Creating your CV can be stressful. It’s the first thing you present to a potential employer, and most jobs won’t offer you an interview until they’ve seen it. But whether you’re constantly updating your CV, or putting one together for the first time, there’s a few key do’s and don’ts to make sure you give off the best possible first impression.
Your CV should be about two pages long. This might seem frustratingly short if you think it means leaving out valid information, but look at it from the employer’s point of view; the simple fact is that they often have to look at dozens, even hundreds, of CV’s a day, and don’t have time read through long biographies of each applicant. Your CV has to be succinct and attention-grabbing, allowing you to make a big impression in a small period of time.
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Appearance is crucial. Employers are in a hurry, so if you’re CV doesn’t appear up to scratch, you mightn’t get a second look. It’s important to get the layout right and ensure it’s appealing for them to sit down and read. Neat and tidy is the way here. Eye catching headings and multiple fonts can make for great leaflets or PowerPoint presentations, but they’re not right for a CV. Poor grammar and punctuation will also go down badly, so be sure to check your work carefully.
Next up is planning what you will fit into these two pages. It’s better off to focus on your most recent jobs and responsibilities. If you’ve had a lot of experience in the past, a simple list can suffice for the earlier roles. Then, when it comes to the bigger, more recent responsibilities you’ve held, emphasise the work you’ve done there and how you improved the job and learned from it. Employers want to hire people that can make an impact, so showing that you’ve done this elsewhere is a great way of standing out. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve been pulling up trees across the business world, but try and find examples of where you’ve shown initiative and taken responsibility in whatever previous jobs you’ve held.
Make sure you update and edit your CV for each job you apply for. You should only have details on a CV if they are relevant to the role you’re applying for – even if this means deleting some of your favourite facts about yourself. Likewise, keep personal details to a minimum. Name, phone number, email and rough location are all that’s really necessary, and personal interests or hobbies should only be included if they either directly relate to the job you’re applying for, or are impressive enough on their own merit to warrant approval from the employers.
When wording you CV, avoid clichés. If you put down a genuine skill in the form of a cliché, it will probably be overlooked. Remember what we said about employers reading hundreds of CV’s a day? Well by the time they look at yours they could have seen cliché’s like ‘Great team player who can also work as an individual’ and ‘young go-getter’ countless times, so be sure to give literal examples of these skills to ensure that you stand out. One sure-fire way to avoid using clichés is to borrow language from the job description form. If the terminology used there is important enough for the employers, it should be well suited for the CV you send them.
Finally, step out of your shoes and look at the CV from the eyes of the employer. Try and figure out what will be interesting from their point of view, then present it confidently. Boasting is an obvious thing to avoid, and the balance between arrogance and confidence can be a tricky balancing act, but finding a way to get it just right could be the final trick to bring your whole CV together. As we’ve said, your CV is short and it can be hard to decide what gets left out, so whatever you’ve kept in you obviously feel is worthwhile, so talk about it accordingly. Don’t allow a boring or demining voice diminish the achievements or facts about yourself you have included.