How to write a CV

Getting the job you really want is a multi staged process, with the first step being preparing a good CV that separates you from the competition. Your CV is a brief summary of your abilities, education, experience and skills. It has one purpose…to get you a job interview! To achieve its goal a CV needs to be structured, concise and to the point. The person reading your CV may be going through many CVs and have very little time to read them, so making your CV easy to read is essential. Ideally your CV should be only 2 pages long. (Maximum 3.)

What information should a CV contain?

1. Your personal contact information, name, address, telephone contact and email address.

2. Your previous work experience. This can include full-time jobs, academic research projects, internships, part-time jobs or volunteer work. List month/years you worked, position, name and location of employer or place and responsibilities you had. Work experience should be listed chronologically starting with most recent. Also try not to leave any long unexplained gaps between jobs.

3. Your education and other qualifications. This usually means any post secondary school education such as university degrees or diplomas, any work related training or other relevant course you have undertaken. You should list the name of the degree or qualification, the University or institution you attended and the date you completed the course or training.

4. Skills. Here is your chance to list relevant skills you may have that will help your application such as foreign language skills including fluency, computer skills including software packages you have used, communication, leadership, teaching, etc…

5. Hobbies and Interests. Whilst this is obviously not the most important part of your CV it does tell a perspective employer a little bit about the type of person you are. Keep this section short and list a couple of things that you are actively involved in outside the work environment. (You never know when a hiring manager might share the same interest.)

6. References. It is up to you whether to list names and contact details of references on your CV and usually a short statement saying “References available on request” will suffice. Although this does mean you should arrange your references in advance in case they are called upon. Referees can be former employers, clients, project manager, university professors or teachers. When giving someone as a reference it is essential that you inform them beforehand so that they will not be surprised by the call.

Standing Out in the Crowd.

As mentioned earlier your CV may be one of many a potential employer has to read, so how do you maximise your chances of getting to the interview stage.

  • Make good use of headings and spacing and include the most important information on page 1.
  • Be specific, highlight achievements, emphasise your most recent experience and make sure that your key technical skills are clear to the reader too.
  • Keep sentences short, sharp and positive. Like “Developed training manual for new employees” or “Gained valuable experience in team-leading and problem solving”.
  • Make sure your CV is up to date.
  • Use bullet points to list your duties, skills and achievements in recent jobs.
  • Don’t include useless information just to fill space.
  • Check for and correct all spelling and grammar mistakes. These kind of things make your CV look unprofessional and give an employer an easy excuse to reject your application.
  • Keep sentences short, sharp and positive. Like “Developed training manual for new employees” or “Gained valuable experience in team-leading and problem solving”.
  • Customise your CV. Take the time to adapt your CV to each role you apply for. Research the company and use the job ad to gauge exactly which skills you should emphasise and which aren’t perhaps so relevant.
  • Be honest. Whilst it is generally accepted that people may be prone to exaggeration on their CV’s you should never tell blatant lies or claim skills or experience which you cannot back-up. This will more often than not be found out and can put you in a difficult situation.
  • Get Advice. Ask a friend, colleague or recruitment professional to read over your CV and give you their feedback.