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How to Write a Great CV

  • by: Rebecca Fagan
  • On: 30, Dec 2019
5 min read

Are you in the market for a new job, but don’t know where to start? Perhaps you have many years of experience in your field, but want to give your career a boost?

A curriculum vitae (CV) or resume is a written overview of your individual work and professional life, and lists your skills, experience, knowledge and qualifications. When applying for jobs, a brilliant application will differentiate you from dozens or even hundreds of other candidates and could help you land the job of your dreams.

Your CV is the first impression you make upon a potential employer: make sure it’s a good one.

Here are VHR’s top 6 tactics to writing a great CV.

How to Write the Best CV

1. Back to Basics

Create an impressive profile by taking care of the following aspects:

· Tone – Avoid friendly language or slang which could make you seem unprofessional or inexperienced. At the other end of the scale, too many overly formal words or very long sentences could frustrate and confuse your reader. Try to write as if you were speaking to a potential employer in a job interview. Make your CV pleasant and enjoyable to read, so that your hiring manager can concentrate on the skills and experience that you have to offer.

· Spelling, Punctuation & Grammar – Over half of recruiters say that mistakes in spelling and grammar are the most common reason for rejecting candidates at the first stage of the recruitment process. Read through and double check your document every time you update or edit it to ensure you promote yourself as best you can.

· Structure – Space out your document into neat, short paragraphs and use headings and bullet points wherever possible. This will make your resume easier to read and help your recruiter or hiring manager to immediately pick out the skills and experience they’re looking for. List your work history in reverse chronological order, with your most recent job first, working backwards. Download some templates to see what a good CV looks like.

· Look and Feel – Images, photos and colourful diagrams are unnecessary and can often distract your reader rather than add anything of value. Worst of all, unhelpful images take up valuable space that could be better used selling your skills and achievements. Keep your CV to a maximum of three pages and use bolding, italics, underlining and a clean template to come across as a consistent, clear and professional candidate.

· Call to Action – Treat your CV as a gateway to your employment: tell a story that evidences and continues to reinforce why you’re the best person for the job, and end with a call to action and multiple ways to contact you when they’ve finished reading. Include an email address, at least one phone number and any professional social media profiles like LinkedIn to ensure hiring managers can reach you.

2. Achievements Focus

Be specific – what exactly did you achieve in each of your previous positions? Why were these achievements beneficial to your employers? Even if your role isn’t sales-oriented or financially targeted, most candidates will be able to utilise statistics and data to prove their worth. For example, mention that a new system you implemented increased efficiencies by a certain percentage, or that hiring and managing a new team member reduced errors from one amount to a lower frequency in a certain time period.

3. Summary

The average hiring manager only needs 9 seconds to scan your CV before deciding whether you are the right candidate for the role. Grab the attention of your reader as soon as possible, and cement yourself as a contender in their eyes, by writing a punchy overview that highlights your best qualities.

Follow these tips:

· Short and sweet – Your summary need only be two short sentences or four lines long.

· Establish your Relevance – Introduce yourself with the experience/skills most relevant and important to the role you are applying for.

· Highlight your best qualities – Include one or two of your most relevant achievements from your CV to start as you mean to go on.

4. Tailor Your Resume to the Role

Your recruiter or hiring manager will be properly briefed on the exact skills and experience needed for the role – make it as easy as possible for them to match you to the job description.

Search job boards and industry publications for similar job adverts to see the type of keywords your employer will be looking for, and use these keywords to evidence your specific knowledge. For example, if you are a B1 Licensed Engineer list out the type ratings you have experience in; industry Engineers and Technicians can name the software, programming languages and tools they have worked with. Directors and team leaders should outline the major projects and budgets they have been responsible for, the size of the teams they lead or the organisational change they have implemented.

Ask your recruitment consultant for a written job description. Look at the website and social media accounts of your prospective employer to see what the company, not just your direct line manager, will be wanting from the new role holder. To help your recruiter match your skills and experience to the right job for you, use your resume to evidence how in previous roles you have performed duties and solved problems that will be pivotal in the new role, and the impact your specific experience will make to the job and to the organisation.

5. Pair Your CV with a Cover Letter

Not all roles require a cover letter, but for the majority of senior positions and office-based jobs, a cover letter is a professional formality that is often expected.

Use this space to summarise your most relevant experience and achievements, use bullet points. Succinctly state what you’re looking for in your next challenge, why you want to work for the company you’re applying to, and why you think you’d be a great asset in this role.

6. Get Feedback

Once you’ve created a great representation of yourself and your career, share it with your friends, trusted colleagues and contacts in your industry. Have you forgotten to include anything? Are you being overly modest by downplaying your involvement in a major project or the impact it had? Those who know you well are best placed to help you identify and communicate your greatest assets in an objective way that maximises your abilities and positive qualities.

A second pair of eyes is also helpful for picking up any errors in spelling, punctuation or grammar that might have bypassed you and your spellcheck.

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