CV hints & tips

Writing an effective CV

It is always a good idea to tailor your CV to the job you are applying for, highlighting the skills that are relevant for the position.

The person reading your CV will be looking for answers to two basic questions:

  • Does this person have the skills to do the job?
  • Will they suit our company?

The more you can demonstrate you are the right person for the job the higher the chance of success.

Keep your statement simple, snappy and focused on what you have to offer. Sum up your personal and professional attributes, taking into account the job description to which you are responding.

Include your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address — and if you have a website that will add value to your application, include that too. There is every chance that pages of your CV could get separated, so include your contact details on every page.

  • Start with the role you are in right now or most recent position you held and work backwards from there
  • If you received a promotion at your current or most recent company treat it as a separate position
  • Give each role a job title and include start and finish dates, company name and a brief description of what the company does
  • List relevant responsibilities, achievements, duties and skills; describing the scope of your job rather than giving a job description
  • If you've had a lot of jobs or a long career, you might want to summarise this with headings as ‘Previous Employers’ or ‘Earlier Career’
  • Explain any significant career gaps. Even if you’re not working, you may have picked up some incredibly valuable skills from other pursuits in your personal life
  • List professional and academic qualifications, degrees and executive programmes (giving the subject, awarding body and year) but not ‘bought’ memberships
  • Include skills such as languages, IT and vocational training

You could include the names and contact details of your referees on your CV, or simply have them on hand for when they’re requested. Either way, make sure you know who is willing to provide a reference for you

  • Keep copy short and sweet
  • Avoid lengthy sentences and use bullet-points
  • Don’t refer to yourself as ‘I’ or by name
  • Make sentences more direct with such phrases as ‘Major achievements include’
  • Use the past tense to describe your career (‘Led a team of…’) but the present tense for your transferable skills and competencies (‘Offers experience in…’)
  • We can’t stress enough the importance of checking your CV for spelling and grammar errors, as a mistake could cost you the job
  • A fresh pair of eyes can be super sharp when it comes to spotting the errors you may have missed, so ask someone to double-check it for you
  • Keep it clean and uncluttered, with plenty of white space and wide margins
  • Use the same font throughout, and make sure it’s a common one such as Times New Roman or Arial
  • For a guide on font size, use 10-12 point for your body text, and a maximum of 16 point for headings
  • Refrain from putting words in uppercase and always embolden headings
  • Never reduce font size to fit more in. If you need another page, use one — or trim your words

Keep your CV up to date, even when you’re no longer looking — it’ll save you considerable time when you are, and prevent you from forgetting important dates, details, projects or successes.

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