are you telling me that?’ If I can’t justify something  it needs re-writing or removing.

Top Tips 

Style: concise, succinct. Think report style not novel.

Layout: keep it clear and accessible. A jumble of underlining, bold, italic and 98 different fonts will give anyone a headache.

Typos: proof-reading is an art. You need to read one word at time. Print out your CV, mark any mistakes, read each word slowly and separately out loud, then ask someone to do the same, then do it again.

Gaps in CVs: health, prison, raising a family – prepare an explanation which does not have to be an apology or defensive.

Jargon: unless you know the reader understands the jargon of your current or recent roles, KISS: keep it simple, stupid!

Opening personal statements/profiles: including one at all increases a reader’s expectation that it’s going to mark your CV out from the next one. If you can’t think of a paragraph that’s really going to set you apart, don’t bother.

Interests and hobbies: a list of sports teams you were in, countries you’ve visited, films you’ve seen, do not on their own, convey you are an interesting person whom everyone will love and bond with. Be specific and relevant.

Photograph: don’t.

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