10 Tips for Writing a Successful CV
Writing a strong, successful CV is one of the trickiest stages of getting a new job.
Most employers will spend just seconds looking at your CV before either putting it in their ‘interested’ pile or discarding it completely.
It’s harsh, but it’s the reality of job hunting. Some roles can have a huge number of applicants and employers simply don’t have the time to go over every single CV in detail.
You might be perfect for the job and be confident of giving a great interview, but if your CV isn’t up to scratch you’re not going to get that far.
So how can you avoid ending up in the reject pile? We’ve compiled our top 10 tried and tested tips for writing a successful CV.
#1 Keep it brief
Successful CVs are clear, concise and never waffle on. This means using a maximum of two sides of A4 paper - CVs longer than this are very rarely read at all.
It won’t be necessary to detail your entire career history so cut things down by only including work experience that’s relevant to the role.
Your CV is essentially a way to show potential employers that you tick all the right boxes for the criteria they’re looking for, so it’s OK to use formatting like bullet points to quickly highlight your skills and experience.
#2 Tailor your CV to each role
It can be super tempting to knock up a general CV and send it out en mass. It’s time-saving and allows you to apply for a lot of roles quickly, but it probably won’t secure you many interviews.
You don’t have to craft an entirely new CV for each position you apply for. Unless you’re applying for vastly different jobs, a simple tweak here and there will be enough.
Read the advert thoroughly, pick out the exact skills they’re looking for, highlight the ones you have and take out any skills don’t fit the role.
You should also research the company and try to weave any values and attributes that you feel are important to them into your CV. A good place to start is the ‘About Us’ section of the company’s website as this often contains the company vision, mission and values.
#3 Add a personal profile to your CV
A personal profile or statement is an effective way to introduce yourself to potential employers and show them why you’re a good match for the role.
It’s your opportunity to tell them who you are, what you can bring to the role and why you want to work for them.
This should be kept relatively short and sweet and you should try to tailor it to each new role you’re applying for. To really shine in your personal profile, you should try to answer these three questions:
- Who are you?
- What can you bring to the company?
- What are your future career goals?
#4 Be honest
If you’re struggling to get your CV noticed, it might seem like a good idea to exaggerate your experience - but trust us, it isn’t.
You might manage to bag yourself an interview but sooner or later you’ll get found out. Even if you’re not found out at interview, the last thing you want to do is start your new job then lose it for lying.
Be honest on your CV and only include skills and experience that you actually have. If you feel the need to lie or exaggerate to get a job, the chances are you’re just not at the right stage in your career to be applying for it yet.
#5 Back up your achievements
It’s always a good idea to detail any key achievements you had in your previous employment as well as your responsibilities. This lets employers know that you not only have experience of their requirements but how well you can accomplish them.
If you have figures to back your achievements up, you should definitely include them - as long as they are 100% real!
For example, it will give an employer a much better idea of your abilities if you let them know that you increased sales by 50% in five months than simply writing that you’ve increased sales.
#6 Get the presentation right
Successful CVs are always clearly presented. An employer should be able to quickly scan your CV and find the information they’re looking for.
Use a professional font that can be easily read - Calibri, Arial and Verdana are all suitable options. Under no circumstances should you ever break out Comic Sans, leave that in the 90s where it belongs!
You should use headings to separate the different sections of your CV. Try not to have too much text bunched together as this can be off-putting for eyes scanning your CV and can mean key details are missed.
Avoid bold colours and charts or graphs as these can be distracting and are also rarely able to be read by scanning software. There are a few exceptions to this rule - applicants in areas such as Graphic Design can be more experimental with their presentation as creativity is central to the job.
#7 Explain any gaps
If you’ve been out of work for a significant period of time, it’s best to briefly explain it on your CV. If you fail to address a gap it can make employers suspicious and you may be passed over for more upfront candidates.
It’s not necessary to go into great detail about why you were out of work. If was due to something you don’t wish to discuss such as family issues, you can simply say you needed to take some time out to focus on your family but are ready to get back to work now.
You can put a positive spin on employment gaps by mentioning skills you developed during this time; be sure to include any volunteer work or short courses you engaged in.
#8 Use positive language
Think of your CV like your very own marketing brochure which you’re using to sell yourself to future employers.
This means you need to talk about yourself confidently and use positive words when describing yourself and your attributes.
When it comes to your achievements, try using positive verbs that describe your actions rather than just your responsibilities. For example, words like ‘created’, ‘led’ or ‘implemented’ are all good verbs to use.
#9 Try not to use clichés
Generic phrases like ‘hard-working’ can turn employers off your CV as they don’t really tell them anything about you as an employee.
Instead of stating that you’re hard-working, show that you are by telling them about all the things you’ve achieved in your career.
Avoid any overly cheesy phrases like ‘superstar’ or ‘rock star’ - you might be an Excel superstar in your own eyes, but you’ll just look unprofessional in the eyes of employers.
#10 Triple check for typos
Don’t let your hard work go to waste by failing to properly proofread your CV. Typos and mistakes can come across as careless to employers - especially if you’ve been boasting of your attention to detail.
Spellcheckers can help but they don’t always pick up on everything, especially if your typo is an actual word. For instance, there’s a big difference between having experience of serving customers and experience of severing them!
Always read over your CV a good few times to check for anything spellcheck has missed. A good trick is to read it aloud as it can help you concentrate better. You could also someone else to look over it to be extra certain you haven’t missed anything.
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